Published: Thu, January 03, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Taiwan reunification is a must, says Xi Jinping

Taiwan reunification is a must, says Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday said he would not renounce the use of force against foreign forces and pro-Taiwan independence "separatists" that interfere with China's goal of peaceful unification as he announced plans to explore using the "one country, two systems" model with Taiwan.

In his speech, Xi described unification under a "one country, two systems" approach that would "safeguard the interests and well-being of Taiwanese compatriots".

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.

"Taiwan will never accept a "one country, two systems" framework", said President Tsai.

The "Message of Compatriots in Taiwan" on January 1, 1979, declared an end to routine artillery bombardment of Taiwan-controlled islands close to China, marking a turning point from decades of hostility between the two sides.

"The issue of Taiwan is part of China's domestic politics".

Though Xi insisted that "it's a legal fact that both sides of the Strait belong to one China, and can not be changed by anyone or any force", his speech was to some degree conciliatory, calling for discussion and increased economic cooperation. As NPR's Beijing Correspondent Rob Schmitz has reported previously, Taiwan split from China in 1949 when the US -supported Chinese nationalist leadership fled after losing a civil war to communist forces.

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Apart from keeping up the pressure on the Tsai administration, President Xi's speech was also a warning to the USA, which China worries will leverage the Taiwan issue to force more concessions from the Chinese. The opposing Nationalists set up their own government on the island about 160 kilometers off the Chinese mainland.

The event was to mark 40 years since China proposed ending military confrontation with Taiwan and seeking reunification through dialogue, after establishing diplomatic relations with the United States in 1979.

"We are willing to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with the utmost sincerity and the best efforts because achieving reunification through peaceful means is most beneficial to the compatriots on both sides of the strait and the entire nation".

The vast majority of Taiwan's people are clearly aware that Taiwan independence would lead to a "grave disaster", Xi told an audience that included Taiwan business people and senior party officials.

Last year, Taiwan's ruling party suffered a massive defeat in mid-term polls, causing Tsai to resign as leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, while the main opposition Kuomintang, which oversaw an unprecedented thaw with Beijing before Tsai took office in 2016, made gains.

Since coming to power six years ago, Xi has employed both incentives and pressure to steer Taiwan toward unification.

Despite much publicity over 152 missing Vietnamese tourists, Taipei's efforts to replace the decline in tourist arrivals from the mainland have apparently paid off. Arguably, an additional 1 or 2 million tourists might have arrived had it not been for Beijing's discouragement, although a major push to attract other visitors might not have been implemented.

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