Live Updates: On Communist Party’s Centenary, Xi Jinping Warns Against Foreign Interference

by Msnbctv news staff

Credit…Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters


Marking 100 years since the founding of China’s Communist Party, Xi Jinping told an audience on Tiananmen Square that the party was the only force capable of ensuring the country’s rise, and issued a rousing warning against any foe that stood in the way.

In a speech that cast the Communist Party as a savior, fighting off foreign and domestic oppression, Mr. Xi said the party’s continued rule was essential to ensuring that China stayed on course to becoming a wealthy and advanced world power.

“The Chinese people have never bullied, oppressed or enslaved the peoples of other countries, not in the past, not now, and not in the future,” he said.

“At the same time, the Chinese people will never allow foreign forces to bully, oppress or enslave us,” he added. “Whoever nurses delusions of doing that will crack their heads and spill blood on the Great Wall of steel built from the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese people.”

Mr. Xi’s warning brought rousing shouts and applause from tens of thousands of people on Tiananmen Square handpicked to hear his keynote speech for the party’s centenary. Mr. Xi paid tribute to the party’s revolutionary founders, but his focus was on the Communist Party’s future role as a vehicle for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

China, he said, was a force for peace in the world and wanted peaceful unification with Taiwan, the self-governed, democratically run island that Beijing claims as its territory. But in words that brought loud applause, Mr. Xi warned against what he called “schemes” to achieve full independence for Taiwan.

“Nobody should underestimate the staunch determination, firm will and powerful capacity of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Reporting and research by Chris Buckley, Claire Fu, Albee Zhang, Liu Yi and Amy Chang Chien.

Performers gathering around a Communist Party flag during a gala show in Beijing on Monday ahead of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.
Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

China’s Communist Party on Thursday is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding, an event at which it is expected to argue that the country can keep ascending only if the party remains firmly in power.

The centenary is symbolically important for Xi Jinping, China’s leader, who is almost certain to claim a third five-year term as party leader next year.

In a speech, he asserted that China would never have achieved its present-day prosperity and power without the party’s struggles against foreign oppression and domestic exploitation.

The celebrations made virtually no mention of China’s setbacks over the past decades of Communist Party rule — such as Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the deadly crackdown against protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Instead, the day’s stagecraft was focused on conveying an image of China as confident and secure while much of the world struggles to shake off the pandemic.

There was no military parade, unlike the enormous show of force that marked the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in 2019. But it featured a military flyover at Tiananmen at the opening, together with a 100-gun salute.

Organizers assembled a carefully picked crowd at Tiananmen Square — of party members, workers, students and others — to listen to Mr. Xi’s speech.

Children rehearsing in Tiananmen Square before a parade marking the 100th  anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.
Credit…Roman Pilipey/EPA, via Shutterstock

BEIJING — China’s ruling Communist Party kicked off a tightly choreographed ceremony celebrating its 100th anniversary on Thursday with a 100-gun salute, as thousands of performers assembled on Tiananmen Square.

“For 100 years the Chinese Communist Party has led in the Chinese people in every struggle, every sacrifice, every innovation,” Mr. Xi said near the start of his speech from a deck on the Gate of Heavenly Peace. “In sum, around one theme — achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

In a rousing opening, the performers chanted slogans celebrating the party’s leadership, as Mr. Xi Jinping and other leaders watched.

“Listen to the party, be grateful to the party, and follow the party,” they shouted. “Let the party rest assured, I’m with the strong country!”

The streams of Communist Party youth groups in color-coordinated uniforms had filed on to the square from all directions at the beginning of ceremony as dawn rose.

They mostly wore polo shirts in lime green, pale orange or bright red. Most wore black or white trousers, but some of the young women were in matching poodle skirts that would not have looked out of place in the 1950s. A military brass band in dress blues filed into the back of the Great Hall of the People.

Thursday’s festivities did not include a military parade like the one in 2019 that celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, but the military still provided a backdrop. Squadrons of helicopters flew over carrying red banners and forming the figure 100, followed by fighter jets, including the country’s most advanced fighter jet, the J-20.

