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Taiwan Pushes Back After Xi Calls for Unification

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 10/10/2021 Cindy Wang

(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen said the island is facing “unprecedented challenges” and will defend its sovereignty, pushing back after Chinese leader Xi Jinping declared a day earlier that unification will be achieved.

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Taipei hopes for an easing in cross-strait ties, and resolving differences requires dialogue on the basis of parity, Tsai said in a televised National Day address on Sunday. The government will do its utmost to maintain the status quo amid a “complex regional landscape” and won’t act rashly, she said.

Taiwan Celebrates National Day © Bloomberg Taiwan Celebrates National Day

Xi, in a Saturday speech marking the 1911 uprising that toppled the last Qing emperor and led to the founding of the Republic of China, said peaceful means to unify with Taiwan “best serves the interests of the Chinese nation as a whole,” but also sent stark warnings against any efforts to seek independence as well as foreign interference. 

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While the governments in both Beijing and Taipei trace their origins to the 1911 revolution, the Communist Party never captured Taiwan in a subsequent civil war and the Republic of China government lived on there. Mainland China still considers the island part of its territory and has asserted the right to take it by force, although Tsai has argued she leads a sovereign nation.

“The more we achieve, the greater the pressure we face from China,” Tsai said. “We will continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us.”


Video: China’s Xi vows ‘reunification’ with Taiwan (The Washington Post)

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China’s vision for Taiwan neither offers a “free and democratic way of life,” nor sovereignty for its 23 million people, she said.

The anniversary follows a particularly tense week in the Taiwan Strait, with China sending scores of military planes into the island’s air-defense-identification zone while the U.S. and its allies held military exercises in nearby waters. On Friday, Beijing urged Washington to abide by its agreement to keep troops out of Taiwan after an American defense official confirmed that some U.S. military advisers had been deployed there. 

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“I want to remind all my fellow citizens that we do not have the privilege of letting down our guard,” Tsai said.

Tsai called for a building of consensus around four commitments -- to a free and democratic constitutional system; that Taiwan and China should not be subordinate to each other; to resist annexation or encroachment upon the island’s sovereignty, and that Taiwan’s future be decided in accordance with the will of its people.

She said the four commitments are “the bottom line and common denominator that the people of Taiwan have given us.”

Xi’s speech on Saturday invoked revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen’s belief that “unification is the hope of all Chinese nationals,” and failing would result in “suffering.” Government surveys have showed fewer than 10% of Taiwan’s residents favor unification. 

Responding to Tsai’s speech, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement on Sunday that the Democratic Progressive Party’s claim that it is maintaining the status quo is “just an attempt to deceive the world,” adding that Taiwan’s fate should be determined by all of the Chinese people, including the 23 million Taiwan compatriots.

(Updates with response by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office to speech in last paragraph.)

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