Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday made a strong pitch for the integration of Taiwan with the mainland amidst heightened tensions with the estranged self-ruled island, saying the “Taiwan question” will be resolved and “peaceful reunification” is in the best interest of people of both sides.
The Taiwan issue brooks “no external interference”, Xi said in the backdrop of the US and Japan stepping up their backing to the estranged island in the face of China’s increasingly aggressive posture.
Xi’s also comments came after China sent a record number of military jets into Taiwan’s air defence zone for four days in a row, in a public show of force.
Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state – but China views the self-ruled island as a breakaway province. Beijing has not ruled out the possible use of force to achieve unification.
Speaking in the ornate Great Hall of the People in Beijing to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the revolution that ended the country’s last imperial dynasty, Xi said the biggest obstacle to the reunification of China was the “Taiwan independence” force.
The Taiwan question arose out of the weakness and chaos of the Chinese nation and it will be resolved as national rejuvenation becomes a reality, Xi, also the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), said.
“This is determined by the general trend of Chinese history, but more importantly, it is the common will of all Chinese people,” Xi said.
He said after years of hard work, China’s national rejuvenation has become a historical inevitability, with stronger institutions, firmer material foundations and a more proactive mindset.
National reunification by peaceful means best serves the interests of the Chinese nation as a whole, including compatriots in Taiwan, he said even as he pledged to reunify the island of over 23 million which is resisting forceful integration with the mainland of 1.4 billion population.
The 1911 Revolution led by nationalists headed by Dr Sun Yat-sen ended 2,132 years of imperial rule and 276 years of Manchu rule and heralded the beginning of China’s republican era followed by the formation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949.
Taiwan which opted for democracy separated from the PRC in 1949 while fighting a civil war with the CPC headed by Mao Zedong.
Since he took over power in 2012, President Xi, 68, has made the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and realisation of the Chinese Dream and integration of Taiwan with mainland China as his main goals.
Last week, tensions flared up after a Chinese military plane made a record 150 flights into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), prompting the US to express serious concern over the escalation.
The intensity of China’s air raids prompted US President Joe Biden to remind Xi that they have agreed to abide by the “Taiwan agreement” during their talks over telephone last month.
“I’ve spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree, we’ll abide by the Taiwan agreement. We made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement,” Biden said.
Xi, in his address, asserted that the Taiwan question is purely an internal matter for China, one which brooks no external interference.
“The complete reunification of our country will be and can be realised,” he stressed.
Xi recalled that the mainland adheres to the basic policies of peaceful reunification and the One Country, Two Systems, upholds the one-China policy and the 1992 Consensus and works for the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.
But critics say China’s adherence to One Country, Two Systems came into question after how it took control of Hong Kong, a former British colony, by imposing its National Security Law last year.
President Xi’s remarks on Saturday appeared more conciliatory than his last major intervention on Taiwan in July, where he pledged to “smash” any attempts at formal Taiwanese independence.
“Aggression and hegemony are not in the blood of the Chinese people. Our people hope to successfully realise national development, but they also hope to see all peoples of the world leading happy and peaceful lives,” Xi said, amidst growing global concern over the Communist giant’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
“China will remain a champion of world peace, a contributor to global development, and a defender of the international order, and we will do our very best to make even greater contributions to humanity,” he said.
“Through courage and skill, we will overcome all major risks and challenges that may impede our path to national rejuvenation and resolutely safeguard our national sovereignty, security and development interests,” he said, in a veiled reference to the formation of the Quad grouping of the US, India, Australia and Japan as well as the establishment of AUKUS, a trilateral security alliance between the US, Britain and Australia.
He said “compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan strait should stand on the right side of history and join hands to achieve China’s complete reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” he said.
Those who forget their heritage, betray their motherland and seek to split the country will come to no good end, Xi said, hitting out at pro-Taiwan independence advocates.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is a strong advocate of Taiwan’s independence.
President Tsai said at a security forum in Taipei on Friday that although her government did not seek military conflict, “Taiwan will also do whatever it takes to defend its freedom and democratic way of life.”
It came after Taiwan Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said on Wednesday that China could be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion of the island by 2025.
While Xi made no mention of the use of military force in his Saturday speech, he has previously refused to rule it out.
Xi also highlighted the role and the importance of the CPC headed by him which this year celebrated its centenary.
What the past 110 years have shown to the Chinese people since the Revolution of 1911 is that China needs strong force, he said.
“The past 110 years have shown us that to realise national rejuvenation, the Chinese people must have a strong force to lead us forward, and that force is the Communist Party of China,” he said.
Xi, regarded as the most powerful leader after Mao heading the CPC, the military and the Presidency, is due to complete his second term next year and is expected to continue in power possibly for life in view of the 2018 constitutional amendments, which removed the two-term limit for the President.
So far, all his predecessors retired after two terms.
Stressing the importance of strong leadership, Xi said that without the CPC, there would be no new China and no national rejuvenation.
Efforts should be made to ensure that the CPC always firmly stands as the most reliable backbone of the Chinese nation and people.
“The past 110 years have shown us that to realise national rejuvenation, the path we take is of fundamental importance. Socialism with Chinese characteristics has proven to be the only correct path.
“The past 110 years have shown us that to realise national rejuvenation, the Chinese people and nation must stick together through good times and bad, and rely on our strong unity to overcome all risks and challenges on the road ahead.
“On the journey ahead, we must fully promote patriotism, foster a strong sense of national dignity and confidence among our people, and strengthen the Chinese nation’s sense of community,” he said, calling for the formation of the “broadest possible patriotic united front.”
The past 110 years have shown us that to realise national rejuvenation, China needs not only a stable and united domestic environment but also a peaceful and stable international environment, the Chinese President said.