Chinese President Xi Jinping promised on Saturday to realise peaceful “reunification” with Taiwan, though did not directly mention the use of force after a week of tensions with the Chinese-claimed island that sparked international concern.
Democratically ruled Taiwan has come under increased military and political pressure from Beijing to accept its sovereignty, but Taipei has pledged to defend its freedom and that only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.
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Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi said the Chinese people have a “glorious tradition” of opposing separatism. China is marking the 110th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911.
“Taiwan independence separatism is the biggest obstacle to achieving the reunification of the motherland, and the most serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation,” he said on the anniversary of the revolution that overthrew the last imperial dynasty in 1911.
“The complete reunification of our country will be and can be realised,” he was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
Peaceful “reunification” best meets the overall interests of the Taiwanese people, but China will protect its sovereignty and unity, he added.”No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi said.
He struck a slightly softer tone than in July, his last major speech mentioning Taiwan, in which he vowed to “smash” any attempts at formal independence. In 2019, he directly threatened to use force to bring the island under Beijing’s control.
In response to Xi’s statement, Taiwan’s presidential office said on Saturday that the future of the island rests in the hands of its people and that mainstream public opinion is very clear in rejecting China’s “one country, two systems” model.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council in a separate statement called on China to abandon its “provocative steps of intrusion, harassment and destruction”.
China’s air force mounted four straight days of incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone from October 1, involving close to 150 aircraft, though those missions have since ended. Xi made no mention of those flights.
Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name.
The Republic of China was established in 1912 and its government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists, who set up today’s People’s Republic of China.
Speaking shortly before Xi, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang noted that China had been “flexing its muscles” and causing regional tensions.
“This is why countries that believe in freedom, democracy, and human rights, and based on shared values, are all working together and have repeatedly warned that China should not invade Taiwan.”
Taiwan marks October 10, when the anti-imperial revolution began in China, as its national day, and President Tsai Ing-wen will give a keynote address in Taipei on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) legislators urged the government in Taiwan to create “a mechanism” to talk with Beijing, according to Taipei Times.
TPP Legislator Jang Chyi-lu said that beyond raising military, President Tsai Ing-wen “should pursue other options…for conducting realistic negotiations with Beijing that would lower risks for both sides.”
“Taiwan needs some way to deal and coexist with China, our bad neighbour, since we cannot relocate to another place,” he said.