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China’s President Opens Biennial National Congress

Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country faces both opportunity and challenge in the opening speech of the ruling Communist Party’s twice-a-decade national congress on Wednesday.

President Xi told more than 2,000 delegates gathered in the Great Hall of the People Wednesday that China was entering a “new era” of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” He promised that Beijing would allow more market-oriented reforms of its economy, but said the government would play a bigger role in managing state-owned firms.

“The prospects are bright, but the challenges are also severe,” Xi told the delegates.

Xi also pledged to continue his aggressive anti-corruption efforts, which has seen more than one million Communist Party officials punished during the president’s five-year term.

President Xi, one of the most powerful leaders in modern Chinese history, is expected to receive a second five-year term as party leader during the week-long congress. Several new party leaders will also be selected during the congress, including new members of the ruling Politburo Standing Committee. But Wang Qishang, a top ally who leads Xi’s anti-corruption efforts, may be retained on the Politburo despite reaching the traditional retirement age, which could set the stage for President Xi extending his hold on power once his second term ends in 2022.

Another measure of Xi’s dominance will be whether is name is enshrined in the party’s constitution alongside that of Mao Zedong, the founder of Communist China, and Deng Xiaoping, whose economic reforms led to China’s current status as a global economic power.

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