Published: Thu, January 03, 2019
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

Respect or Use of Force? China-Taiwan Divide Seen Getting Deeper

Respect or Use of Force? China-Taiwan Divide Seen Getting Deeper

China seeks the "peaceful unification" of Taiwan but will not rule out the threat of military action, President Xi Jinping said Wednesday as he described the annexation of the self-ruling US ally as an enduring ambition and an inevitable outcome of China's rise.

In a speech marking 40 years since the start of improving ties, he reiterated Beijing's call for peaceful unification on a one-country-two-systems basis.

Mr Xi said both sides were part of the same Chinese family and that Taiwanese independence was "an adverse current from history and a dead end".

The year 2018 was a challenging one for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), as they suffered major losses in the November elections amid a stagnant economy, flat wages, unpopular reforms, election interference from the mainland, and aggressive shows of force by China's military.

He cited the "one country, two systems" arrangement that preserves Hong Kong's liberal political and economic system after its return from the British as the intended model.

The "Message of Compatriots in Taiwan" on January 1, 1979, declared an end to routine artillery bombardment of Taiwan-controlled islands close to China, marking a turning point from decades of hostility between the two sides.

China will not "promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option to use all necessary measures" to forestall Taiwanese independence, he said, directing his comments at those seeking autonomy in Taiwan as well as foreign forces - comments seen as a reference to the U.S.

"It's rather empty and doesn't have any new points except that cross-strait unification would not affect the interests of other countries", said Fan Shih-ping, political analyst at National Taiwan Normal University, adding that Xi's words may also be intended for the USA, which views Taiwan as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy.

Taiwan and China split in a civil war that brought the Communists to power in China in 1949.

China should "respect the insistence of 23 million people on freedom and democracy, and must use peaceful, on parity means to handle our differences", she added.

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 rival nationalists set up their own government on Taiwan, which sits about 160km (100 miles) off the Chinese mainland. Last year, China also forced worldwide airlines to change their websites and no longer list Taiwan as an independent country. China has cut direct talks with Taipei, stripped Taiwan of its diplomatic allies and flown bombers and dispatched navy vessels around the island in displays of force.

On Wednesday, he suggested that "political parties and people from all walks of life on both sides of the strait elect representatives" to engage in talks on the future of their relationship, saying an agreement that both sides belong to "one China" must be upheld in negotiations.

It fears Tsai wishes to push for Taiwan's formal independence, though Tsai says she wants to maintain the status quo.

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