Our live coverage of the start of China's Communist Party Congress has ended. Read more about the event, key takeaways, and what to expect in the coming week, here:
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, a government agency responsible for handling cross-strait affairs, responded to Xi Jinping's speech on Sunday by saying Beijing should "abandon its acts of coercion and aggression."
"While the Chinese Communist Party is facing drastic changes in international relations and rising social and economic challenges, its policy towards Taiwan still does not have a new line of thinking or correct judgement," the council said in a statement.
"Beijing must abandon the imposed political framework and acts of coercion and aggression, and respect Taiwanese people's insistence on sovereignty, democratic and freedom."
"Only by addressing differences peacefully and pragmatically with rationality, equality and mutual respect can we form the basis for resuming positive cross-strait interactions."
The council added that while the Chinese Communist Party has emphasized Xi's longtime key goal of "national rejuvenation," it has never undertaken true democratic reforms, built a free civil society, or faced cross-strait relations with a new perspective.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping kicked off the Communist Party Congress on Sunday with a nearly two-hour speech, which highlighted several key domestic and international priorities — and offered hints into Xi's vision for the country's future.
Here are the main takeaways:
The Covid strategy: China is one of the world's last major economies adhering to zero-Covid, which aims to stamp out chains of transmission using border controls, snap lockdowns, mass testing and mandatory quarantine. Despite the heavy toll on the economy and growing public frustration, Xi defended this policy on Sunday, indicating it may not be going anywhere soon.
"We prioritized the people and their lives above all else, and tenaciously pursued the (zero-Covid) policy in launching an all-out people’s war against the virus," Xi said.
On Hong Kong: The semi-autonomous city has seen significant social, political and economic upheaval for the last few years, with massive protests in 2019 followed by a sweeping crackdown — and its own Covid crisis. On Sunday, Xi claimed that Beijing's measures in the city — including imposing a national security law and overhauling the electoral system — had turned Hong Kong "from chaos to governance."
On Taiwan: Xi took a strong stance on the self-governing island, which the Communist Party claims as its territory despite never having controlled it.
China has the "resolve and ability" to maintain its "territorial integrity," including its claim to Taiwan, said Xi — and offered a stern warning.
"We will continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest of sincerity and the upmost effort, but we will never promise to renounce the use of force and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary," he said.
Economic growth: Facing an economy in crisis after years of isolation on the world stage and internal regulatory crackdowns, Xi said on Sunday that China would focus on education and innovation to "renew growth."
China will “speed up efforts to achieve greater self-reliance in science and technology," he said, in comments that come just months after his recent crackdown on the country’s private sector and major tech companies.
Bulking up the military: Xi also vowed to speed up efforts to build the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a “world-class military," pledging to improve the PLA's ability to safeguard national sovereignty.
He urged the PLA to strengthen its training "under combat conditions" and improve its "ability to win."
Socialism and repression: Xi emphasized the need to build "cultural confidence" and develop China's socialist culture.
China must "firmly grasp the party's leadership over ideological work," he said — which appeared to signal tightening controls on Chinese society, which has already seen a ramping up of online censorship and a sharp crackdown on civil society and dissent under Xi's 10-year rule.
A few other notable highlights:
- Nearly the whole hall was masked — with just the 25-member Politburo, including Xi, and some party elders in the front row going bare-faced.
- The Peng Shuai official: Zhang Gaoli, a former Party official accused of sexually assaulting tennis star Peng Shuai, sat in a prominent position behind Xi during the speech — the first time he's been spotted at a live event since the allegation.
- The speech was shorter: It ran at just under two hours, compared to Xi's previous speech at the 2017 Party Congress, which stretched more than three hours.
- Eyes on the tea: Xi paused several times to clear his throat and sip tea — raising some eyebrows among observers online. The attention paid to such a small gesture speaks volumes about the scrutiny on Xi, the amount of power he wields and his outsized role in China's governance, said CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Steven Jiang.
Xi Jinping's address on Sunday clocked in at just under two hours, significantly shorter than his last Party Congress address in 2017 which stretched to more than three hours.
Sunday's speech was peppered with several highly repeated terms, shining a light on some of Xi's areas of emphasis.
Xi repeated the Chinese term for security around 50 times, at one point calling national security the “foundation of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."
He also urged enhancing security in military, economy and “all aspects,” both at home and abroad.
Xi also emphasized “development,” both of the nation and its ideology, as well in tangible sectors like the economy, rule of law and technological prowess. The term appeared more than 100 times in the report.
Both of those terms were also widely used in the last speech he delivered five years ago — which was more than 27,000 Chinese characters, compared to over 14,000 characters this year.
“Security” appeared in the 2017 document only a handful of times more than it did in this year’s, despite the difference in character count.
For those just joining us, here's what has happened so far with China's Communist Party Congress.
What it is: The congress is a week-long conclave that meets once every five years to choose new leaders, discuss changes to the party constitution and lay out a policy agenda for the country. It's attended by nearly 2,300 carefully selected Communist Party members, called delegates, from around the country.
Xi's speech: Chinese leader Xi Jinping formally opened the meeting on Sunday with a nearly two-hour speech about the party's achievements in the past five years, as well as its priorities for the next five.
He highlighted several geopolitical hotspots including Hong Kong and Taiwan; and laid out domestic goals for China's troubled economy, looming demographic crisis, developing socialist culture and strengthening of the military.
Who attends the meeting: Party delegates range from top provincial officials and military officers to professionals across sectors, and so-called grassroots representatives like farmers and industrial workers.
