Taiwan president urges China to shun 'hegemony'

Tsai Ing-wen says Chinese President Xi Jinping's address to UN has given island 'hope'

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (C) waves during the National Day in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei on October 10, 2020. / AFP / Sam Yeh
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Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen called on her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to de-escalate military tensions and live up to his promise to "never seek hegemony" as the self-ruling island claimed by Beijing celebrated its national day on Saturday.

Ms Tsai said the international community was becoming concerned about the "expanding hegemony" of China but referred to a recent speech by Mr Xi that she said gave the Taiwanese some hope.

"I am also aware that the leader across the Strait [Xi] has publicly stated in a video message to the United Nations General Assembly that China will never seek hegemony, expansion, or a sphere of influence ... we hope this is the beginning of genuine change," she said in her national day speech.

"We are committed to upholding cross-strait stability, but this is not something Taiwan can shoulder alone – it is the joint responsibility of both sides."

China views democratic Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it back into its fold.

Beijing's bellicose stance towards the island has increased dramatically under Mr Xi, who has described its unification with the mainland as "inevitable". This also a response to the election of Ms Tsai in 2016 and again earlier this year. She views Taiwan as a sovereign country and rejects the idea that the island is part of "one China".

China's military has piled on pressure even more than usual this year, sending its warplanes into Taiwan's air defence zone at unprecedented frequency and sometimes also crossing the so-called "median line" of the Taiwan Strait.

A Chinese foreign ministry official last month even said there was no such thing as the median line as "Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory", sparking condemnations from Taipei.

On Friday, Chinese jets entered Taiwan's air defence zone for the seventh time this month and the fourth straight day this week, according to Taipei's defence ministry.

Ms Tsai pledged that Taiwan "will not act rashly" and would work to lower the risk of military conflict.

"As long as the Beijing authorities are willing to resolve antagonisms and improve cross-strait relations... we are willing to work together to facilitate meaningful dialogue," she said.