Xi Jinping vows ‘complete reunification’ with Taiwan amid tensions

The legacy of the 1911 revolution is contested by both China and Taiwan.

China’s President Xi Jinping on Saturday said “national reunification by peaceful means” with Taiwan “will and can be realised”, speaking amid what Taiwan officials have called the worst tensions in four decades.

Mr. Xi was speaking a day before October 10, which is celebrated in China as the 110th anniversary of the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, and marked in Taiwan as its National Day. The 1911 revolution began at Wuchang on October 10 of that year, ultimately leading to the end of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China (ROC).

After the end of the Chinese Civil War between the Communists and Nationalists, Mao Zedong’s Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China in 1949 while Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang fled to Taiwan, declaring Taipei as the capital of the ROC.

Mr. Xi on Saturday said “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.”

“This is determined by the general trend of Chinese history, but more importantly, it is the common will of all Chinese people,” he was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency, adding that “national reunification by peaceful means best serves the interests of the Chinese nation as a whole, including compatriots in Taiwan.”

“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.

“The complete reunification of our country will be and can be realised,” he added.

His comments on the anniversary followed a series of aerial intrusions into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone by the PLA Air Force, with a record 38 aircraft on October 1, when China marked its National Day, followed by 39 on October 2 and 56 on October 4. Taiwan’s Defence Minister described the current tensions as the worst in 40 years.

The legacy of the 1911 revolution is contested by both China and Taiwan. Mr. Xi on Saturday 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.”

On Sunday, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen is expected to deliver a National Day address. In last year’s address, Ms. Tsai said “maintaining stability in cross-strait relations is in the best interests of both sides”. She said Taiwan was “committed to upholding cross-strait stability, but this is not something Taiwan can shoulder alone; it is the joint responsibility of both sides.”

The current status quo has, however, come under increasing stress, with Beijing stepping up pressure on Taiwan since Ms. Tsai’s election in 2016 and re-election last year, accusing her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of pursuing “independence”. The Communist Party’s official view is, as Mr. Xi said on Saturday, pushing for re-unification by peaceful means, although it has not ruled out the use of force.

Beijing has also increasingly sought to push back against Taiwan’s presence in international bodies and to wean away the 15 remaining countries that continue to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The Taiwan issue is also among the key tensions in China-U.S. relations, with Beijing recently criticising U.S. comments on the aerial intrusions. On Saturday, Mr. Xi said “the Taiwan question is purely an internal matter for China, one which brooks no external interference.”

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