Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to pursue “reunification” with Taiwan by peaceful means in a speech in Beijing on Saturday.
Speaking in the Great Hall of the People 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.
“Those who forget their heritage, betray their motherland and seek to split the country will come to no good,” Xi said.
Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since the end of a civil war more than seven decades ago, in which the defeated Nationalists fled to Taipei. However, Beijing views Taiwan as an inseparable part of its territory – even though the Chinese Communist Party has never governed the democratic island of about 24 million people.
Xi’s speech came a day ahead of the official anniversary of the Wuchang Uprising on October 10, which is celebrated as National Day in Taiwan.
Xi said on Saturday he wanted to see peaceful reunification occur under a “one country two systems” policy, similar to that used in Hong Kong. However the system of government is generally opposed by Taiwan.
In his speech, Xi added the Taiwan issue is one of internal affairs for China and “allows no interference from outside.”
“People should not underestimate Chinese people’s determination to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The task of complete reunification of China must be achieved, and it will definitely be achieved,” he said.
The speech comes amid rising military tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Over four days in early October, the Chinese military flew almost 150 fighter jets, nuclear-capable bombers, anti-submarine aircraft and airborne early warning and control planes into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, according to the island’s Defense Ministry.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen 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 Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told journalists 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.
However his latest remarks were less inflammatory than comments he made on July 1 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s founding, in which he vowed to “utterly defeat” any supporters of Taiwan independence.
In a statement released after Xi’s speech, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said Beijing should abandon its “provocative steps of intrusion, harassment and destruction.”
Taiwan’s future and development lay solely in the hands of the island’s people, the statement said, adding China should consider interactions based on “peace, parity, democracy and dialogue.”