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China's Xi Jinping calls for 'gut and virtue' on 80th Long March anniversary

By Elizabeth Shim
China's Xi Jinping calls for 'gut and virtue' on 80th Long March anniversary
Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed the 80th anniversary of the end of the Long March with a lengthy speech on Friday that included a call for a stronger military. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

BEIJING, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the building of a "first-class army" on Friday, while marking the 80th anniversary of the end of the Long March.

Xi said the military retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Chinese Communist Party in the 1930s represents the "glory of the people's army," state-owned Xinhua news agency reported.

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The Chinese leader also called for a new generation of Chinese soldiers who serve with "soul, high caliber, gut and virtue," and the creation of troops with "iron-like belief, conviction, discipline and commitment."

"The Long March is the glory of the people's army, and the honorable people's army must always carry forward the great spirit and fine tradition of the Red Army in the Long March," Xi said.

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Xi also framed the Long March in the context of China's anti-imperial struggle against Japan, and stated the event "awakened the [Chinese] people" while forming a united front against the Japanese empire, although the retreat was in response to a Chinese Nationalist Party pursuit led by Chiang Kai-shek.

David Tsui, a historian of the Communist Party, told The South China Morning Post Xi's embrace of Chinese communist history is "an effort to consolidate his power and promote his position as an orthodox successor to inherit the party's course."

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Xi's father, Xi Zhongxun, was a member of the first generation of Chinese communist leaders led by Mao Zedong.

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The meeting of China's top officials is expected to include plans for the 19th party congress in 2017.

Five of the seven members of China's Politburo Standing Committee are expected to step down, with the exception of Xi and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

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