A few police officers stood on sidewalks in the downtown area around the square, which was closed to traffic. But the security was mostly unobtrusive, with numerous surveillance cameras perched like overweight pigeons on almost every pole.

Coronavirus precautions were understated for an outdoor event drawing many thousands of people to Tiananmen Square. The folding yellow and orange chairs in the main area of the square were not quite socially distanced, but still separated: 15 inches in between each chair.

The seated crowd extended only about three-quarters of the distance from the Forbidden City’s entrance gate, with Mao’s portrait back to the monolith in the heart of the square. But for the Communist Party’s elite, red chairs were mounted on viewing stands at the front of the square..

A military brass band played and a youth choir sang as a military honor guard brandished the national flag. Youths and rows of attendees behind them waved small, red Communist Party flags in a careful choreography.

Rain was expected later in the day, but for now, the sun was shining and the temperature rising through the low 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toni Li, a local professor who has been coming to July 1 anniversaries since she was a girl, said that the chair arrangement had reduced the density of the crowd from previous years. But since Beijing has not had any virus cases for months, she was unconcerned about any risk of infection at the gathering.

“I don’t worry about that; it’s safe here,” she said.

Xi Jinping, China’s leader, center, is the country’s most powerful leader since Deng or Mao.
Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

Since becoming general secretary of the Communist Party in late 2012, Xi Jinping, 68, has made it increasingly clear that he sees himself as a transformative leader — in the footsteps of Mao and Deng — guiding China into a new era of global strength and rejuvenated one-party rule. And by many measures he is already the most powerful leader since Deng or even Mao, and presides over an economy and a military much stronger than in their times.

Few Chinese leaders from recent decades are more steeped in the Communist Party’s heritage than Mr. Xi.

He was born into a revolutionary family, endured the upheavals of Mao Zedong’s era, and began his career as a party official when Deng Xiaoping and other leaders opened up market reforms.

Before Mr. Xi came to power, many in China thought that he would be a milder figure, because his father, Xi Zhongxun, was a revolutionary veteran who in the early 1980s oversaw the beginnings of market reforms in Guangdong Province.

Xi Zhongxun had suffered decades of confinement and persecution after Mao turned against him, and his family was torn apart during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Like millions of other youths at that time, the younger Mr. Xi was sent to labor in the countryside, and he spent seven years in a dusty village in northwest China.

But after coming to power, he pursued scorching crackdowns against official corruption and domestic dissent, and applied harsh measures to bring areas like Xinjiang and Hong Kong firmly under Chinese control.

Mr. Xi appears driven by the conviction that for China to secure lasting stability and prosperity, the Communist Party must reassert its control, and he must remain in command of the party.

In 2018, he abolished the two-term limit on the Chinese presidency, opening the way to remain in office — as president, party leader and chairman of the Chinese military — for many years to come. His next big step in that journey will be next year, when a Communist Party congress appears likely to acclaim him for a third term as party leader.

Banners display messages celebrating the centenary of the Chinese Community Party and the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China atop a building in Hong Kong.
Credit…Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Hong Kong was wrapped in an extensive security bubble on Thursday as the city marked three political anniversaries that have helped transform it from a freewheeling international center of trade and finance to an increasingly constrained Chinese city.

Police officers fanned across the city to clamp down on any unauthorized gatherings and prevent people from gathering in Victoria Park, where the annual July 1 march traditionally begins.

July 1 is both the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese control and the 100th anniversary of the founding of China’s ruling Communist Party. And just over one year ago, late on June 30, 2020, Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong.

With Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, in Beijing to participate in the party anniversary celebration, her chief deputy, John Lee, led a morning flag-raising ceremony in the same spot along Victoria Harbor where the 1997 handover was conducted after more than 150 years of British colonial rule.

Opera singers performed the national anthem as helicopters flew overhead and a flotilla of boats performed a water salute. Officers marched in goose-step, a distinctive style used by the Chinese army that replaced British style marching in the city this year.

Mr. Lee, a former police officer who was promoted last week to chief secretary, the city’s second most powerful leader, hailed Beijing’s leadership. “The central government’s original aspirations for Hong Kong remains unmoved and solved problems for Hong Kong,” he added.

Outside the convention center where Mr. Lee spoke, police surrounded four protesters who tried to march with a banner that read, “Free all political prisoners.”

“We just want to speak up, encouraging people to not give up and keep speaking up for justice in Hong Kong,” said Raphael Wong Ho-ming, the head of the leftist group League of Social Democrats, which organized the protest.

“At the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, we urge the CCP to keep its promises to give its power to the people.”

In the year since the security law came into effect, many of the city’s most prominent opposition politicians have been arrested, with dozens still held in jail. The electoral system was transformed, with directly elected seats cut and security agencies given vast power to vet candidates. Apple Daily, the city’s largest pro-democracy newspaper, was forced to close last week, and RTHK, the once proudly independent public broadcaster, has been gutted.

The law also authorized Chinese security agencies to openly operate in Hong Kong. In a rare interview this week, Zheng Yanxiong, director of the national security office in Hong Kong, issued a stern warning to the city’s judges, whose reputation for independence has come under pressure since the security law took effect.

The power of the independent judiciary is authorized by China’s legislature, Mr. Zheng told East Week, a pro-Beijing magazine. “It must implement the nation’s will and the nation’s interest, otherwise it will lose the premise of that authorization,” he said.

The Communist Party’s grip has grown increasingly visible in Hong Kong, where it was once outlawed. Mrs. Lam’s trip to Beijing for the anniversary is the first by a Hong Kong chief executive for the event. And the anniversary has been publicized on buses, trams and a set of commemorative stamps in Hong Kong.

A flag-raising ceremony on National Security Education Day in Hong Kong in April. Schoolchildren are now being taught to watch for dissent.
Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

In addition to the centenary of the party’s founding, July 1 also marks the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China in 1997.

The passage of a contentious national security law in 2020 ushered in one of the most transformative years in the city’s history since the end of British colonial rule.

With each day, the boundary between Hong Kong and the rest of China fades faster.

The Chinese Communist Party is remaking this city, permeating its once vibrant, irreverent character with ever more overt signs of its authoritarian will. The very texture of daily life is under assault as Beijing molds Hong Kong into something more familiar, more docile.

Now, neighbors are urged to report on one another. Children are taught to look for traitors. Officials are pressed to pledge their loyalty.

Hong Kong had always been an improbability. It was a thriving metropolis on a spit of inhospitable land, an oasis of civil liberties under iron-fisted rule. After its return to China in 1997, the city was promised freedoms of speech, assembly and the press unimaginable in the mainland, in an arrangement Beijing called “one country, two systems.”

Freedoms once at the core of Hong Kong’s identity are disappearing. The government announced that it would censor films deemed a danger to national security. Some officials have demanded that artwork by dissidents such as Ai Weiwei be barred from museums.

China’s new might has also declared itself in Hong Kong’s business world. For decades the mainland’s economy had raced to catch up with that of Hong Kong, the financial hub so proud of its global identity that its government billed it as “Asia’s world city.”

Now, China’s economy is the booming one and officials are bending Hong Kong’s global identity increasingly toward that one country.

Visitors in front of a portrait of Xi Jinping at the National Art Museum during the exhibition “100 years toward greatness” on Wednesday.
Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

As the Communist Party of China celebrates the country’s rise, its international reputation continues to plummet, according to a new survey.

Large majorities in countries in North America, Europe and Asia have unfavorable views of China, the survey, by the Pew Research Service, found. They included 88 percent in Japan, 80 percent in Sweden and 76 percent in the United States.

Of 17 major countries and territories surveyed, a majority of respondents held favorable views of China in only two: Greece, at 52 percent, and Singapore, at 64 percent. Even in those two countries, majorities overwhelmingly agreed that China does not respect the personal freedoms of its own people.

Negative views of China are now at or near historic highs, even though perceptions of how China has handled the coronavirus pandemic have improved since last year. That appears to reflect its successes in containing the crisis, even as some of the nations in the survey bungled their efforts, including the United States and Britain.

The findings suggest that China’s economic and diplomatic behavior in recent years has played a bigger role in hardening views. China’s crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang have, for example, drawn widespread condemnation.

