President Xi Jinping took his place on Tian'anmen Rostrum on Tuesday at a grand celebration marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
It was there on Oct. 1, 1949 that Mao Zedong announced the birth of New China. Over the seven decades, the socialist country has blazed an extraordinary trail, rising from a "poor and blank" state to a major country on the world stage.
Xi, the first top Chinese leader born after 1949, is at the helm in a new era, steering the country through wind and waves to a brighter future.
Into new era
Xi was elected general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Nov. 15, 2012.
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The world at that time was transforming. The impact of the 2008 global financial crisis still lingered. Emerging economies were rising. And China, after overtaking Japan as the second-largest economy, had entered a critical period in its modernization.
Two weeks later, Xi proposed the "Chinese Dream" of national rejuvenation.
The Party's authority was further emphasized in October 2017, with the establishment of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.
Xi demanded full and strict governance over the 90 million-member CPC.
"Every day, we brush our teeth, wash our faces, clean the house and do the laundry. For Party building, we must do the same," he said.
An unprecedented anti-corruption campaign has left no stone unturned. In the first five years of Xi's leadership, 440 centrally-administrated officials -- mostly ministerial-level or above -- were punished.
"Xi and his colleagues preside over the world's largest and most successful Marxist-Leninist organization, and they are determined to ensure that it remains so," Foreign Affairs magazine said in an article.
In late 2016, Xi's core status in the CPC Central Committee and the whole Party was established. He was re-elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in October 2017 and Chinese president in March 2018.
Reform to the end
China aims to basically achieve socialist modernization by 2035 and build itself into a great modern socialist country by the middle of the century. Xi has said China today is closer than ever before to national rejuvenation, which is part of the Party's founding mission.
In 2018, the Chinese economy surpassed 90 trillion yuan, cementing its place as second in the world. Between 2013 and 2018, it grew by 7 percent on average every year compared to just 2.9 percent of the global economy.
China has the world's most complete production chains. The output of more than 220 industrial products ranks No. 1 in the world. China has laid down the longest mileage of high-speed rail tracks and sent a lunar rover to the dark side of the moon.
For the first time, a total of 129 Chinese companies made the Fortune 500 list in 2019, more than any other country.
Xi drafted market-oriented reforms for state-owned enterprises and has supported the development of the private sector. In 2018, at an unprecedented private enterprise symposium, Xi said private companies and entrepreneurs are "our own people."
Innovation, too, has received support, with Xi once saying that vital, core technologies are something that China cannot obtain through "begging."
Thanks to reform and opening-up, China's investment environment has continued to improve.
According to the World Bank "Doing Business 2019" report, China advanced to a global ranking of 46th, up from 78th in just a year. Moreover, China's consumer market is edging closer to becoming the largest in the world.
Despite trade and economic frictions started by the United States, China saw more than 24,000 new foreign-invested enterprises established in the first seven months of 2019. Foreign direct investment inflows in actual use grew by 7.3 percent to reach 530 billion yuan.
Serve the people
Xi considers employment "pivotal" to people's wellbeing. He supports e-commerce and the new economy, which create jobs that never existed before.
Every day in China, about 16,500 new enterprises are established, and 40,000 people find new jobs in towns and cities.
In total, China has created more than 80 million new urban jobs over the past seven years, equal to the entire German population.
"CPC members must wholeheartedly serve the people," Xi often reminds Party cadres.
This connection with the people can be traced back to a time when Xi lived and worked in a remote village in Shaanxi Province as an adolescent and young adult for seven years.
He has said that he understands the hardships of the people because he once lived in an impoverished corner of the country. He has been known to check the toilets and washrooms of ordinary homes, offer advice on garbage sorting, and show concern for students' poor eyesight.
In 2013, Xi put forward "targeted poverty alleviation" and set a goal to eliminate extreme rural poverty by 2020, a deadline that is ten years earlier than the goal set by the United Nations.
Over the past seven years, more than 82 million Chinese people left poverty behind. Xi said extreme poverty "would be historically solved in the hands of our generation."
Kishore Mahbubani, a professor at the National University of Singapore, said the most outstanding achievement of China in the last 70 years had been the dramatic improvement in the living conditions of the people.
Reviewing China's long history, Mahbubani said even at previous peaks of glory, the bottom 50 percent of the population had to struggle to make ends meet. But today even low-income people have access to nutritious food, education, healthcare, housing, employment and even the ability to travel.
A shared future
In his first overseas trip as the Chinese president in March 2013, Xi introduced the notions of "a shared future" and "a new type of international relations."
Two years later, Xi took the podium at the United Nations, expounding "a community with a shared future for humanity." He later elaborated that the desired world would be one that is safe, prosperous, open, inclusive, tidy and beautiful.
The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Xi, connects continents and oceans through trade and investment like never before.
The goal, unlike what some people in the West claimed, is to help more countries and regions enjoy the fruits of economic globalization through mutually-beneficial results.
This reflects the kind of international relations envisioned by Xi -- mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation.
A total of 136 countries and 30 international organizations have signed cooperation agreements with China on the initiative. A study by the World Bank found that if implemented fully, the initiative could lift 32 million people out of moderate poverty and boost global trade by up to 6.2 percent.
China has become an indispensable force in resolving global and regional issues, from climate change, terrorism, wealth disparities, fair trade to peace-keeping.
This year, China became the second largest contributor to the United Nations regular budget only after the United States. China is also the largest contributor of peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. A 1-billion-USD China-UN Peace and Development Fund has been in operation since 2016.
"The CPC always regards making a greater contribution to humanity a mission," Xi said.
Despite the achievements, the journey to national rejuvenation won't be plain sailing.
Xi said the risks and challenges facing the Party would only grow bigger and sometimes "there would be tempestuous waves beyond our imagination."
Economic and trade frictions with the United States is a test. China has taken the position that "it doesn't want a trade war but is not afraid and will fight one when necessary." Over the past year, Xi has met U.S. President Donald Trump twice, first in Buenos Aires last December and then in Osaka this June, taking important steps toward solving the issue.
On Hong Kong, Xi said making everything political or deliberately creating differences and provoking confrontation would not help. Instead, it would severely hinder Hong Kong's economic and social development.
In May, Xi chose east China's Jiangxi Province, where the Central Red Army began the Long March in the 1930s, to call for a new Long March.
Back then, the Red Army soldiers trekked about 12,500 kilometers across China, battling the harsh environment, the enemy, and diversion within the Party. When they re-emerged victoriously in northwest China, they continued the fight and won the revolution.
To Chinese communists, sacrifice and hardships are worthwhile for a glorious goal.