Trouble aside, Xi says China is ‘on the right side of history’

BEIJING: China is “standing on the right side of history,” the country’s leader Xi Jinping said on Saturday in a New Year’s address that came as questions swirled about his government’s handling of Covid-19 and economic and political challenges at home and abroad.
Speaking on national television from behind a desk in a wood-paneled office, Xi largely avoided directly addressing the issues facing the country, instead highlighting successes in agricultural production, poverty eradication and organizing. Winter Olympics in February.
However, he then addressed somewhat indirectly the challenges facing the most populous country and the world’s second largest economy, saying: “The world is not at peace.”
China will “always steadfastly advocate for peace and development…and unswervingly stands on the right side of history”, he said.
Recent weeks have seen street protests against Xi’s government, the first the ruling Communist Party has faced in more than three decades.
Xi’s speech follows a stunning reversal of China’s hard-line Covid-19 containment policy that has sparked a massive rise in infections and demands from the United States and others for travelers from China prove that they are not infected.
Meanwhile, the economy is struggling to emerge from the doldrums, spurring rising unemployment, while ties with the United States and other major nations are at historic lows.
Aside from their uncertainty, residents in Beijing and other cities have resumed work, shopping areas and restaurants as consumers prepare for January’s Lunar New Year holiday, the most important on the Chinese calendar.
Xi, who also heads the increasingly powerful armed forces, was given a third five-year term in October as head of the Communist Party, which has nearly 97 million members.
After weeding out potential rivals and removing all term limits, he could potentially serve as China’s leader for the rest of his life.
China has also come under pressure for its continued support for Russia, and on Friday Xi held a virtual meeting with Russian President Vladimir Cheese friesin which he was quoted as describing the events in Ukraine as a “crisis”.
The term marked a break from China’s usual references to the “Ukrainian situation”, and the change may reflect China’s growing concern over the direction of the conflict.
Yet in his remarks to Putin, Xi was careful to reiterate Chinese support for Moscow. China pledged “unlimited” friendship with Russia and did not blame Putin for the conflict, while attacking the United States and NATO and condemning the punitive economic sanctions imposed on Russia.


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