hinese President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday that the people of Taiwan ought to accept peaceful reunification with the mainland as an inevitability while adding the important caveat that Beijing still reserves the right to use force to achieve this aim.
Despite this disclaimer, Xi’s speech, which came on the 40th anniversary of a key policy statement which opened the door to improving relations between Beijing and Taipei, was largely placatory in nature, reiterating China’s vision that Taiwan would be reunited with the motherland under a “one country, two systems” basis, much like the one practiced in Hong Kong, which would usher in a new era of prosperity for all.
Xi’s words that Taiwan “must and will be reunited” follow along with Beijing’s long-standing view on its most sensitive issue, though there is some worry in Taiwan that with his increased power Xi is in a stronger position than his predecessors when it comes to achieving this goal. In his speech, Xi declared that Taiwan independence was a “dead end” and would only bring “profound disaster” to the island.
“We will create a broad space for peaceful reunification, but will leave no room for any separatist activities,” Xi vowed, adding that Beijing would not promise to renounce the option of using military force against Taiwan.
Xi’s speech comes one day after a New Year’s address given by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, in which she declared that China must respect Taiwan’s democratic values and use peaceful means to resolve cross-strait differences.
In the wake of Xi’s speech, Tsai reiterated these points and called on China to “bravely take steps towards democracy,” implying that while she remains president, Taiwan would not be reunited with China under a “one country, two systems” framework.
As president of the Republic of China, I must stress that we’ve never accepted the “1992 Consensus,” & the “four musts” are crucial for positive cross-strait developments. I call on #China to bravely take steps towards democracy, so they can truly understand the people of #Taiwan pic.twitter.com/Wvgiy44Oc8
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) January 2, 2019
Since Tsai took office in 2016, Beijing has become more aggressivein undermining Taiwan’s position around the globe, snatching away its allies, freezing it out of international events, and forcing global companies to cease listing Taiwan as a separate country.
When Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party got hammered at the polls in November, China cheered the result, declaring that they reflected the “strong will of the public in Taiwan in hoping to continue to share the benefits of peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait, and their strong wish in hoping to improve the island’s economy and well-being.”
A poll from March carried out by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation found that 20 percent of the Taiwanese public supports unification, 24 percent is satisfied with the current situation, and 38 percent favor independence.