(CNSNews.com) – “The motherland must and will be reunited,” a Chinese government spokesman declared on Sunday, responding to a National Day speech by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in which she described the situation facing the island democracy as “more complex and fluid than at any other point in the past 72 years.”
Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the “Taiwan Affairs Office” of the State Council – the communist government’s cabinet – accused Tsai of trying to “deceive the world” by saying she wants to maintain the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait.
Tsai’s speech was a riposte to earlier remarks by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said, “Taiwan independence separatism is the biggest obstacle to achieving the reunification of the motherland.”
In her address, Tsai said her government would not “act rashly” and would do its utmost to relieve tensions with Beijing but “there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure.”
“We will continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us,” she said. “This is because the path that China has laid out offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people.”
Tsai called for unity from Taiwanese of all political affiliations around four common commitments:
- A commitment to a free and democratic constitutional system
- A commitment that neither Taiwan nor the People’s Republic of China (PRC) should be subordinate to the other
- A commitment to resist annexation of or encroachment on Taiwan’s sovereignty
- A commitment that Taiwan’s future “must be decided in accordance with the will of the Taiwanese people.”
The exchanges come at a time when China has significantly stepped up the deployment of warplanes into the skies near Taiwan, with dozens of probing sorties by aircraft including fighter jets and strategic bombers into the island’s air defense identification zone.
The escalation has stoked fears that the Chinese Communist Party under Xi’s leadership may be running out of patience on its long-declared intention to “reincorporate” Taiwan into the PRC.
Taiwan is to all intents and purposes a sovereign nation, with a democratically-elected government, national armed forces, and a thriving economy.
But Beijing views it as a breakaway province that must be returned to the “one China” fold, and accuses Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) of edging towards a formal declaration of independence.
China works energetically to deny Taiwan international recognition, opposing its attempts to join or even obtain observer status in multilateral organizations. China refuses to have diplomatic ties with the small handful of nations that do recognize Taiwan.
The DPP rejects the idea of Taiwan joining China under the “one country, two systems” principle which saw Hong Kong, a former British colony, return to mainland rule in 1997.
Beijing had promised that Hong Kong would enjoy limited autonomy under a capitalist system for at least 50 years, but many freedoms have been snuffed out in recent years as the CCP cracked down on pro-democracy dissent.
Tsai’s spokesman, Xavier Chang, in response to Xi’s earlier remarks, said the current situation in Hong Kong showed that China had broken its promises to the territory, and that the “one country, two systems” model was not feasible.
“Mainstream public opinion in Taiwan is very clear,” Chang said, adding that the Taiwanese people reject the “one country, two systems” options and will defend their democratic and free way of life.
Public opinion polls tracking the views of Taiwanese over many years find majority support for retaining the status quo, although a deeper dig finds growing support for independence as the ultimate goal.
Since 2018, the proportion of respondents in regular surveys by the National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center favoring the option “maintain status quo; move towards independence” has climbed from 15.1 percent to 25.8 percent.
Over the same four-year period, support for the option to “maintain status quo; move towards unification [with the PRC]” has dropped from 12.8 percent to 5.9 percent
By small margins, the most popular option chosen remain “maintain status quo; decide at a later date” (28.2 percent) and “maintain status quo indefinitely” (27.5 percent).
Much further down lie support for “independence as soon as possible” (5.6 percent) and for “unification as soon as possible” (1.5 percent).
In a national survey conducted in August by the pro-independence New Constitution Foundation, 89 percent of respondents said they identify themselves as “Taiwanese” compared to 4.6 percent who said they identify themselves as “Chinese.”
The U.S. is committed under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act to protect the island from unprovoked aggression and to provide it with military aid.
The U.S. interpretation of “one China” does not endorse Beijing’s position – that Taiwan is an inalienable part of one China, to be “reunified” one day.
U.S. policies on the issue are wrapped in carefully crafted statements, like the “three joint communiqués” between the U.S. and China in 1972, 1979 and 1982, which saw the U.S. acknowledge that there is “one China” but without explicitly recognizing Beijing’s claims to Taiwan.
President Reagan’s “six assurances” to Taiwan in 1982 include the policy that the U.S. “has not changed our long-standing policy on the matter of sovereignty over Taiwan” – that is, that the issue was undetermined and should be decided peacefully by the sides themselves.