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Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during the unveiling of the Communist Party's new Politburo Standing Committee at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 25. (Getty Images)
China's Party Congress 2017

China's Xi: Party must eliminate 'virus' and remain backbone of nation

President vows to further open up economy and lead 'world's largest party'

KEN MORIYASU, Nikkei Asian Review chief desk editor

TOKYO -- Embarking on his second term as leader of the Chinese Communist Party, with a team of loyalists around him, President Xi Jinping is in a strong position to put his stamp on China's development. 

In a press conference on Wednesday, he vowed to continue former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms while strengthening the party so it can remain the "backbone" of the nation forever. He pledged to continue his anti-corruption campaign, saying the party needs to "rid" itself of any "virus" that threatens its integrity.

Xi's remarks in introducing his new leadership team offer numerous hints on what to expect in the coming years.

On his re-election as party leader:

I was re-elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. I see this as not just approval of my work, but also encouragement that will spur me on

Shortly before noon local time, as hundreds of journalists waited, Xi led the newly chosen members of China's top governing body, the Standing Committee of the Communist Party Politburo, onto a stage in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

"Here, on behalf of the newly elected central leadership, I wish to express our heartfelt thanks to all other members of the party for the trust they have placed in us. We will work diligently to meet our duty, fulfill our mission and be worthy of their trust," Xi said. Standing beside him were Premier Li Keqiang, the No. 2 who stayed on, as well as Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji and Han Zheng. The new team has many more Xi loyalists than the previous one.

Reiterating the party's goal of establishing a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020, Xi said, "No one must be left behind. We will mobilize the whole party and the whole country in a resolute push to deliver on our pledge and eradicate poverty in China."

On the next 100 years:

Not only must we deliver the first centenary goal, we must also embark on the journey toward the second centenary goal

In 2021, the Communist Party will mark its centenary. Looking ahead to the next 100 years, Xi hinted that the "integrity" of party members -- a nod to his signature anti-corruption campaign -- will be key to the party's remaining in power.

"We must continue to rid ourselves of any virus that erodes the party's fabric, make great efforts to foster a healthy political environment of integrity and generate waves of positive energy throughout our party," he said.

 "Its history makes it abundantly clear that the Communist Party is capable of not only spearheading a great social revolution, but also imposing a great reform on itself," he said. "We, as its members, must always have a youthful spirit, and forever be the servants of the people, the vanguard of the times and the backbone of our nation."

He added, "As the world's largest political party, the party must behave in a way commensurate with this status."

On Deng Xiaoping's policy:

Forty years of reform and opening-up has made it possible for the Chinese people to lead decent and even comfortable lives

Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Deng's signature economic policy of "reform and opening-up." Xi vowed to continue down Deng's path.

Former Chinese Leader Deng Xiaoping (Getty Images)

Reform and opening up is a crucial move that is shaping China's future, Xi said. "It is my conviction that the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will become a reality in the course of reform and opening up."

On sovereignty:

With confidence and pride, the Chinese people will be steadfast in upholding our country's sovereignty, security and development interests

In the areas of national security and foreign policy, Xi said that the party and the Chinese people have "gone through trials and tribulations," and that those experiences "have taught us that peace is precious and development must be valued."

China will work with other nations to build a global community with a shared future, and "make new and greater contributions to the noble cause of peace and development for all humanity," he said.

On the economy:

We will develop new blueprints for China's future, and see the flourishing of all our endeavors

Xi said that the leadership will continue efforts to "accomplish all the tasks laid down in the 13th Five-Year Plan," which runs from 2016 to 2020. China had earlier enjoyed years of double-digit growth, but with pollution of the air, soil and water becoming a major concern for citizens, the leadership has recently been pursuing a more sustainable model of growth.

"We will act on the new vision for development, and strive for sustained and healthy economic growth that benefits people in China and around the world," Xi said.

People walk on an overpass beside a construction site in Tianjin, China. (Getty Images)

On the media:

We do not need lavish praise from others. However, we do welcome objective reporting and constructive suggestions

In his first news conference as general secretary five years ago, Xi closed his remarks with a message to the media. "Friends from the press," he said, "China needs to learn more about the world, and the world also needs to learn more about China. I hope you will continue to make more efforts and contributions to deepening the mutual understanding between China and the countries of the world."

As he did last time, Xi wore a dark suit and a red tie. In his latest speech, he turned his attention to the media again, but took a less humble tone. We are "not angling for compliments," he said. "I would be content that my integrity fills the universe." 

He spoke for 20 minutes but did not take questions.

China's new Politburo Standing Committee members arrive to meet with the media at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct 25.   © Reuters

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