Defiant Xi Jinping Says No One Can Dictate Reforms to China


President Xi Jinping said China would stick to its policy agenda, despite pressure from the U.S. and others to allow more competition in its economic system.

Xi told an audience of party officials, military leaders and entrepreneurs in a speech Tuesday that “no one is in the position to dictate to the Chinese people what should and should not be done.” The 80-minute address in Beijing was held to mark the 40th anniversary of the Reform and Opening Up campaign that unleashed the country’s economic boom under then leader Deng Xiaoping.

In remarks that ranged from the economy to the environment to Taiwan and the South China Sea, Xi presented his agenda as the logical outcome of the country’s post-1978 “reform era” and Chinese history more broadly. He reasserted his contention that the country had entered a “new era” under his leadership and was poised for a bigger role in world affairs.

Xi announced no new major policies and dedicated long passages of the speech to reiterating the need for the Communist Party to exercise leadership and control over all aspects of the country’s development. He repeated calls to update and promote Marxist ideology.

“What and how to reform must be based on the overarching goal of improving and developing the socialist system with Chinese characteristics,” Xi said “We will resolutely reform what should or can be changed, but will never reform what cannot be changed.”

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The speech continued the measured, if defiant, tone Xi has struck amid a trade war with the U.S. that has fueled concerns about China’s slowing economy and battered capital markets. He provided little insight into how his government might assuage U.S. demands in ongoing trade talks, including calls to roll back support for state-owned enterprises and key technological industries.