Since revealing his invigorated quest to win control of Taiwan in his New Year speech, the Chinese President Xi Jinping has kept up the pressure on the self-ruled island.
Image shows Chinese president Xi Jin Ping and his Taiwanese counterpart Tsai Ing-wen
Since the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949, both the sides have being ruled separately.
While Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state, it has never declared formal independence from the mainland.
China’s Communist Party maintains that Taiwan is part of its territory even though the self-ruled island has its own currency, political and judicial systems.
In the years since then, China has repeatedly pursued reunification by threatening Taiwan militarily, but has also enhanced economic and social ties with the island.
Over the last few months, China’s tactics have grown increasingly confrontational and its aggression has been met with strong rejection and defiance from the Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen.
In her New Year’s address, Ing-wen called on Beijing to “face the reality of the existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan’s official name).”
Clarifying the stance of the Taiwanese government, Ing-wen urged Beijing to “respect the commitment of the 23 million people of Taiwan to freedom and democracy.”
Last month, she declared that the “grassroots public opinion in Taiwan does not favor abandoning our sovereignty and people do not want to make concessions regarding Taiwanese identity.”
However, a day later the Chinese President delivered a powerful speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of a message sent to Taiwan in 1979, in which Beijing called for unification and an end to military confrontation.
In his speech, Jinping expressed that his country would not back down and instead called on Taiwan to reject independence and embrace “peaceful reunification” with China
The Chinese President described unification under a “one country, two systems” approach and said that it would “safeguard the interests and well-being of Taiwanese compatriots.”
While he struck a largely conciliatory tone, Jinping also warned that China would not give up the use of military force as an option to ensure the reunification of Taiwan.
He declared that Beijing “reserves the option of taking all necessary measures” against outside forces that interfere with peaceful reunification and Taiwan independence separatist activities.
The Chinese leader said, “Reunification is the historical trend and the right path, Taiwan independence is…a dead end.”
Retorting back immediately, the Taiwanese President said that the island would not accept a Hong Kong-style arrangement or the ‘one country, two systems’ political arrangement.
She insisted that all cross-Strait negotiations needed to be carried out on a government-to-government basis.
With tensions between Taiwan and Beijing soon becoming one of the flash points in the region, the Taiwanese President delivered a more pointed response to China on Saturday.
Ing-wen accused China of unhelpful “political bullying” and urged the country to have a “correct understanding” of what Taiwanese think.
Speaking to foreign reporters in Taipei, Ing-wen explained, “It is impossible for me or, in my view, any responsible politician in Taiwan to accept President Xi Jinpings recent remarks without betraying the trust and the will of the people of Taiwan.” She then called for international support to defend the self-ruled islands democracy and way of life.
Ing-wen said, “We hope that the international community takes it seriously and can voice support and help us. If the international community did not support a democratic country that was under threat, we might have to ask which country might be next?”