– Facing deepening tensions abroad and anxieties at home, China's leader, Xi Jinping, delivered an unabashed defense of his policies Tuesday, using a key anniversary to argue that his recipe of guided growth under strong Communist Party control must not waver.

Xi made his case to some 3,000 officials and guests gathered in the imposing Great Hall of the People in Beijing to commemorate 40 years since China embarked on far-reaching economic changes after decades of upheaval and malaise under Mao Zedong.

The resonant date had inspired expectations among some analysts and investors that Xi would give clearer priorities to counter economic headwinds and trade tensions that have flared with the U.S. But he offered none, referring only obliquely to the economic and diplomatic challenges confronting China.

Instead, he used the meeting, broadcast live on Chinese television, to stress that only the party's dominance would allow China to continue its stunning transformation into the decades ahead. The first lesson from 40 years of reform, he said, was the need to maintain party leadership "over all tasks."

"It was precisely because we've adhered to the centralized and united leadership of the party that we were able to achieve this great historic transition," Xi said.

Xi said that a country of China's size and influence was right to hold "lofty aspirations."

"China will never develop itself by sacrificing the interests of other countries," Xi said, but he added that China would not "abandon its own legitimate rights and interests."