Chinese President Xi Jinping said Monday that Beijing is "resolutely opposed" to external interference in cross-strait relations as well as activities by "Taiwan independence" separatist forces, in a veiled warning to the United States.

In the face of deteriorating ties between Beijing and Washington over the self-ruled democratic island, Xi stressed the need in his speech at the end of an annual parliamentary session to uphold the one-China principle, which deems Taiwan an inseparable part of China, and "unswervingly advance" unification efforts.

China has sharply increased its military pressure on Taiwan since then U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island last August.

Communist-led China and Taiwan have been governed separately since they split in 1949 following a civil war. Beijing regards the island as a renegade province to be unified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 13, 2023. (Kyodo)

Xi also said at the conclusion of the nine-day session of the National People's Congress that China should work to achieve greater self-reliance and strength in science and technology, and promote industrial transformation and upgrading.

His remarks came amid U.S. attempts to tighten restrictions on the Asian nation's access to cutting-edge technologies such as semiconductors.

The Chinese leader pledged that his country will advance "high-quality development" as part of its efforts to build a "great modern socialist country" by the middle of the 21st century.

He vowed that Beijing will promote the "modernization of national defense and the military" to turn its armed forces into a "Great Wall of Steel" that is capable of effectively safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests.

Xi also said China will promote an open economy and strive to foster a favorable environment for the country's development.

After the parliamentary session wrapped up, new Premier Li Qiang said in his first press conference after assuming the post that it is "not an easy task" to achieve the country's 2023 gross domestic product growth target of around 5 percent, calling for "redoubled efforts" to fulfill the goal.

However, Li said the world's second-largest economy has been stabilizing and picking up again in the first two months of this year and expressed confidence that it will "brave winds and waves and sail toward a brighter future."

Last year, China missed its GDP growth target of around 5.5 percent due to the economic fallout from its stringent "zero-COVID" policy, involving quarantines and lockdowns, and a subsequent explosion of infections that occurred when the measures were abruptly lifted late last year.

The Chinese economy expanded 3.0 percent in 2022 compared with a year earlier -- one of the slowest paces of growth in several decades.

On the China-U.S. relationship, Li showed eagerness to improve strained ties, saying the world's two largest economies "can and must cooperate." He referred to Chinese statistics indicating that two-way trade set a new record last year, reaching $760 billion.

"China and the United States are closely intertwined economically, and both have benefited from the other side's development," Li said.

But the premier warned Washington against trying to "encircle and suppress" China, saying that promoting talk of "decoupling" from the Asian economy would not be beneficial.

On Taiwan, Li called people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait "members of one and the same family" and vowed to continue to promote cross-strait economic and cultural exchanges.

"The early restoration of normal exchanges and regular cooperation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is a shared aspiration and requires joint efforts of both sides," the premier said, echoing Xi's pledge to promote peaceful development of cross-strait relations.

Cross-strait movements of people have been affected by restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Taiwan sharply reacted to Xi's renewed pledge to firmly advance the unification process, with Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chiu Tai-san saying Monday that Beijing and Taipei have repeatedly made clear that they would not subjugate themselves to each other.

Chiu, who heads the body responsible for the self-ruled island's policies toward China, said Beijing aims to introduce the "one country, two systems" framework to bring the island into its fold as proposed by Xi in January 2019.

The minister urged the mainland to "respect Taiwan's sovereignty and territory as well as its mechanisms of democracy and freedom."

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has consistently rejected Xi's proposal on the one country, two systems, which have been implemented in Hong Kong and Macao.

Li, a former boss of the ruling Communist Party in Shanghai, was appointed as premier at the parliamentary session on Saturday, a day after the parliament unanimously re-elected party general secretary Xi to a norm-breaking third five-year term as the country's president.

The closing ceremony of China's National People's Congress is held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 13, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

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