China has entered a "new era" of prosperity and there should be no tolerance for any actions that may obstruct the promising future unfolding, President Xi Jinping said Wednesday, as he opened the Communist Party's twice-a-decade congress to enter his second term, possibly with much stronger power.
Already China's most influential leader in a generation, Xi urged all party members to work together even more cohesively as the country is in an "important period of strategic opportunity for development."
"The prospects are bright, but the challenges are severe," Xi said at the outset of the weeklong meeting in Beijing, which will see a leadership reshuffle and offer clues to the future policy direction of the world's second-largest economy.
In his speech that lasted over three hours, Xi repeated many times that his thinking on socialism with Chinese characteristics, which has entered a new period, must be a "guide to action" for the entire country.
"Today, we are closer, more confident, and more capable than ever before of making the goal of national rejuvenation a reality," said Xi, general secretary of the party.
He praised by himself the ruling party's major achievements of the last five years, ranging from economic development and military reform to fighting corruption and managing the Taiwan issue, and outlined its priorities in the coming years.
Looking ahead, Xi said China will craft a two-stage development plan for a period between 2020 and 2050.
He said China will basically realize "socialist modernization" in the first stage by 2035 and aim for "common prosperity" of all its people by 2050.
For better lives of Chinese people, Xi voiced strong determination to "resolutely oppose" all activities that will try to undermine his leadership or the country's sovereignty, including any independence-leaning movements in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The congress gives Xi a golden opportunity to revamp his first term's Politburo Standing Committee, the country's highest decision-making body, and other central organs shaped by his two immediate predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin.
The extent to which Xi can install trusted allies and loyalists on the standing committee, currently comprising seven members, and the wider Politburo will be a barometer of his power at present.
If the party's unwritten but de facto retirement age of 68 remains unchanged, five of the seven members will step down, leaving only Xi, 64, and Premier Li Keqiang, 62.
The new composition of the standing committee is expected to be unveiled one day after the conclave concludes next Tuesday, while around 2,300 delegates, elected from more than 89 million members of the party, will also endorse a new 205-strong Central Committee.
One of the biggest focuses is whether the retirement age will be bent to allow Xi's right-hand man Wang Qishan, 69, to stay on the standing committee or to assume a different position.
If the norm is broken, this will also pave the way for Xi to remain in charge after 2022.
Through a ruthless campaign against corruption, Xi has managed to sideline many of his rivals within the party and succeeded in progressively tightening his grip on almost all areas of policymaking.
Wang played a pivotal role in leading the extensive anti-corruption drive, resulting in punishments of more than 1 million of the party's members since 2013.
It is almost certain that Wang will resign as head of the party's graft-busting agency and the post is expected to be succeeded by Li Zhanshu, director of the General Office of the Central Committee, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Even if Wang leaves the standing committee, speculation is rife that Xi will prepare a new important job for him, such as chief of a new national supervisory commission to be established next year, under which various anti-corruption apparatuses will be integrated.
Li, seen by many as Xi's closest ally after Wang, will most likely be promoted to a member of the apex of power in Chinese politics, along with Wang Yang, a vice premier in charge of trade issues, the sources said.
During the 19th National Congress, the delegates are also set to approve an amendment to the party's constitution to include Xi's political thoughts.
Much attention is on how Xi's political ideas will be treated in the charter, particularly if the incorporation will carry his name.
If Xi's name is enshrined in the constitution, unlike Hu and Jiang, his status in the party will be more or less on par with that of founding father Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping, the country's architect of reform and opening-up policies.
With his grandiose goal of achieving a "Chinese Dream" of prosperity and national rejuvenation, Xi has projected an image of himself as a more visionary leader than his two predecessors.
At the same time, China's crackdowns on rights activists, nongovernmental organizations and media outlets have intensified under the leadership of Xi, besides its taking a harder line against corruption.
Not just at home, Xi made his growing clout -- and that of China -- felt outside the country's borders, such as through the Belt and Road Initiative aimed at expanding economic links along ancient overland and maritime Silk Road trade routes and beyond, and the establishment of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, let alone a more muscular approach to territorial claims in regional waters.