China's President, Xi Jinping, laid out the country's main ambitions in a speech in Beijing Wednesday that marks the start of the 19th Communist Party Congress and could signal some of its biggest economic changes in decades.

Xi vowed to launch a clean energy "revolution" in China that he said would bring both prosperity and "blue skies" to the world's second-largest economy, which he said will be a leading global power by 2050, and outlined goals for the broader opening of the country's markets to foreign investors, the strengthening of state-owed companies and a continued crackdown on graft and corruption.

"Chinese people will enjoy greater happiness and well-being, and the Chinese nation will stand taller and firmer in the world," Xi said during a three-and-a-half hour speech in the Great Hall of the People. "Through a long period of hard work, socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, this is a new historical direction in our country's development."

China's $11.5 trillion economy, while growing at a staggering 7%, a pace that will see it overtake the United States as the world's largest by the end of the next decade, is nonetheless one of the least open to outside investment, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

It's also one of the most polluted, sitting in 13th spot on the World Health Organization's list of the 92 country's with the smoggiest urban areas.

"In addition to creating more material and cultural wealth to meet people's ever-increasing needs for a better life, we need also to provide more quality ecological goods to meet people's ever-growing demands for a beautiful environment," Xi said.

In a nod to potential longer-term cooperation with the United States, Xi also promised to continue and accelerate reforms to the country's exchange rate system, which has been criticised by many, including U.S. President Donald Trump, for providing China's manufacturing industry with an unfair competitive advantage. 

Interesting, however, the pledge followed just hours after the U.S. Treasury Department quietly declined to label China a currency manipulator, preferring instead to place it on a "monitoring list" alongside Germany, Japan, Switzerland and South Korea.

That might have been the extent of Xi's Washington detente, however, as he stressed that "no country can alone address the many challenges facing mankind; no country can afford to retreat into self-isolation", picking up on his theme of a more outward-looking nation that he first articulated at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year in response to Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" economic strategy. 

At the same time, however, Xi stressed that China would never "impose its own will" on other nations and said it "opposes the strong nations bullying the weak". Xi did not mention North Korea in the speech, however, although he did stress that "no one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests" - a reference that could certainly apply to Pyongyang's ongoing military provocation in the region.  

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