China’s Xi says outside interference can’t stop reunion with Taiwan

In meeting with former Taiwanese president, Xi Jinping stresses ‘historical trend of reunion of the country and family’.

Xi Jinping seated in front of a Chinese flag
Chinese President Xi Jinping has previously said that reunification with Taiwan is 'inevitable' [File: Florence Lo/Pool via Reuters]

Chinese President Xi Jinping has met former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou and said that outside influence cannot stop the “family” reunion between Beijing and Taipei.

Xi emphasised dialogue between the two sides during the meeting with Ma on Wednesday, saying that all issues can be discussed, the Reuters news agency reported.

“External interference cannot stop the historical trend of reunion of the country and family,” Xi said, in comments reported by Taiwanese media.

Beijing views the self-ruled island as a province that must be reunited with mainland China, and it has not ruled out using force to assert its claims to Taiwan.

Taiwan cut off contact with mainland China and established its own government in 1949 after nationalist forces who lost the Chinese Civil War to Mao Zedong’s communists fled there.

Officially known as the Republic of China, Taiwan quickly became an economic powerhouse and an ally of the United States in subsequent years. It is now one of the largest producers of semiconductors, a key component in electronic devices across the world.

No sitting Taiwanese president has ever visited China. Ma is now on his second trip to China after becoming last year the first former Taiwanese president to visit the country.

The visit comes amid growing tensions across the Taiwan Strait. On Wednesday, Xi said both sides of the strait are Chinese.

“There is no rancour that cannot be resolved, no problem that cannot be discussed, and no force that can separate us,” the Chinese president was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Xi had previously said that the unification of China and Taiwan is “inevitable”.

But Western countries have warned China against considering an invasion of Taiwan, and US President Joe Biden has said that Washington would militarily defend the island if it is attacked.

China has conducted military exercises near Taiwan in recent years, including in 2022 in response to a visit by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island.

Ma told Xi on Wednesday that tensions have caused unease for many Taiwanese.

“If there is a war between the two sides, it will be unbearable for the Chinese people,” Ma said, using a term that refers to people who are ethnically Chinese in both countries.

“Chinese on both sides of the strait absolutely have enough wisdom to handle all disputes peacefully and avoid heading into conflict.”

Responding to the talks, Taiwan’s China-policy-making Mainland Affairs Council said it deeply regretted that Ma did not publicly convey the Taiwanese people’s insistence on defending the sovereignty and democratic system of the Republic of China.

It added that Beijing should stop intimidating Taipei and resolve differences with Taiwan through respectful dialogue.

Ma, who served as Taiwan’s president from 2008 to 2016, remains a senior member of Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT).

In January, Vice President Lai Ching-te, seen by Beijing as a “dangerous separatist”, won the elections in Taiwan. He will succeed current President Tsai Ing-wen in May.

Biden and Xi held a phone call earlier this month for the first time since November.

“This call will be an opportunity for the president to reaffirm the US ‘One China’ policy and reiterate the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, especially given the upcoming May presidential inauguration in Taiwan,” a US official told reporters on the condition of anonymity last week.

Washington pursues a “One China” policy that does not recognise Taiwan as an official country despite having close ties to its government.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies