Premier Li Peng toasted 46 years of Communist rule with a defiantly nationalist speech Saturday condemning past “imperialist bullying” and reaffirming China’s determination to retake Taiwan.
He also accused the United States of causing “recent difficulties in relations,” but said China still considers the relationship important.
Li spoke before several hundred Chinese officials and foreign diplomats gathered in the Great Hall of the People for the annual National Day reception marking the Oct. 1, 1949, establishment of the Communist-ruled People’s Republic of China.
As is his habit, he used his 10-minute toast to summarize the leadership’s view of affairs at home and abroad.
“Ridding themselves from the predicament of imperialist bullying, humiliation and oppression, the calamity-trodden Chinese people have since stood up,” he declared. “All, if not biased, must admit that China has undergone earthshaking changes during the past 46 years.”
Li has referred in past toasts to China having been humiliated by foreign invaders. However, his language this year was unusually blunt, part of a heightening of nationalist rhetoric that is filling the vacuum as Communist ideals wane.
He said the nation must not forget Japan’s World War II invasion but must “go all out to build China into a stronger nation so as to prevent past tragedy from repeating itself.”
He returned to the nationalist theme by reaffirming that Taiwan “is an inalienable part of China’s sacred territory” and that permanent separation is not acceptable.
The island province has been ruled by the Chinese Nationalists since they fled the 1949 Communist takeover on the mainland. Its recent development of multiparty democracy has strengthened residents’ sense of alienation from the mainland and led to calls for independence.
“The recent military exercises on the East China Sea demonstrate the unshakeable determination of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in defending state sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Li said. The exercises included lobbing missiles into the sea near Taiwan in a deliberate show of power.
He also noted that China will regain Hong Kong from British rule in 1997 and reorganize the local government - a reference to China’s rejection of recent elections dominated by anti-Communist politicians.
His reference to the United States was brief, and restated Beijing’s insistence that tensions are not China’s fault. China faults Washington for allowing Taiwan President Lee Tung-hui to visit his U.S. alma mater in June.
Denunciations of Lee, whom China regards as an obstacle to reunification, were a prominent theme at other National Day celebrations.