Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the country to take a more prominent role in global governance, following the success of Beijing in hosting talks that led to the reopening of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In a speech to China’s ceremonial legislature, Xi said that China should actively participate in the reform and construction of the global governance system and promote global security initiatives.
President Xi also called for China to boost its technology development and self-reliance in a speech that was heavy on nationalistic rhetoric. Xi has been increasingly assertive since taking office in 2012, calling for changes in the International Monetary Fund and other entities that he says fail to reflect the desires of developing countries.
The National People’s Congress cemented Xi’s dominance on Sunday by endorsing the appointment of his loyalists as premier and other government leaders in a once-a-decade change. Xi has sidelined potential rivals and loaded the top ranks of the ruling party with his supporters. The new premier, Li Qiang, tried to reassure entrepreneurs, but gave no details of possible plans to improve conditions after Xi’s government spent the past decade building up state companies that control banking, energy, steel, telecoms, and other industries.
Li said Beijing will make job creation a priority as it tries to revive economic growth that sank to 3% last year, the second-lowest level in decades. This year’s official growth target is “around 5%.” Li expressed confidence China can cope as its workforce shrinks, adding that while China is losing its “demographic dividend” of young workers, better education means it is gaining a “talent dividend.”
Xi also called for the country to achieve the goal of “national reunification,” a reference to Beijing’s claim that Taiwan, the self-ruled island democracy, is part of its territory and is obliged to unite with China, by force if necessary. Xi’s government has expanded China’s strategic influence abroad, promoting trade and construction initiatives that Washington, Tokyo, Moscow, and New Delhi worry will expand its influence at their expense.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a multibillion-dollar initiative to construct ports, railways, and other trade-related infrastructure across an arc of countries from the South Pacific through Asia to Africa and Europe. China is also promoting trade and security initiatives. Xi’s government signed an agreement with the Solomon Islands in early 2022 that would allow Chinese navy ships and security forces to be stationed in the South Pacific nation, rattling the United States and Australia.
Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned Washington last week of possible “conflict and confrontation” if the United States does not change course in relations that have been strained by conflicts over Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong, security, and technology.