Xi shores up power with demand for army obedience and foreign respect

President warns that China will not ‘swallow bitter fruit’ of threats to sovereignty, while telling military: ‘The Communist party commands the gun’.

President Xi Jinping has vowed China will never “swallow the bitter fruit” of foreign meddling or invasion, in his latest move to assert his authority ahead of a key political summit marking the end of his first five-year term.

In a 50-minute speech at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, the Mao era arena of Communist party rule, Xi told members of the military their calling was not as an aggressive or expansionist force.

“The Chinese people love peace … but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions. We will never allow any people, organisation or political party to split any part of Chinese territory out of the country at any time, in any form,” Xi said to loud applause.

“No one should expect us to swallow the bitter fruit that is harmful to our sovereignty, security or development interests.”

The speech, marking the 90th birthday of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), was Xi’s second major address of the week, following a televised appearance at a spectacular military parade on Sunday.

At that event China’s 64-year-old leader ordered his country’s army of two million to “unswervingly follow the absolute leadership of the Communist party of China” and to march “wherever the party points”.

Xi revisited the theme on Tuesday morning, repeatedly demanding his troops’ allegiance: “That the People’s Liberation Army has been able to move from victory to victory shows the power of the Chinese Communist party. As comrade Mao Zedong once pointed out: ‘Our principle is that the party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the party.’”

“History shows us that the party should always command the military. It is a fundamental safeguard that the party has drawn from battles of blood and fire.”