On both sides of the Taiwan Strait, governments marked historic anniversaries this weekend with an eye cast toward the other. In a speech Saturday commemorating 110 years since the overthrow of China’s last imperial dynasty, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his desire to preside over what he has called the inevitable “unification” of Taiwan with China. Those who want to see the island return to mainland control, Xi said, “stand on the right side of history.”
Xi wished for a “peaceful” reunification with Taiwan. Beijing still considers the island part of its own sovereign territory — no matter that it has maintained a form of de facto independence since 1949, when China’s defeated nationalists fled there from the Communist-controlled mainland. In his speech, the Chinese president issued a clear warning to Taiwan’s political leadership: “Those who forget their heritage, betray their country and seek to break up their country will come to no good end,” he said.
That threat received a strong riposte the following day. At Taiwan’s National Day ceremonies, President Tsai Ing-wen said her country would bolster its defensive capabilities “to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us.” That path, she said, “offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people.”
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