Chinese President Xi Jinping says peaceful reunification with Taiwan is in country’s best interests
- In speech marking 110th anniversary of the revolution that established the first Chinese republic, Xi urges Taiwan to ‘stand on the right side of history’
- Taipei condemns speech as a ‘distortion of history’ and calls on Beijing to stop threatening the island
The Taiwanese government said the speech was a distortion of history and called on Beijing to stop threatening the island.
The uprising, also known as the Xinhai revolution, began in Wuchang, now part of modern-day Wuhan, and led to the downfall of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
In his most high-profile speech on Taiwan since July 1, the Communist Party’s centenary, Xi said: “We [should] adhere to the basic policy of peaceful reunification and one country, two systems; adhere to the one-China principle and the 1992 consensus; and promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.”
He urged Taiwan to “stand on the right side of history jointly to create the glorious cause of the full reunification and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.
Invoking the revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen’s belief that “unification is the hope of all Chinese nationals”, Xi said: “The Taiwan issue was a result of the nation that was weak and chaotic, and will surely be resolved with national rejuvenation.”
Xi’s predecessor, former president Hu Jintao, also used the same line when marking the 100th anniversary of the revolution and making a similar call for peaceful reunification.
Xi added that secessionists were “the biggest obstacle to the reunification of the motherland and a serious hidden risk to national rejuvenation”.
“Those who forget their ancestors, betray the motherland, or split the country are doomed. They will definitely be spurned by the people and judged by history.”
Without naming any country directly, Xi also warned of foreign interference. “The Taiwan issue is entirely China’s internal affair, and no external interference can be condoned,” he said.
“No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s determination, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and it will definitely be fulfilled.”
Xi also stressed that China needed “a peaceful and stable international environment” for its “great rejuvenation” to be realised.
“The Chinese people do not have the genes for invading others and dominating the world,” Xi said. “The Chinese people hope not only for China’s development, but also that people from all countries can have a happy and peaceful life.
“China will remain a champion of world peace, a contributor to global development, and a defender of the international order, and we will do our very best to make even greater contributions to humanity.”
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In the speech, Xi also emphasised the Communist Party’s connection with the revolution and Sun Yat-sen.
“The Chinese Communists are the most steadfast supporters, most loyal partners, and most loyal successors of Mr Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary cause,” Xi said.
“After Mr Sun Yat-sen passed away, the Chinese Communists inherited his wish, continued to struggle with all those who were loyal to his cause, and continued to realise and develop the great aspirations of Mr Sun Yat-sen and the pioneers of the Xinhai revolution.”
The Communist Party established the People’s Republic in 1949 after defeating the Kuomintang (KMT), the nationalist party founded by Sun, in the civil war.
The beaten KMT fled to Taiwan where they established an interim government. Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province which it has vowed to take back, by force if necessary.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen will deliver an address commemorating the same event on Sunday, giving her a chance to respond to Xi after a particularly tense week in the Taiwan Strait.
China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan also spent over six hours in talks this week, with both sides making positive gestures and agreeing to make plans for a virtual summit between Xi and Biden.
Calling Xi’s speech a “one-sided distortion of historical facts”, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement that “Mr Sun Yat-sen and countless revolutionary martyrs created the first democratic republic in Asia, the Republic of China. The Republic of China stands unshakably in Taiwan.”
The council called on Beijing to abandon “its provocative measures of intrusion and destruction, and to consider interactions based on peace, reciprocity, democracy, and dialogue with a more open mind”.
“Mainstream public opinion in Taiwan is very clear that it rejects one country, two systems and defends our democratic and free lifestyle,” he said.
Xie Maosong, a senior researcher with Tsinghua University’s National Strategy Institute, said Xi’s 4,000-word speech was his latest effort to build a “holistic historical narrative” that included Taiwan for the party’s continued rule.
“Ahead of November’s party plenum, the narrative now clearly defines the Communists as the successors of the Xinhai pioneers. It will be reflected in the party’s historical resolution that is going to be released after the plenum.”
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Xie said the speech took a more peaceful tone towards the outside world as Beijing and Washington were starting to re-engage, but the tone towards Taiwan remained tough.
“The message is very clear. As Xi said, the Taiwan problem was caused by a weak and chaotic nation and the fundamental way to resolve it is a powerful China,” Xie said.
“Taipei might be forced to return to the negotiating table over reunification when Beijing gets all the preparations ready in the next few years.”
While Xi did not introduce new targets on unification with Taiwan, the speech’s main message was about the trajectory of the party itself, said Wu Qiang, a Beijing-based political scientist formerly with Tsinghua University.
He added that Xi’s speech, which emphasised the leadership of the Communist Party and China’s socialist path as the keys national rejuvenation, was made at a time of high tension between Beijing and Washington, and a year before the 20th party congress, when Xi is expected to start his third term as the party’s leader.
“He’s really laying down the goal of reunification as part of his platform and political mission for his new term,” he said. “He’s also trying to define the party’s future based on its nationalistic conviction.”
Additional reporting by Lawrence Chung and Jun Mai