Countries like Australia have also faced economic coercion after criticizing China’s actions. As a result, 78 percent of Australians now have an unfavorable view, compared with only 32 percent who did in 2017.

Only a few weeks ago, the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, urged party leaders to “strive to create a credible, lovable and respectable image of China.”

The survey shows the scale of the challenge: In all the countries except Singapore, overwhelming majorities had little or no confidence in Mr. Xi’s handling of world affairs.

Keith Bradsher’s hotel room in Beijing, with the knapsack made for the centenary perched on the bed.
Credit…Keith Bradsher/The New York Times

BEIJING — To cover the Communist Party’s anniversary celebration on Thursday, I have had to take three coronavirus tests in four days. I’ve been confined to a government-approved hotel. Officials have repeatedly checked my vaccination record, as well as my cellphone, for signs of a problematic travel history.

In China, major political events routinely feature suffocating security measures. But the pandemic has added a new dimension to the party’s preparations. China’s approach to virus outbreaks has been largely successful, though often draconian. And in the weeks leading up to the party’s centennial celebrations, the authorities have taken no chances.

Reporters invited to cover the event at Tiananmen Square in Beijing were told that we must stay at a hotel in the city’s northeast starting on Wednesday morning.

I could enter the hotel only after I had scanned two QR codes with my cellphone, indicating that I had not been anywhere with a recent Covid outbreak. At check-in, in addition to my passport, the clerk took copies of my vaccination certificate — two jabs in Shanghai of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine — and the negative result of my most recent coronavirus test, on Tuesday.

I was directed to a conference room, where another official handed me a knapsack made for the centenary in the same hue of light-blue canvas worn by Mao’s soldiers during World War II. It contained a seat cushion, a fan, a souvenir notebook, a folding umbrella and a light- blue raincoat.

A nurse in a white protective suit with a face shield swabbed the back of my throat for yet another coronavirus test. Then a hotel employee took me up the elevator and told me that I would not be allowed to leave my floor on my own until after the centenary. I had to call the hotel operator to ask to be escorted down in the elevator for my meals. Lunch on Wednesday included beef, green peppers and broccoli served buffet style in the cafeteria.

The event starts at 8 a.m. on Thursday at Tiananmen Square, only a 20-minute drive away. Reporters had to gather in the hotel lobby at 2:45 a.m. for a 3 a.m. departure, and were warned that nobody would be allowed to go to a bathroom at the site from 7:30 a.m. onward.

Posing for a photo in a Red Army costume at a new theme park in Yan’an.
Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

The anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party has given the country’s leaders an opportune moment to encourage citizens to visit sites central to the party’s founding.

At these sites, schoolchildren are told how the Red Army, later renamed the People’s Liberation Army, was created. Tourists gaze at an ensemble of chairs used by Xi Jinping, China’s leader, and other guests when they visited Mao’s home. Retirees take selfies with flower-adorned statues of Mao and Zhu De, the Red Army commander.

The centennial has also prompted China’s biggest property developers to cash in as they jazz up typically staid “red tourist” attractions, like dull exhibition halls and cave dwellings, and make them friendlier for the era of Instagram and TikTok.

This month, Dalian Wanda, a property developer, unveiled a Communist Party theme park in Yan’an. In it, mascots dressed in Red Army costumes parade down “Red Street,” a long shopping boulevard where visitors can take pictures and buy snacks and souvenirs.

The pilgrimages are in keeping with Mr. Xi’s call for Chinese citizens to learn from the party’s history. Even before he came to power in 2012, Mr. Xi said every “red tourist” attraction was equivalent to a “lively classroom that contains rich political wisdom and moral nourishment.”

With international borders still shut because of the coronavirus,, a travel website that is popular in China, said this month that the number of bookings for “red tourism” attractions had more than doubled in the first half of the year from a year earlier. The company said it expected the numbers to climb ahead of the centennial celebration next week.

Beyond fueling party devotion and lore, “red tourism” has been good for business. In 2023, the industry’s revenues are expected to reach $153 billion, according to the Qianzhan Research Institute, a data consultancy. That represents an average annual compound growth rate of 14.1 percent from 2019 to 2023. Wanda said it was planning a second “red” attraction.

