Chinas Xi threatens Taiwan with force but also seeks peaceful reunification

Geneva Stokes
January 3, 2019

Taiwan independence would lead to "disaster", Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday, pledging efforts for peaceful "reunification" with the self-ruled island but warning China would not renounce the use of force.

Xi made the remarks in a closely watched speech in Beijing marking the 40th anniversary of the 1979 "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan", which called for the unification of "China", an end to military confrontation across the Taiwan Strait and expanded cross-strait interactions.

He added that Beijing can "make no promise to give up the use of military force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means" against Taiwanese separatist activities and "outside forces" that interfere with reunification.

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

Taiwan and China split in a civil war that brought the Communists to power in China in 1949. Taiwan has never formally declared independence from mainland China, but relations have come under pressure since the election of Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen in 2016. Washington and Beijing established ties only after the U.S. broke its formal ties to Taiwan.

President Xi said Beijing is willing to talk with the representatives of political parties from Taiwan about the future cross-strait relations, but only when they agree to reject Taiwan's independence and accept the so-called "1992 Consensus", which is centered around the "one-China" principle.

"Peaceful unification and "one country, two systems" are the best methods of realizing unification between the two sides", Xi said as cited by China's official Xinhua News Agency.

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"Reunification is the historical trend and the right path, Taiwan independence is. a dead end", he warned.

Tsai said Taiwan is willing to talk, but it must be with the approval of the Taiwanese people.

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.

Chiang only relaxed that in 1987, allowing people in Taiwan to visit China for family reunions. Beijing, and some in Taiwan, maintain a "One China" theory that the island and the mainland belong under the same umbrella - although they dispute who should be ruling. "The majority of Taiwanese are staunchly opposed to the concept [of one country, two systems]. Since Hong Kong was returned to China, its freedom and democracy have faced a lot of limitations".

Beijing denies any interference in Taiwan's internal affairs.

Xi has set great personal store in resolving what the Communist Party calls the "Taiwan issue", holding a landmark meeting with then Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore in late 2015, just before Tsai was elected.

In recent years, Beijing has become increasingly assertive over its claims and what it says is a key question of national sovereignty.

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