Making waves with trade deals worth billions of dollars during his first European tour, President Xi Jinping put up a strong defence of the monopoly of power by the Communist Party of China saying that China had settled for a one-party system after unsuccessful experiments with multi-party democracy.
China cannot copy the political system or development model of other countries "because it would not fit us and it might even lead to catastrophic consequences," Xi said, addressing students of the College of Europe at Bruges in Belgium, winding up his week-long tour to the EU.
"The fruit may look the same, but the taste is quite different," he said.
The uniqueness of China's cultural tradition, history and circumstances determines that China needs to follow a development path that suits its own reality, he said.
"In fact, we have found such a path and achieved success along this path," he said making out a case for the one-party system in his country in a rare elaboration by a Chinese leader for an external audience.
He said after the 1911 revolution led by Sun Yat-sen overthrew the autocratic monarchy that had ruled China for several thousand years, China experimented with many systems.
The Chinese people experimented with constitutional monarchy, imperial restoration, parliamentarianism, multi-party system and presidential government, yet nothing really worked, he said.
"Finally, China took on the path of socialism. Admittedly, in the process of building socialism, we have had successful experience and also made mistakes," state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying.
"We have even suffered serious setbacks," apparently referring to the decade-long Cultural Revolution led by Communist Party of China founder Mao Zedong, in which millions were killed.
"After the 'reform and opening-up' was launched under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, we have, acting in line with China's national conditions and the trend of the times, explored and blazed a trail of development and established socialism with Chinese characteristics," he said.
Belgium is the last leg of Xi's four-nation Europe trip, which has already taken him to the Netherlands, France and Germany during which he signed a number of trade deals amounting to billons of dollars. He also attended the third Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague.
In his speech at the EU college Xi, who took over power last year after a once-in-a-decade power transfer of the CPC, also said China is undergoing profound changes and the country's reform has entered a deep-water zone.
"We know keenly that reform and opening-up is an ongoing process that will never stop. China's reform has entered a deep-water zone, where problems crying to be resolved are all difficult ones," he said adding that "what we need is the courage to move the reform forward".
"We must get ready to go into the mountains, being fully aware that there may be tigers to encounter," Xi said, quoting a Chinese saying. He returned home today after completing the tour.
Image: A general view showing delegates attend the opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters