China's Xi vows 'reunification' with Taiwan, but holds off threatening force
Speaking at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Xi said the Chinese people have a "glorious tradition" of opposing separatism
Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed on Saturday to realise peaceful "reunification" with Taiwan, though did not directly mention the use of force after a week of tensions with the Chinese-claimed island that sparked international concern.
Democratically ruled Taiwan has come under increased military and political pressure from Beijing to accept its sovereignty, but Taipei has pledged to defend their freedom and that only Taiwan's people can decide their future.
Speaking at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Xi said the Chinese people have a "glorious tradition" of opposing separatism.
"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 on the anniversary of the revolution that overthrew the last imperial dynasty in 1911.
Peaceful "reunification" best meets the overall interests of the Taiwanese people, but China will protect its sovereignty and unity, he added.
"No one should underestimate the Chinese people's staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Xi said. "The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and will definitely be fulfilled."
He struck a slightly softer 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.
China's air force mounted four straight days of incursions into Taiwan's air defence identification zone from Oct. 1, involving close to 150 aircraft, though those missions have since ended. Xi made no mention of those flights.
Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name. The Republic of China was established in 1912 and its government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists, who set up today's People's Republic of China.
Speaking shortly before Xi, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang noted that China had been "flexing its muscles" and causing regional tensions.
"This is why countries that believe in freedom, democracy, and human rights, and based on shared values, are all working together and have repeatedly warned that China should not invade Taiwan."
Taiwan marks Oct. 10, when the anti-imperial revolution began in China, as its national day, and President Tsai Ing-wen will give a keynote address in Taipei on Sunday.
China commemorates the revolution by harking back to republican leader Sun Yat-sen's calls for patriotism, national rejuvenation and good governance.
Xi used the speech to underscore the need for "a strong force to lead the country, and this strong force is the Chinese Communist Party".
"Without the Chinese Communist Party, there would not be a New China, and therefore no rejuvenation of the Chinese people," he said.
Xi has tightened party control in all aspects of life and is almost certain to break protocol and stay on as Communist Party boss for a third term late next year, when a congress will elect a new leadership for the following five years.