China must modernise its military to make it a “Great Wall of Steel”, President Xi Jinping has said.
Speaking for the first time in his precedent-breaking third term as head of state, Mr Xi called for China to step up its ability to safeguard national security and manage public security.
“Security is the foundation for development, stability is the prerequisite for prosperity,” he said at the closing of the annual parliament session.
The ruling Communist Party is expected to tighten the party’s oversight over security matters.
It comes after Mr Xi replaced top security officials with his trusted allies.
Mr Xi said China must oppose pro-independence and secessionist activities in the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own. He said it must also oppose the interference of external forces.
He said China must achieve greater self-reliance and strength in science and technology – after the US blocked China’s access to chip-making equipment and other cutting-edge technologies.
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It comes as the UK pledged to spend an extra £5bn on its military as part of an updated strategy to counter intensifying threats from China and Russia.
The revised defence, security and foreign policy review will describe the Chinese Communist Party as an “epoch-defining challenge” in a toughening of language, though stops short of calling Beijing a state threat more broadly.
Decisive victory over COVID-19, premier claims
Later, China’s new Premier Li Qiang told a news conference the country has achieved a decisive victory over COVID-19.
Mr Li said Beijing’s strategies and measures against the virus had been completely correct.
China took less than two months to achieve a “smooth transition” in its response to COVID and adhered to scientific and precise prevention and control measures, he told reporters.