Xi Jinping Says Taiwan's Unification With China Is 'Inevitable'

China's President Xi Jinping attends a welcome ceremony for German President Frank Walter Steinmeier in Beijing

He said "reunification" must come under a one-China principle that accepts Taiwan as part of China, anathema to supporters of Taiwan independence, adding that the "one country, two systems" model of autonomy, with which China governs Hong Kong, was the best way for Taiwan.

"This is the first time a Chinese leader has so directly pointed out the feasibility of a Taiwan mode of 'one country two systems, ' and so openly vowed China's will and determination for it", said Liu Guoshen, who leads the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University.

The year 2018 was a challenging one for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), as they suffered major losses in the November elections amid a stagnant economy, flat wages, unpopular reforms, election interference from the mainland, and aggressive shows of force by China's military.

China still sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war that brought the communists to power on the mainland in 1949.

Although President Xi said in his speech that unification with Taiwan through force is a possibility, Ding believes it is unlikely that Beijing would send troops to occupy Taiwan.

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". 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.

She again reiterated her "four musts" proposal for cross-strait ties: China must recognize the existence of the Republic of China, respect the democracy and freedom that Taiwan's 23 million people hold dear, resolve cross-strait differences in a peaceful and equitable manner, and engage in negotiations with the government of Taiwan or an institution with a mandate from the government.

Tsai, responding to Xi's speech at a Wednesday afternoon press conference, said Taiwan would "never accept" such a framework.

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Beijing "reserves the option of taking all necessary measures" against outside forces that interfere with peaceful reunification and Taiwan independence separatist activities, he said.

That trend was broadly seen as an undercurrent in the 2016 election of Ms. Tsai, who calls Taiwan a "nation" and, in a January 1 address, said Beijing "must face the reality of the existence of the Republic of China", the formal name for Taiwan.

Up until 1979, China had conducted routine artillery bombardment of Taiwan-controlled offshore islands like Kinmen close to the mainland.

These "musts", she said, form the "most basic and most key foundation for the positive development of relations between Taiwan and China". "It must also be that only organizations authorized by the two governments can sit down for talks". China has pressured other nations to cut off economic and diplomatic ties with Taiwan, in order to pressure the Taiwanese government into rejoining China. "It's impossible. Hong Kong is a great example".

She stressed that Taiwan has been fulfilling its responsibility in maintaining regional stability for the past two years but has in return received threats from Beijing.

Use of force against Taiwan would hurt China by inciting a response from Japan and the United States, Michael Tsai added.

"I think she doesn't want the local officials to have private connections with Xi Jinping or any other PRC officials", Lee said.

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