Taiwan president defiant after China calls for reunification

President Xi Jinping made the remarks at a gathering at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Jan 2 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of

Beijing will not rule out the use of force to ensure the "unshakable historic task" of its complete reunification with Taiwan, Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, said on Wednesday, warning that independence for the island would bring "profound disaster".

President Xi said Beijing should not wait "generation after generation" to unify Taiwan but declared the task would be fulfilled when China achieves its "great revival".

"The difference in systems is not an obstacle to reunification or an excuse for separation", Xi said.

"We make no promise to give up the use of force and reserve the option of all necessary means", Xi added, not ruling out the use of military action against separatist efforts in Taiwan.

Despite this disclaimer, Xi's speech, which came on the 40th anniversary of a key policy statement which opened the door to improving relations between Beijing and Taipei, was largely placatory in nature, reiterating China's vision that Taiwan would be reunited with the motherland under a "one country, two systems" basis, much like the one practiced in Hong Kong, which would usher in a new era of prosperity for all.

In one of his most significant addresses on Taiwan since taking power, Xi reiterated an appeal to the 23 million citizens of the island democracy: If Taiwan submits to Chinese rule, he said, it would enjoy its own system of governance under a "one country, two systems" model, much like Hong Kong after it returned to China.

"I would like to call on China to face squarely the reality of the existence of the Republic of China on Taiwan", Ms Tsai said, referring to the island's formal name.

Significantly, the record-breaking number of tourist arrivals to Taiwan seems to contradict critics who argue that Tsai's refusal to acknowledge the so-called "1992 Consensus" over the "one China" principle (whereby both Beijing and Taipei claim sovereignty over China) has "seriously harmed Taiwan's travel industry". After the island voted in 2016 to elect Tsai - of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party - he cut off ties and launched an effort to isolate her government. Today, more than 30 per cent of Taiwan's trade is with China, while some Taiwanese young people have moved to the mainland to seize professional opportunity in the world's second-largest economy.

Tsai rejected Xi's call and instead urged China to embrace democracy.

Merely a day later, Xi described his vision for unification via a "one country, two systems" approach to "safeguard the interests and well-being of Taiwanese compatriots".

Ding Shuh-fan, an worldwide relations expert at Taiwan's National Chengchi University, told DW it is the first time a Chinese president has laid out concrete proposals regarding the "one country, two systems" model.

"After peaceful reunification, Taiwan will have lasting peace and the people will enjoy good and prosperous lives". Beijing has regularly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills.

Mr Xi said both sides were part of the same Chinese family and that Taiwanese independence was "an adverse current from history and a dead end".

In mid-term elections previous year, the DPP suffered losses causing Tsai to resign as party leader, while the pro-China opposition rival Kuomintang made gains. His father, Chiang Kai-shek, fled with defeated Nationalist forces to Taiwan in December of 1949 after loosing a civil war to the Communists.

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