This cohort also includes the hierarchy of the Chinese Communist Party, which is among the world’s largest political parties with more than 96 million members.
The levels of power: There are three distinct rings in that hierarchy. Around 400 of the National Congress delegates are members of the Party’s elite Central Committee, which in turn includes the members of the upper echelon: the 25-member Politburo and its Standing Committee – China’s most powerful decision-making body, typically composed of five to nine men and led by the general secretary.
Focus on the Party: The meeting is all about the Communist Party – the overarching source of power in China – and will ultimately guide who fills government positions.
In recent decades these meetings – which take place almost entirely behind closed doors – have seen a streamlined transfer of power: the convention is for the top party leader, having completed two five-year terms, to pass the baton to a carefully chosen successor who is revealed at the end of the congress.
But this time around, Xi is expected to upend that precedent, pitching China into a new era of strongman rule and uncertainty over when or how the country would see another leader.
Read more here:
Chinese leader Xi Jinping launched into his nearly two-hour speech on Sunday with several key priorities — one of which is an international financial hub in the country's south, long known as China's city of dissent.
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous metropolis and former British colony, has long stood apart from other Chinese cities with its own judicial system, currency, global trade relationships, and civil liberties – a model of governance called "One Country, Two Systems."
But many in Hong Kong have long feared China's encroachment on those rare freedoms, prompting numerous protests and calls for greater democracy over the years — including the massive 2019 pro-democracy anti-government protests.
Crackdown in Hong Kong: The protests posed an unprecedented open challenge to Xi and the central government – which swiftly imposed a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong in 2020. The law has since been used to jail protesters and activists, shut down independent newsrooms, target former elected lawmakers, and impose new forms of censorship.
The crackdown is still ongoing, with frequent arrests and prison sentences. Hong Kong authorities have repeatedly claimed that the city's freedoms remain intact, and that the security law has restored order and stability.
A triumphant Xi: On Sunday, Xi claimed Beijing had turned the city "from chaos to governance," and praised the "patriots administering Hong Kong."
The 2019 protests had been a "turbulent" and "volatile" time, he said, adding that Beijing had "effectively exercised comprehensive jurisdiction" over Hong Kong. "Thanks to these moves, order has been restored in Hong Kong, marking a major turn for the better in the region," he said.
City leader's response: John Lee, Hong Kong's leader and the former security chief who oversaw much of the crackdown, posted a photo of himself standing close to a television broadcasting the Party Congress on Sunday.
Lee, who was appointed to the role in May this year, wrote in his caption that Hong Kong has faced numerous challenges in the past five years, from the "social turmoil of 2019" to the Covid-19 pandemic. Beijing's measures have "pushed Hong Kong into a new stage of progress," and the city now is ready to "open a new chapter," he wrote.
Read more here:
During his speech at the start of the Party Congress, Xi Jinping said China was working to navigate a “grim and complex international situation” and “huge risks and challenges that came one after another” – possibly referencing the global pandemic and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, though he did not identify any countries by name.
China's stance on the war: China has offered rhetorical support to Russia throughout its invasion of Ukraine, but Xi did not overtly mention the war in his address on Sunday.
“China firmly pursues an independent and peaceful foreign policy, always decides its own position and policy according to the merits of the matter itself,” Xi said, adding that China “upholds the basic norms of international relations, upholds international fairness and justice.”
On the West: Xi did not name the US or other Western countries — but repeated phrases that Beijing has previously used often to hit out at Washington.
China “firmly opposes all forms of hegemonism and power politics, opposes the Cold War mentality, and opposes interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and oppose double standards," Xi said.
On Taiwan: Xi also spoke about Taiwan, a self-governing island that the Communist Party claims as its territory — despite never having controlled it.
Because of this claim, Beijing does not consider the future of Taiwan as a foreign policy matter. "Solving the Taiwan issue is the Chinese people's own business, and it is up to the Chinese people to decide," Xi said on Sunday.
Taiwan will never compromise on values of sovereignty, democracy and freedom, the island’s presidential office said on Sunday in response to comments made by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
“The national security team is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to pay close attention to subsequent developments,” presidential office spokesman Chang Tun-han said.
“Taiwan’s mainstream opinion has clearly expressed that we firmly reject ‘One Country, Two Systems’,” he said referencing the policy under which Hong Kong is governed. “It is the consensus of the Taiwanese public that territorial sovereignty, democracy and freedom cannot be compromised, and military confrontation must not be the option for both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”
Chang also referenced a speech given by Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on National Day last week that Taipei is willing to work with Beijing to find “mutually acceptable ways” to maintain peace and stability on the Taiwan Strait.
What Xi said on Taiwan: Xi delivered a stern warning on Sunday regarding Taiwan, saying it would "never promise to renounce the use of force and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary."
"Complete reunification of our country must be realized,” he said.
China's ruling Communist Party claims Taiwan as its territory, despite never having controlled the self-governing democratic island of 23 million people.
China's Communist Party Congress kicked off Sunday, with leader Xi Jinping delivering an almost two-hour speech at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where nearly 2,300 delegates from around the country had gathered.
Nearly all of them wore face masks — except the 25-member Politburo, including Xi, and a number of party elders sitting in the front row on stage.
Masks are still ubiquitous across China, in stark contrast to much of the Western world, which has reopened and relaxed measures in public spaces.
Security had ramped up ahead of the event, with personnel stationed across Beijing — including on many bridges, after a rare and swiftly silenced protest on Thursday saw banners opposing Xi and his Covid restrictions hung on an overpass in the capital.