Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed on Saturday to take back Taiwan, blaming China’s past weakness for the island nation’s decades-old secession.
Addressing the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to hundreds of masked Communist Party officials, Mr. Xi said Taiwan’s reunification with communist China remains a long-term goal as part of the rejuvenation of nations.
“The Taiwan issue stems from chaos and national weakness,” he said. “It will certainly be resolved through the rejuvenation of the nation.”
Mr. Xi said the dispute between Taiwan and China should be resolved peacefully, but warned that those who betray the motherland and divide the country “will not end well.”
The line was met with loud applause from the assembled officials marking the 110th anniversary of the revolution that ended the last imperial dynasty in China in 1911.
“No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s strong resolve, strong will and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Mr. Xi said. “The historic mission of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and it will certainly be fulfilled.”
In a speech in July, Mr. Xi vowed to “smash” any effort by Taiwan to declare formal independence, and in 2019 threatened to use force to reunite the island with the mainland.
Comments about the previous weakness appear to be targeting President Biden, who said on Tuesday that he had spoken with Mr. Xi about Taiwan and that the Chinese leader had agreed to abide by the “Taiwan Agreement.”
“We’ve made it clear that I don’t think he should do anything other than stick to the agreement,” Mr. Biden said in response to a question about China’s escalating military intimidation.
Taiwan is a large island country located 100 miles off the coast of China. During a civil war in 1949, nationalist forces fighting the communists fled to the island and established a government called the Republic of China.
Taiwan’s government remained in ambiguous status after President Richard Nixon’s administration negotiated official diplomatic recognition for the communist government but left the island’s downgraded diplomatic status unresolved.
Relations between the United States and China remain strained due to various interpretations regarding Taiwan’s status within the so-called “one-China policy” specified in the diplomatic statements.
Xi’s speech was delivered days after one of the Chinese military’s most aggressive military provocations, including sending more than 150 warplanes to areas off Taiwan’s southern coast, including nuclear-capable H-6 bombers.
In response to the airstrikes that sent Taiwanese fighters into a scramble, the State Department said it was “deeply concerned” about the military coercion of Washington’s unofficial ally.
Mr. Xi said “Taiwan independence” is the biggest obstacle to the reunification of the “motherland” and a “serious hidden danger to national revival.”
He also criticized what he said was “foreign interference” in Taiwan, an apparent reference to increased US support for Taiwan over the past several years.
“No one should underestimate the strong resolve, resolute will and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Mr. Xi said.
In March, the commander of the Indo-Pacific Command told Congress that there were signs that the Chinese government was accelerating its plans to retake Taiwan and that action against the island could be done by 2030.
Four months later, the command’s chief intelligence officer, Admiral Mike Studman, warned that a conflict over Taiwan was coming and said China was already engaged in a low-level information and economic war against the island.
“It’s already an ongoing struggle,” he said. Whether or not the Chinese resort to the military option is questionable. For us, it is only a matter of time, not a question of ‘if’, because if you understand the set of problems, you realize that Taiwan is unlikely to bend based on economic, informational and diplomatic influence alone.”
In Taipei, President Tsai Ing-wen’s office responded to the letter by calling on Beijing to stop its coercion and rejecting Mr. Xi’s call for reunification under the “one country, two systems” concept.
“The future of the nation is in the hands of the people of Taiwan,” the office said.
China agreed to allow Hong Kong to maintain its democratic system under a one country, two systems policy, but backed down last year and has since taken control of the former British colony.