Chinese president begins year of anniversaries with address on Taiwan
- China will mark milestone events, including proclamation of the People’s Republic
- Xi’s address on Taiwan comes in 30th anniversary year of Tiananmen crackdown
Mainland China will begin a year of high-profile anniversaries with a speech on Wednesday from President Xi Jinping on Taiwan, one of its most sensitive issues.
In 2019, Beijing will celebrate 70 years since Communist China’s founding. The next year brings six anniversaries, including the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown in June and October’s 70th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic at the end of a civil war.
But it will be self-ruled Taiwan, democratic and claimed by Beijing as its own, that will be the focus of Xi’s first big public event of the year.
State news agency Xinhua said on Monday that Xi would give a speech in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 40th anniversary of a policy statement that led to a thaw in relations with Taiwan, the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan.
Xinhua gave no other details on the event.
On January 1, 1979, Beijing declared an end to what had been routine artillery bombardment of Taiwan-controlled offshore islands close to the mainland and offered to open communications between the two sides after decades of hostility.
However, the offer was rebuffed by Taiwan’s then-president Chiang Ching-kuo, who in April that year came out with a “three noes” policy of no contact, no compromise and no negotiation with China.
Chiang relaxed that in 1987, allowing people in Taiwan to visit mainland China for family reunions. His father, Chiang Kai-shek, fled with defeated Kuomintang, or Nationalist, forces to Taiwan in December 1949 after losing a civil war to the Communists.
No formal peace treaty or formal end to hostilities has been signed.
Taiwan is gearing up for presidential elections in January 2020. President Tsai Ing-wen’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party suffered stinging losses to the mainland-friendly Kuomintang in mayoral and local elections in November.
Beijing has piled pressure on Tsai since she took office in 2016, cutting off dialogue, whittling down Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies and forcing foreign airlines to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites.
Beijing fears Tsai wishes to push for Taiwan’s formal independence, although Tsai said she wanted to maintain the status quo.
Xi said in March that Taiwan would face the “punishment of history” for any attempt at independence, offering his strongest warning yet to the island claimed by the mainland as its territory.