China’s Xi threatens Taiwan with force but also seeks peaceful 'reunification'

Larry Hoffman
January 2, 2019

"China must face the fact of the existence of Taiwan, Republic of China, and not deny the system of a democratic country that has been commonly built up by the Taiwanese people", she said.

"Deviating from the one China principle will result in tension and turbulence in cross-strait relations, harming the interests of the Taiwanese compatriots", Xi said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at an event marking the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China December 18, 2018.

Xi added that the mainland welcomed exchanges with all political parties and organisations in Taiwan based on the one-China principle and the 1992 consensus - an agreement reached by both sides that there is only one China but each side can have its own interpretation of what that means.

Xi said that China reserved the right to use force if necessary to counter interference by external forces and what he called an extremely small number of Taiwanese separatists.

The Chinese leader's statement earlier today has clearly shown that such rhetoric indicates nothing more than the "one-China" and "one country, two systems" ideology, according to President Tsai.

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

"We are willing to create broad space for peaceful reunification, but will leave no room for any form of separatist activities", Xi added. He said independence for the self-governing island is against history and a dead end.

It was a notion that Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen immediately rejected Wednesday amid concern that Mr. Xi is directing what Lai I-chung, who chairs the International Cooperation Council of Taiwan think tank, called a "major policy change".

The Chinese president spoke on the 40th anniversary of a 1979 New Year's pledge by China to halt bombardment of Taiwanese islands in hopes of attaining the "sacred mission" of bringing the two sides together.

Speaking to reporters, Tsai said Taiwan would never accept "one country, two systems" and was proud of its democratic way of life.

Underscoring China's nervousness about U.S. support in particular for Taiwan, U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed into law the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, which reaffirms the U.S. commitment to Taiwan, including arms sales.

Taiwan is gearing up for presidential elections in a year.

Tsai, who says she wants to maintain the status quo with China, said on Tuesday China must use peaceful means to resolve its differences with Taiwan and respect its democratic values.

China, meanwhile, has sought to isolate Taiwan under Ms. Tsai, freezing official cross-straits communication, increasing military exercises around the region and persuading a series of diplomatic allies to cut ties with Taipei.

Chiang only relaxed that in 1987, allowing people in Taiwan to visit China for family reunions. The two sides have been ruled separately since Chiang Kai-shek moved his Nationalist government across the Taiwan Strait during the Chinese civil war.

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