Taiwan’s unification with China is “inevitable”, President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday, warning against any efforts to promote the island’s independence and saying Beijing would not renounce the option of using military force to bring it into the fold.
Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 40th anniversary of a key Taiwan policy statement, Xi said reunification must come under a one-China principle that accepts Taiwan as part of China, anathema to supporters of Taiwan independence.
All people in Taiwan must “clearly recognise that Taiwan independence would only bring profound disaster to Taiwan”, Xi said.
“We are willing to create broad space for peaceful reunification, but will leave no room for any form of separatist activities,” he said.
“We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means,” he said, adding that the issue is China’s internal affair and that it would permit “no external interference”.
Taiwan is China’s most sensitive issue and is claimed by Beijing as its sacred territory. Xi has stepped up pressure on the democratically governed island since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive party became president in 2016.
There was no immediate reaction from Taiwan’s government.
Xi reiterated that China was willing to talk with any party in Taiwan to push the political process – stalled by China since Tsai took office – as long as they accepted the “one China” principle.
He sought to reassure people in Taiwan that there was nothing to fear from Chinese rule, even though most people there had shown no interest in being run by autocratic Beijing.
After peaceful reunification, Taiwan will have lasting peace and the people will enjoy good and prosperous lives. With the great motherland’s support, Taiwan compatriots’ welfare will be even better, their development space will be even greater,” Xi said.
Tsai, who says she wants to maintain the status quo with China, said on Tuesday China must use peaceful means to resolve its differences with Taiwan and respect its democratic values.
Beijing has regularly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills in the past few years and has heaped pressure on the island internationally, including whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.
Taiwan, where Chinese Nationalist forces fled in December of 1949 after losing a civil war to the Communists, is gearing up for presidential elections in a year. Tsai’s party suffered stinging losses to the China-friendly Kuomintang in mayoral and local elections in November.