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19TH PARTY CONGRESS

Xi Jinping consolidates power, calls for 'new era'

He reiterated the central role of the CCP in China's development and laid out his policy goals for next 5 years

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Since stepping into power five years ago, Mr Xi has relentlessly consolidated his power earning the title of "core" leader last year.

Beijing

IN A particularly long speech in front of top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members gathered in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for "a new era" for China, with the party well anchored at the core of his vision.

Mr Xi, who also leads the party and the military, reiterated the central role of the CCP in China's development, and laid out his policy goals for the world's second largest economy over the next five years.

At the end of the nearly three-and-a-half hour-long speech, he was heavily applauded by the floor as he took his place on the stage next to his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, who both made rare public appearances.

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The speech covered an array of issues with a strong focus on reaffirming the CCP's control on all issues within China's borders, as well as in the country's foreign policies.

The speech - more than 60 pages long in its printed form - covered reform, opening up of the economy and China's role on the world stage.

"China's development is still in a stage of important strategic opportunities. The prospects are bright, but the challenges are also severe," he said. "Socialism with Chinese characteristics enters a new era."

The word "era" was repeated 36 times throughout the speech, as Mr Xi hopes to become the most powerful leader since the death of Mao Zedong and have his name and "thoughts" inscribed in the Party Constitution.

Since stepping into power five years ago, Mr Xi has relentlessly consolidated his power earning the title of "core" leader last year.

He has stifled all civil and party dissent, and has placed the CCP at the centre of an ideological campaign which spans to all layers of society starting at kindergarten.

"We must uphold the Party Constitution as our fundamental rules, give top priority to the political work of the Party and strengthen the Party competence in all respects," he said during the speech which was also full of nationalist spirit, as he reaffirmed that the goal for China was to fully integrate Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan into "the motherland".

"We will develop and strengthen the ranks of the patriots and foster greater patriotism and a stronger sense of identity among the people in Hong Kong and Macau," he added.

Mr Xi's speech comes as many of the younger generation in Hong Kong and Taiwan fear Beijing's clout and are asking for more independence. Taiwan has already officially responded calling the CCP congress' comments "regrettable".

On the domestic policy front, Mr Xi reaffirmed that the anti-corruption campaign will pursue, which has already condemned 1.3 million party members.

He also reiterated the need to continue letting the market play a bigger role as well as to continue the reform of China's indebted and inefficient state-owned enterprises.

The Congress is Mr Xi's most important event since he stepped into power. He will place as many as his men as possible at key party positions so as to rule without any dissent for his second term in power.

Over the next seven days, the Congress will elect a new generation of leaders which in effect will rule the country.

All eyes will be on the composition of the Politburo, which is due to nominate five out of its seven members.

Observers will also closely be watching if an apparent heir to Mr Xi appears, who would replace him in five years.

If not, it could well mean that Mr Xi plans to hold on to power, hence overruling party protocol which states that party leaders must step down after two consecutive five-year terms.

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