A defiant President Xi Jinping on Thursday asserted that the Chinese people will not allow any "foreign force" to "bully, oppress or subjugate" China and spoke of its military might to defend its sovereignty, as the ruling Communist Party celebrated its centenary with a massive colourful show at the historic Tiananmen Square here.
Addressing a highly-choreographed ceremony from the balcony of Tiananmen Gate, which also adorns a giant size photo of 'Chairman' Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People's Republic of China, Xi also said that integrating Taiwan with the Chinese mainland is a historic mission of the party.
Xi warned that any "foreign force" will be allowed to bully China, an apparent reference to the US.
Both former US president Donald Trump and his successor Joe Biden have pursued a hardline policy towards China, targeting it on several fronts including trade, human rights and the origins of the COVID-19, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan before becoming a pandemic.
"Chinese people will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or subjugate us," state-run Xinhua news agency quoted 68-year-old Xi as saying.
"Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people," Xi said.
"We have never bullied, oppressed, or subjugated the people of any other country, and we never will," he said.
Over 70,000 party workers and schoolchildren who took part in the event cheered Xi's over an hour-long speech.
The celebration, which was telecast live began with a flypast by helicopters and the latest fighter jets.
About 71 aircraft participated in the flypast which also included China's most advanced J-20 stealth fighter jets, helicopters, fighter jet trainers and others.
In a show of unity, some of the top party leaders of the past and present including Xi's predecessor Hu Jintao and former premier Wen Jiabao attended the celebration.
However, the absence of former party general secretary Jiang Zemin, 94, and ex-premier Zhu Rongji, 92, prompted speculation about their health.
In his speech, Xi named all his predecessors for contributing to the development of the party.
He paid tribute to party elders Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun and Liu Shaoqi.
"We express our highest respect to them," he said.
Designated as the "core" leader of the CPC, Xi, who is regarded as the most powerful leader after Mao with life long tenure at the helm appeared in a grey Mao suit synonymous with the attire sported by the party founder 100 years ago.
In his speech, Xi also warned against underestimating China's resolve to integrate the self-administered island of Taiwan with the Chinese mainland stating that it is a historic mission of the ruling party.
No one should underestimate the great resolve, the strong will, and the extraordinary ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said in his address telecast live by the official television channels.
Calling for the hastening of modernisation of China's military, his pet theme ever since he took over power in 2012, Xi said: "We must accelerate the modernisation of national defence and the armed forces".
He said China will elevate its armed forces to world-class standards so that "we are equipped with greater capacity and more reliable means for safeguarding our national sovereignty, security, and development interests." The people's military is a strong pillar for safeguarding the socialist country and preserving national dignity, and a powerful force for protecting regional and world peace, he said, emphasising that the military should work under the leadership of the party.
Founded by Mao on July 1, 1921, the CPC formally completed 100 years of existence on Thursday. It also remained in power since the People's Republic of China (PRC) was formed in 1949.
On the 100th anniversary, the party faced daunting challenges at home and abroad, especially the global isolation over the COVID-19 pandemic, and faced pushback from the US, EU and a host of western countries over its attempt to set a new global order.
Highlighting the importance of the CPC to China, Xi said any attempt to divide it from the Chinese people is "bound to fail".
"The more than 95 million party members and the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people will never allow such a scenario to come to pass," Xi said.
He also spoke strongly against dissent in the party saying that "any viruses that would erode CPC's health" should be rooted out.
The CPC must remain committed to improving its conduct, upholding integrity, and combating corruption, he said.
"We must uphold firm leadership of the party. China's success hinges on the party. History provides ample evidence that without the CPC, there will be no new China and no national rejuvenation", he said.
In an apparent reference to the US allegations of genocide committed against minority Uygur Muslims of Xinjiang as well as the imposition of the national security law in Hong Kong, much against the will of the local people, Xi said "we are eager to learn what lessons we can from the achievements of other cultures, and welcome helpful suggestions and constructive criticism".
"We will not, however, accept sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us", he said.
On criticism of China taking over Hong Kong with national security law, he said "while protecting China's sovereignty, security, and development interests, we will ensure social stability in Hong Kong and Macao, and maintain lasting prosperity and stability in the two special administrative regions,".
He said the CPC must continue to adapt Marxism to the Chinese context.
At the fundamental level, the capability of the party and the strengths of socialism with Chinese characteristics are attributable to the fact that Marxism works, Xi said.
"We will use Marxism to observe, understand, and steer the trends of our times, and continue to develop the Marxism of contemporary China and in the 21st century," Xi said.