'Clarifying that modernisation of national defence and armed forces should be completed by 2035, Xi Jinping asserted the goal is to make the People's Liberation Army a "world class force" that "can fight and win" by 2050,' points out former RA&W officer Jayadeva Ranade.
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, crucial for Xi Jinping achieving his agenda for 'national rejuvenation', opened on October 18, 2017, amidst stringent security in Beijing and other major Chinese cities including the autonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.
Xi, who holds 14 formal positions -- more than any other Chinese Communist leader till now -- has positioned himself to emerge stronger from the Congress.
His unprecedented sustained anti-corruption campaign has eliminated opposition in the Communist party and military and drastically reduced the influence wielded by his predecessor once removed, Jiang Zemin.
In September 2017, China's official media publicised that more than 176 Communist party ccadres -- equivalent to the rank of central vice minister and above -- had been dismissed and arrested for corruption and that more than 14,000 officers of the People's Liberation Army had been similarly dismissed, including more than 86 officers of and above the rank of major general.
Just weeks before the Congress, Xi publicly demonstrated his authority by arresting two top generals, appointing 20 generals to command 13 new Group Armies and promoting close associates to head the PLA Army (ground forces) and the PLA Air Force.
In a rare move, 13 delegates representing the Chongqing municipality were removed from the list of delegates to the 19th party congress because of their alleged association with imprisoned former Politburo member Bo Xilai.
Politburo member and Chongqing Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai, viewed a likely candidate for the all-powerful Standing Committee of the Politburo, was suddenly dismissed on charges of graft. He had been admonished in February for not doing enough to eliminate Bo Xilai's influence in Chongqing.
These efforts were buttressed by systematic use of the official media to project Xi. The official party newspaper, the People's Daily, publishes 5,000 stories each year mentioning Xi in contrast to the 3,000 and 2,000 articles published by it each year mentioning Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao during their respective terms as China's leader.
Xi took three-and-a-half hours -- twice the time taken by his predecessor Hu Jintao -- to read the 32,000-character Work Report to the 2,280 delegates attending the congress.
He outlined a confident, bold, two-stage plan setting China's goals to be achieved by 2050.
For the first time he set timelines and declared that by end of the first phase (2020 to 2035) China will be an innovative, technologically advanced, large, middle-income country ranking among the top nations in the world.
By completion of the second stage (2035 to 2050), China should be a nation with 'pioneering global influence'.
Implicit in this vision is that China will rival or surpass the US in strength and be pro-active in international affairs to promote its interests.
Interesting is the direct linkage of military modernisation to the 'China Dream' and China's becoming a nation with 'pioneering global influence'.
Clarifying that mechanisation will be basically achieved by 2020 and that modernisation of national defence and armed forces should be completed by 2035, Xi asserted the goal is to make the PLA a 'world class force' that 'can fight and win' by 2050.
He pointedly described the PLA as a 'people's army'.
There was pronounced emphasis in the Work Report on 'the party exercising leadership over all areas of endeavour in every part of the country', clearly indicating that party controls will be expanded and ideology will remain predominant.
Xi emphasised that 'sweeping efforts' had been made to 'strengthen party leadership and party building', while dismissing any notion of copying 'Western style democracy'.
The Work Report included 331 references to the 'Party', many more than in the Work Reports of the past eight congresses.
A significant achievement for Xi was the inclusion of the 'Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era', already being headlined throughout the Chinese media as 'Xi Jinping's Thought', which will be incorporated by amendment in the party constitution.
An entire section of the Work Report defined this 'Thought'. This includes: 'The party's goal of building a strong military in the new era is to build the people's forces into world class forces that obey the party's command, can fight and win, and maintain excellent conduct'; 'major country diplomacy aims to foster a new type of international relations and build a community with a shared future'; and the 'defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party'.
These imply a global role for the Chinese Communist Party.
The references to Hongkong, Macau and Taiwan were uncompromising. The report reiterated Beijing's 'leadership' over Hongkong and Macau.
With regard to Taiwan, Xi said, 'We have the resolve, the confidence and the ability to defeat separatist attempts for "Taiwan independence" in any form.'
'We will never allow anyone, any organisation or any political party, at any time or in any form, to separate any part of Chinese territory from China.'
There was no direct reference to the Dalai Lama or India in the Work Report, but Xi did state: 'We will fully implement the party's policy on religious affairs, uphold the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation... and adapt to socialist society.'
The section on national security indicated Xi's policy when he said, 'We must rigorously protest against and take resolute measures to combat all acts of infiltration, subversion, and sabotage, as well as violent and terrorist activities, ethnic separatist activities and religious extremist activities.'
At a press conference on the sidelines of the ongoing party congress on October 21, Zhang Yijiong -- the executive deputy head and vice minister of the Communist party's united front work department -- was more direct.
In a remark with implications for India, he asserted that the Dalai Lama 'established a so-called government-in-exile, whose goal and core agenda is the independence of Tibet and to separate (from) China.'
'For decades, the group headed by the 14th Dalai Lama has never stopped such attempts. As head of the group, the 14th Dalai Lama has never stopped his activities in this regard over the past decades.'
Zhang Yijiong warned foreign officials they cannot get away by saying they were meeting the exiled Tibetan leader in a personal capacity as they still represent their governments.
'Any country, or any organisation, accepting to meet with the Dalai Lama, in our view, is a major offence to the sentiment of the Chinese people,' Zhang warned.
'The Chinese government opposes governments and organisations in any country in the world to receive the Dalai Lama in any name. We consider such visit as a severe insult to the feelings of the Chinese people,Zhang added.
Tibetan Buddhism, he declared, was a special religion 'born in our ancient China'.
'It is a Chinese religion. It didn't come in from the outside.'
Jayadeva Ranade -- former additional secretary in the Cabinet secretariat, Government of India -- is currently President, Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.