China and Taiwan, Sunday (10/10), exchanged strong criticism about the future of the archipelago. China has pushed for reunification, while Taiwan has responded with a rare display of military capability.
In celebration of the territory’s National Day, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said “we will do our best to prevent it from being changed” the status quo unilaterally,” with Taiwan operating as an independently governed nation, even as China claims the island as part of Chinese territory.
“We will continue to strengthen our national defenses and show our determination to defend ourselves to ensure that no one can force Taiwan to take the path that China has set for us,” Tsai added.
The Taiwan-China Affairs Office condemned Tsai’s speech, saying it incited confrontation and distorted facts, blocking the path to negotiations that Taiwan sought.
Taiwan showcased its military hardware, including imported and domestically made fighter jets, tanks and missile systems.
For decades the United States has supported a one-China policy that recognizes claims to Taiwan, but has continued to sell military hardware to Taiwan, including arms sales worth $5.1 billion in 2020.
Tsai, in her speech, emphasized the island nation’s vibrant democracy in contrast to China’s authoritarian one-party system.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday (9/10) stated that reunification with Taiwan “must be realized.”
“No one can underestimate the determination and strong ability of the Chinese people to safeguard our national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi said.
In her speech Tsai said “the path that China has set does not offer a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, or sovereignty for our 23 million citizens.”
Surveys of citizens in Taiwan show they strongly support their country’s de facto independence and strongly oppose unification with China. Even as China vows – if necessary – to use military force to bring the island back under its control.
In recent days, dozens of Chinese fighter jets have flown over Taiwan’s air defense zone in a show of force. This forced Taiwan to deploy its fighter jets upla. Last year China made more than 800 such flights. [em/jm/ft]