Chinese President Xi Jinping has reiterated Beijing’s commitment to a peaceful “reunification” with Taiwan on Saturday. Xi; however, held off a direct mention of the possible use of force to realize that goal after a week of rising tensions with the Chinese-claimed island.
Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi said the Chinese people have a “glorious tradition” of opposing separatism.
On the 110th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution that overthrew the last imperial dynasty in 1911, Xi said, “Taiwan independence separatism is the biggest obstacle to achieving the reunification of the motherland, and the most serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation. The complete reunification of our country will be and can be realised.”
The Chinese president said that a peaceful “reunification” is in the best overall interests of the Taiwanese people, but China will protect its sovereignty and unity.
Xi said, “No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
It was a slightly softer tone than the one he adopted in July when he threatened to “smash” any attempts at Taiwan’s formal independence. Earlier in 2019, he directly threatened to use force to bring the island under Beijing’s control.
Taiwanese people will decide island’s future
In recent weeks, China has put Taiwan under intense military and political pressure to accept Beijing’s sovereignty. However, Taipei has stood firm, pledging to defend its freedom saying that only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.
In response to Xi’s statement, Taiwan’s presidential office said that the future of the island rests in the hands of its people. The statement said that the mainstream public opinion is very clear in rejecting China’s “one country, two systems” model.
In a separate statement, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council called on China to abandon its “provocative steps of intrusion, harassment, and destruction”.
Repeated Chinese incursions
Since October 1, China’s air force has carried out four straight days of incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. The intimidation campaign involved about 150 jets but those missions have since halted.
Taiwan maintains that 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.
Earlier, shortly before Xi delivered his aforementioned address, Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang said that China had been “flexing its muscles” and causing regional tensions.
Su said, “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 celebrates October 10 as its national day, when the anti-imperial revolution began in China. President Tsai Ing-wen is set to deliver a keynote address of his own in Taipei to mark the occasion on Sunday.
Finding ways to coexist
Meanwhile, Taiwanese media reported that Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) legislators have urged the government in Taiwan to create “a mechanism” to talk with Beijing.
TPP Legislator Jang Chyi-lu said that beyond raising military, President Tsai “should pursue other options…for conducting realistic negotiations with Beijing that would lower risks for both sides.”
He said, “Taiwan needs some way to deal and coexist with China, our bad neighbour since we cannot relocate to another place.”