China’s Xi Lauds Covid-19 Recovery in New Year’s Eve Speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping touted his government’s success in controlling Covid-19 in a New Year’s Eve address in which he sought to move beyond the turmoil of the virus.

“We overcame the impact of the pandemic and made significant achievements in both controlling the coronavirus and pushing economic developments,” Xi said in a brief speech broadcast to China’s 1.4 billion residents.

Xi has sought to turn China’s early struggles against the coronavirus into a triumphant example of the strengths of the one-party system. China brought Covid-19 largely under control after it emerged in the central city of Wuhan, and remains the only major global economy to bounce back. The Chinese president this year also declared victory in his goal to eradicate poverty in rural areas.

China’s Xi Lauds Covid-19 Recovery in New Year’s Eve Speech

Chinese presidents have been delivering brief televised remarks on New Year’s Eve since Jiang Zemin began the tradition in 1993. Last year, Xi expressed concerns for Hong Kong after a period of historic protest. Months later, Beijing imposed the security law to rein in opposition in the former British colony.

The year ahead brings several milestones for Xi and the Communist Party, which celebrates its centennial in July. China will formally announce the country’s success in building a “moderately prosperous society” in the first half of 2021, a goal introduced by Deng Xiaoping in the 1970s. Xi will also lay the ground for a twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle in 2022, that’s likely to see him secure power for another five years.

In his address, Xi also vowed to deepen reform going forward. “Reform and opening up have created miracles,” he said. “In the future, we will deepen reform and expand opening up with greater boldness.”

No Mention

References to the U.S., Hong Kong and Taiwan were absent from the address, after a year that has seen China’s international standing badly damaged, partly by efforts to suppress information about the emergence and spread of the coronavirus. Xi’s human rights record has also come under greater scrutiny, including from the U.S., as President Donald Trump tried to blame Beijing for his domestic political challenges.

President-elect Joe Biden’s arrival at the White House on Jan. 20 offers the leaders of the world’s two largest economies a chance to ratchet down tensions. Xi was among the last major world leaders to congratulate Biden on his election victory in November, saying that he hoped to “manage differences” and improve cooperation.

Worsening ties with the outside world prompted China to turn inward in 2020, with Xi spelling out a strategy of “dual circulation” to emphasize self-reliance on key technologies and reliance on domestic demand as a major driver of China’s economic growth.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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