President Xi' New Year speech highlights 2020 as an extraordinary year
Iram Khan

As the New Year sets in, the legacy of 2020 is no less than extraordinary. On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech that reflected exactly that. Recalling the challenges and the developments that took place during the past year, the President also highlighted what the short term and the long term future holds.  

What he talked about in much detail was the biggest event of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic. He paid tributes to the professionals who placed their duties before themselves and, while doing so, made the ultimate sacrifice of laying down their lives.

Even if it did not infect, the pandemic touched everybody in many ways. Lifestyles were changed, working environments were remodeled and social interactions were upended. In the testing time, countless heroes emerged from the ordinary people of the society.

President Xi saluted these ordinary heroes who were helping each other at the frontlines of the battle against the outbreak. They took responsibility and, by joining their strengths, built an iron wall that is still protecting the nation.

The other challenge China faced was the extensive flooding in several basins, including those of the Yellow and the Yangtze rivers. In addition to being more extensive than the previous year, the floods posed new difficulties in the face of the pandemic's exigencies of social distancing and disinfection. Yet, the relief efforts by the military and civilians, aided by the Communist Party of China (CPC) officials, mitigated the damages.    

2020 was scheduled to be the year when China had to defeat extreme poverty and establish a moderately prosperous society in all respects. As COVID-19 broke out, the entire world was watching if this would be possible.

On the removal of all remaining counties from the list of impoverished ones, China's resolve in the most difficult of times was once again proven beyond doubt. It was the rural poverty that was the hardest part. In his speech, President Xi recalled his visits to areas under dire poverty and how "unremitting efforts" contributed to the alleviation program.

In the spirit of rural vitalization, sound planning by the government and agricultural breakthroughs by Chinese scientists have led to a good grain harvest for the past 17 years in a row. Whereas in other scientific advancements in 2020, China reached out to the moon and Mars in the skies and to the deepest parts of Earth's oceans in the Mariana Trench.

Lujiazui Financial District, Shanghai, China. /CFP

Lujiazui Financial District, Shanghai, China. /CFP

On the side of economics, China emerged as the first major country with positive growth in the year. That has been possible through the extraordinary successes in pandemic control. The effective measures by the government and the cooperation of the people allowed an early resumption of production and an early rebound of consumer activity. The result is that the GDP in 2020 is expected to reach 100 trillion yuan.

A major contribution to the growth has been from the special economic zones spread around the country. The past year marked 40 years of the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and 30 years of the opening-up of Pudong in Shanghai. Meanwhile, construction at the Hainan free trade port is in full swing.

These special zones are a signature of the national priority that regards innovation, opening-up and reform as the primary drivers of development. Xi asked that the reforms be further deepened and the opening-up be further expanded.

In 2020, the government transitioned from the 13th Five-Year Plan to the 14th Five-Year Plan. Under the new plan, there is a considerable focus on employment and income levels by upgrading the economic structure, boosting domestic consumption and building new industrialization. The key role will continue to be played by high-quality development.

In the longer term, the course that Xi pointed out was through the Two Centenary Goals. The first goal of building a moderately prosperous society has already been achieved on the eve of CPC's centenary since its aspirations today are the same as they were at the time of its formation. The party has indeed seen turbulent times but the future is all the more promising.

By the centenary of the People's Republic of China in 2049, the aim is to build "a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious." Guided by its mission of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, the CPC is moving ahead toward the second goal by putting people at the center.

Apart from improving the lives of its own people, China intends to uphold its commitment to global uplift under the principle of building a community with a shared future of mankind. 2020 reverently stands witness as China assisted numerous countries that needed medical donations and expertise.

The new year is a moment of festivities and reunions. At this festive time, Xi extended his wishes for China to be prosperous and for the Chinese people to live in peace in an auspicious 2021. His concluding expression of his nation's resolve to strive and march ahead with courage is sure to inspire people to put in their best in service of the country.

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