CHINA’S president for life, Xi Jinping, has said his country will not cede “one inch” of territory in a warning shot to those seeking to “divide the motherland”.

The comments came yesterday as Xi closed the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, taking a slot usually held by the vice-president to warn that China is not ready to let go of Taiwan and will not stand for independence agitation around Hong Kong.

The speech was made after the congress voted to lift a two-term bar on the presidential office, clearing the way for Xi to rule indefinitely when his second term expires in 2023 and making him the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

THE 40-minute address promoted nationalism, China’s global business ambitions and plans to build a “world class” military.

The overriding unity message is unsurprising, coming from a man who has had his own personal philosophy added to his country’s constitution. His anti-corruption purge has strengthened his allies while sweeping up an estimated 1.5 million others, including former rivals and military leaders – one thing Xi will not thole is diversion from his singular vision.

Already tightly regulated, terms like “emperor” or “I disagree” were blocked on social media platforms during the congress.

Images of Winnie the Pooh, which have been used to lampoon Xi, were also not allowed.

ACCORDING to Xi, the public have the will and skills to “foil all activities to divide the nation” and believe that “every inch of our great motherland absolutely cannot and absolutely will not be separated from China”.

Xi told the 3000 delegates: “Maintaining national sovereignty, territorial integrity and complete unification of the motherland is the common aspiration of all Chinese.

“In the face of national righteousness and the tide of history, all attempts or tricks aimed at dividing the motherland are doomed to failure.”

THOUGH quieter than in previous years, calls to return independence to Tibet remain and Hong Kong, where the pro-democracy Umbrella Revolution sprang up in 2014, is also the subject of a small independence movement.

There are also tensions in the autonomous Xinjiang region – the country’s largest – which is home to the Uighur people, who are predominantly Muslim. Reports from January suggest as many as 120,000 Uighurs are confined to “political re-education” camps there.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan question persists.

TAIWAN has been self-governing since 1949, but has never formally declared independence from China. Beijing, though, has not given up on bringing the island, and its 23.5 million population, back under the control of the Republic of China.

America, which sells arms to Taiwan, has taken steps to strengthen their Taiwan ties with the signing of new legislation last week that makes it easier for officials to travel between the countries.

Beijing has urged Washington to “correct its mistake” in order to avoid “serious damage” to diplomatic and military relations and protect “peace and stability in the Taiwan strait”.

Yesterday Xi cautioned: “Any actions and tricks to split China are doomed to failure and will meet with the people’s condemnation and the punishment of history.”

NICOLA Sturgeon will travel to China next month for talks with business and government as she tries to convince the world’s second largest economy to invest its money here.

The move comes around 18 months after two Chinese state-backed firms cancelled a £10 billion investment deal in Scotland.

Sturgeon has vowed to “talk about the importance of equality of opportunity and respect for human rights”.

But in an interview with The National earlier this month, China expert Dr Chris Ogden, of St Andrews University, warned that Xi’s strengthened position of power could complicate any such missions.

On his advice for diplomats heading for China, he stated: “I’d say whatever you do, don’t mention domestic politics, Tibet or the Dalai Lama.”