October 17, 2022
BEIJING – Solving the Taiwan issue is a matter for the Chinese and is not up to foreign forces to decide, President Xi Jinping said on Sunday in an obvious swipe at the United States, which Beijing sees as taking increasingly provocative measures on the island.
Speaking to more than 2,300 Communist Party delegates at a congress, Mr Xi also said China would “never renounce the use of force” in its pursuit of reunification with the self-ruled island.
Analysts noted that his remarks, at the opening of the twice-a-decade party congress where he is expected to receive a landmark third term in power, are a clear signal that Mr Xi is determined to make reunification part of his legacy.
“Solving the Taiwan issue is a matter for the Chinese people, and it is up to the Chinese people to decide. While we continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and our best efforts, we will never renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures,” he said.
He added that these measures were not directed at the majority of people in Taiwan, but at interference by external forces and separatists on the island.
Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade province that has to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Cross-strait tensions have spiked after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in August.
China, which has stepped up military drills around Taiwan, had conducted exercises in response to the visit to show it had the capability to blockade the island.
During his speech, Mr Xi gave a summary of the party’s approach on Taiwan, but in a fuller version of his remarks given to journalists, he had reiterated that reunification was a “natural requirement of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.
It is a reference to a goal that Mr Xi had previously laid out for China to become a strong, modern and prosperous superpower by 2049.
“The wheels of history are rolling on towards China’s reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Complete reunification of the motherland must be achieved, and it will be achieved,” said Mr Xi to applause.
Associate Professor Alfred Wu from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said these comments were an effort to position Mr Xi as a Chinese leader capable of achieving reunification.
“To some extent, he is trying to emphasise that he is someone that deserves many more terms in power in order for him to do this,” said Prof Wu.
Mr Xi also praised the party’s efforts to consolidate its hold over Hong Kong, and delivered a glowing report card for China’s foreign policy, pointing out that its international influence and appeal have grown.
“We have helped Hong Kong enter a new stage in which it has moved from chaos to governance, and now from governance to prosperity.”
Beijing had passed a national security law for Hong Kong in 2020 after mass protests to quash dissent in the city.
On foreign policy, Mr Xi said that amid changes in the international situation, “especially in the face of external blackmail, containment, blockade and extreme pressure”, the party has safeguarded national dignity and core interests.
Prof Wu pointed out that Mr Xi sought to portray himself as “a leader that can lead China in its fight against the West”, adding that Beijing would likely double down on the most assertive form of diplomacy that has emerged during Mr Xi’s time in power.
That said, analysts noted that the leader’s remarks downplayed the global challenges China was facing.
Political analyst Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Beijing’s close relationship with Russia means that it risks losing international support, and it is also dealing with a US that is determined to hobble its technological ambitions.
“The fact is, after 10 years of Xi Jinping, China has become more isolated than ever,” said Prof Lam.