Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, is pictured attending the opening session of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of People in Beijing on Sunday. Photo by LI Xueren/EPA-EFE
Oct. 16 (UPI) -- President Xi Jinping pledged to build a "modern socialist" China by 2049 and discussed "reunification" with Taiwan as well as the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in a speech Sunday to open a meeting of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.
Xi spoke from the Great Hall of the People, on Tiananmen Square, in a lengthy speech before the 20th Party Congress, a meeting that occurs every five years to set the party's agenda.
"We must follow a path of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics, develop a Chinese system of socialist rule of law, and establish China as a socialist country under the rule of law," Xi said, according to a news release from People's Daily - a newspaper group owned by the Chinese Communist Party.
"We must, with a focus on protecting and promoting social fairness and justice, pursue coordinated progress in law-based governance, law-based exercise of state power, and law-based government administration and take integrated steps to build a country, government, and society based on the rule of law."
Xi said China will ensure "strict law enforcement" with an "impartial administration of justice" to see that "all work of the state is carried out."
He said that China must pursue "high-quality" economic development in order to build a "modern socialist country," according to another news release from People's Daily. Xi vowed to make industrial and supply chains "more resilient and secure" and boost economic output.
The president, who first took office in 2012, is expected to secure his third term in power and be reinstated as general secretary and head of the party's Central Military Commission.
"We must ensure and improve the people's well-being in the course of pursuing development and encourage everyone to work hard together to meet the people's aspirations for a better life," Xi said.
Xi said that China will work to improve its system of income distribution, increasing incomes for low earners, expanding social insurance programs and improving services helping job seekers to "ensure more pay for more work and encourage people to achieve prosperity through hard work."
He added that China will also advance its Healthy China Initiative, which will establish a policy system to boost birth rates and address China's aging population.
Xi also called on other countries to stand up for humanity's shared goals of "peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom."
"Let us all join forces to meet all types of global challenges," Xi said.
Xi also appeared to criticize both the United States and Russia, amid the war in Ukraine, without specifically naming any countries.
He said China will "never seek hegemony or engage in expansionism, according to another news release from People's Daily, and that China "stands firmly against all forms of hegemonism and power politics, the Cold War mentality, interference in other countries' internal affairs, and double standards."
However, China will "strive for unification" with Taiwan as Xi warned that the country "will never promise to renounce the use of force and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary," according to CNN.
"The wheels of history are rolling on towards China's reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Complete reunification of our country must be realized," Xi said.
Mainland China and the island of Taiwan, among other islands, were ruled by the Republic of China before the ROC lost the Chinese Civil War in the early 20th century to the Chinese Communist Party, which established the new government of the People's Republic of China in October 1949.
The ROC in turn established a temporary capital in Taipei on the island of Taiwan, a former Japanese territory, in December 1949 and served as the seat for China at the United Nations until it was replaced by the People's Republic of China in 1971 as foreign countries switched their diplomatic relations.
China views Taiwan and its 23 million residents as a wayward province and has vowed to retake it by force, if necessary. Many supporters of Taiwan have since argued that it is an independent sovereign state separate from mainland China, which has never controlled Taiwan.
In August, a trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan sparked a military response from the Chinese government, which then conducted daily drills, including conducting a possible simulated attack and launching several ballistic missiles into waters near Taiwan.
In commenting on the COVID-19 pandemic, Xi did not signal whether China would soon end its tough restrictions including surveillance, forced quarantines and mandatory testing, NPR reported.
"In launching an all-out people's war to stop the spread of the virus, we have protected the people's health and safety to the greatest extent possible and made tremendously encouraging achievements in both epidemic response and economic and social development," he said.
The congress is scheduled to continue for the next six days and is likely to be closely watched by western officials.