Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to pursue reunification with Taiwan by peaceful means in a speech on Saturday.
Xi’s address, which was made at the 19th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China CPC, is seen as an important step towards establishing his position as paramount leader for years to come.
The CPC has long supported ‘one country, two systems’ meaning that Beijing would rule both mainland China and democratic Taiwan. However, Xi has been a vocal advocate of a unified China which implies Taiwan would be brought under Beijing’s leadership.
We make no promise to give up the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures, Xi said at the congress. Any activities and tricks to split China are doomed to failure and will meet with the people’s condemnation and the punishment of history.
The CPC has ruled China since 1949 when Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China. Under Xi, Beijing permitted Taiwanese citizens to visit mainland China without having to obtain visas until 2015. However, Taiwanese citizens are now subject to stricter controls under new regulations imposed by Beijing in April 2017.
Xi’s call for a unified China has been echoed by the government media in Hong Kong. In a series of columns last month, state-run newspaper The Global Times suggested that the need to defend its interests has made Taiwan reliant on China and therefore leading to reconciliation. It argued that people from all over the world were concerned about Taiwanese independence and that Taiwanese businesses were taking mainland Chinese money to invest in the island.
Taiwan is currently ruled by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen has refused to acknowledge the 1992 consensus, which agrees that there is only one China, but leaves it open as to which ruler of China people on both sides of the straits recognizes. This is a red line drawn by Beijing and Tsai’s refusal to acknowledge it has led to an impasse in cross-strait relations.
The Global Times also wrote that many people were concerned with Taiwan’s independence, particularly in the US who fear that Taiwan would be forgotten if it becomes part of China.
Taiwan’s top China policy-making body issued a statement on Saturday opposing Beijing’s interference in the island’s domestic affairs as well as its hardline one-China stance.
Taiwan has been self-governing since 1949 when the KMT Nationalists lost a civil war to Mao Zedong and fled to Taiwan with two million supporters. Mainland China and Taiwan have been governed separately since 1949.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said claims made by the Chinese leader were a threat to Taiwanese people and it urged Beijing to face up to reality and abandon its ‘one China’ principle which precludes international recognition of the democratic island.