Carrie Lam, left, promoted John Lee, right, to chief secretary of Hong Kong on Friday. Mr. Lee played a large role in quelling the protests that shook the city in 2019.
Credit…Kin Cheung/Associated Press

A year after China imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, the city’s security apparatus is more powerful than ever.

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, promoted her secretary of security, John Lee, a former longtime police officer, to the position of chief secretary, the second-highest post.

Mr. Lee, whose appointment was announced last week, is the first chief secretary of Hong Kong who is not a former financial official or administrative officer in the years since the city’s return by Britain to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Mr. Lee, 63, played a large role in quelling antigovernment protests that engulfed the city in 2019. He has overseen the roundup of hundreds of protesters, democracy activists and journalists.

Mr. Lee worked his way up through the police for 33 years to become deputy police commissioner for management. He was then named under secretary for security in 2012 and the secretary for security in 2017. In that role, he oversaw not only the police but also the territory’s immigration authority, fire department, customs agency and prisons, which together comprise almost two-fifths of the Hong Kong government’s civil servants.

As chief secretary, he is now in charge of coordinating the decisions of most government departments in Hong Kong except those involved in economic and financial policy, which are overseen by the financial secretary, Paul Chan. Mrs. Lam said at a news conference last Friday that broader experience than Mr. Lee’s was not necessary for the job of chief secretary.

“Of course for people who have extensive experience in a diversity of areas, that may be helpful, but I don’t think that is a prerequisite.” she said.

A display in June at the newly completed Museum of the Communist Party of China in Beijing showing the suit Mao Zedong wore when he declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China.
Credit…Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

Forty-five years after his death, Mao Zedong remains the iconic symbol of a Communist-controlled China and its complicated legacy. To his critics, he was a ruthless dictator who presided over famine and political upheaval that together caused tens of millions of deaths within his own country.

To many Chinese, he is also revered as the man who helped China stand up to Western imperialists and become a proud nation. To this day, his portrait still gazes down on Tiananmen Square; his embalmed corpse still lies in repose in the heart of China’s capital.

Mao’s legacy also extended far beyond the borders of China, shaping everything from the course of the Cold War to American pop art.

“Mao’s image, his ideas and his legacy have traveled to practically every continent from the 1940s onward,” said Julia Lovell, a China scholar and author of “Maoism: A Global History.”

Mao was a complex, deeply contradictory person, and so, too, were his ideas, said Professor Lovell. His teachings on fighting asymmetrical insurgencies inspired anticolonial resistance movements across Africa and guerrilla fighters in India and Peru.

His emphasis on the need for a strong, centralized party rippled across Southeast Asia. Among the most devoted students of Maoist thought was Pol Pot, a leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, whose efforts to “purify” the country’s agrarian society led to the genocide of at least 1.7 million people.

Mao’s thoughts on rebellion — often distilled into eminently meme-able sound-bites like “revolution is not a dinner party” and “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” — also reverberated widely, influencing counterculture movements across Europe and the United States.

Mao was a hero, for example, to Huey P. Newton, a founder of the Black Panther Party. To raise money for guns to confront police brutality, Mr. Newton and his classmate Bobby Seale sold copies of Mao’s “Little Red Book” of political axioms to students in Berkeley, Calif. They also used the pocket-size books to teach their recruits.

“Where the book said, ‘Chinese people of the Communist Party,’ Huey would say: ‘Change that to the Black Panther Party. Change the Chinese people to Black people,’” Mr. Seale later recalled.

Famously, Mao — his image, not so much his ideas — also caught the attention of the artist Andy Warhol.

“I’ve been reading so much about China,” Warhol said to a friend in 1971. “They’re so nutty. They don’t believe in creativity. The only picture they ever have is of Mao Tse Tung.”

The technicolor silk-screen portraits that resulted from Warhol’s Mao project have since become iconic, a central strand in a Mao memorabilia craze that has seen the Communist revolutionary’s visage stamped across all manner of trinkets and kitsch.

In 2015, a Warhol “Mao” portrait sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $47.5 million — just another wrinkle in the contradictory legacy of the anticapitalist warrior.

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