China's Xi Jinping calls for peaceful reunification with Taiwan

Chinese leader softens tone towards self-ruled island after repeated military aircraft sorties last week

Chinese President Xi Jinping at a meeting commemorating the anniversary of the 1911 revolution.  Reuters
Powered by automated translation

China's President Xi Jinping vowed on Saturday to realise peaceful "reunification" with Taiwan, after a week of tensions with the self-governing island that sparked international concern.

Mr Xi was speaking at an official celebration in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People that focused largely on the need for the ruling Communist Party to continue to lead China as the country rises in power and influence.

“Reunification through a peaceful manner is the most in line with the overall interest of the Chinese nation, including Taiwan compatriots,” he said.

Mr Xi’s remarks came just days after the Chinese military sent a record number of military aircraft flying towards Taiwan in exercises that the island has called a threat.

Taiwan's presidential office responded by saying the island was sovereign and independent, not part of the People's Republic of China, and had clearly rejected China's offer of "one country, two systems" to rule the island.

"The nation's future rests in the hands of Taiwan's people," it said.

Mr Xi struck a slightly softer tone than in July, his last major speech mentioning Taiwan, in which he vowed to "smash" any attempts at formal independence. In 2019, he directly threatened to use force to bring the island under Beijing's control.

Saturday's celebration was in honour of the 110th anniversary of the Chinese revolution in 1911 that led to the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China led by Sun Yat-sen.

October 10 is celebrated in Taiwan as National Day and Mr Xi’s address touched on common aspirations for a unified future, despite the stark differences between China’s one-party system and Taiwan’s multi-party democracy.

"Taiwan independence separatism is the biggest obstacle to achieving the reunification of the motherland, and the most serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation," he said.

"No one should underestimate the Chinese people's staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and will definitely be fulfilled.

"Without the Chinese Communist Party, there would not be a New China, and therefore no rejuvenation of the Chinese people."

Taiwan and China split in 1949 amid civil war, with the then ruling Nationalist Party fleeing to the island as Mao Zedong’s Communists swept to power on the mainland.

Since then, Taiwan has been self-ruled, but its sovereignty is denied by Beijing, which has refused to renounce the option of using force to bring the island under its control.

Beijing has also sought to isolate Taiwan internationally by barring it from the United Nations and other international organisations and opposing official contacts between its government and nations that recognise China, especially the US, which is legally bound to consider threats against Taipei a matter of “grave concern”.

Updated: October 09, 2021, 1:55 PM