Presenting an upbeat picture of China’s achievements in 2018 amid the ongoing trade war with the US, President Xi Jinping on Monday said China will remain resolute in defending its sovereignty and push ahead with his pet project the Belt and Road initiative (BRI).
In his annual New Year eve address to the nation telecast live all over the country, Xi played down concerns about the slowing down of Chinese economy, saying China’s economy stayed within a “reasonable” range in 2018.
China’s economy grew at 6.5 percent in the third quarter posting slowest growth since 2009 as it grappled with the intensifying trade war with the US and the mounting local governments’ debt which rose to USD 2.58 trillion.
Xi is regarded as the most powerful leader of China after Mao Zedong as he was declared a core leader by the ruling Communist Party. He heads the party, the presidency and the military. He is expected to remain President for life after a constitutional amendment this year removed two-term limit for President.
In a veiled reference to China’s increasing hold over the disputed South China Sea, he reiterated that China will protect its sovereignty and security “resolutely”.
“Looking at the world at large, we’re facing a period of major change never seen in a century. No matter what these changes bring, China will remain resolute and confident in its defence of its national sovereignty and security,” he said, adding that China’s sincerity and goodwill to safeguard world peace will remain unchanged.
He said “China enlarged its circle of friends” in 2018 and referred to host of international events hosted by the country.
On the BRI, he said, “We will continue to push ahead with the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, and continue to advocate for the development of a community of shared future for mankind.”
Touted as Xi’s ambitious project, the BRI initiative focuses on improving connectivity and cooperation among Asian countries, Africa, China and Europe.
Highlighting the achievements of his government on the domestic front, Xi said the campaign to prevent and control pollution of air, water and soil was going smoothly.
“The improvement of the people’s well being speeded up and their living standards were steadily improved,” he said.
He said China successfully launched the Chang’e-4 lunar probe to land on the dark sides of the moon, besides a second aircraft carrier which had set sail on its maiden voyage.
Xi said China’s domestically-made large amphibious aircraft performed its first water launch while the BeiDou Satellite Navigation System, which is stated to be rival to America’s GPS, has gone global.
“We have also made great strides in our poverty alleviation efforts in the past year. Another 125 poor counties and 10 million poverty-stricken rural residents were lifted out of poverty in 2018,” he said referring to progress to his pledge that China will eradicate poverty by 2020.
He said about 13 million Chinese found jobs in cities in 2018.
2019 will also see China celebrating 70 years since its founding as a nation.
“Next year China will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Our country has braved thorny paths and confronted stormy weather over the past seventy years,” he said, adding that “2019 will see both opportunities and challenges that will require us to work together shoulder to shoulder”.