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China’s Xi ramps up ‘reunification’ rhetoric in face of economic headwinds, Taiwan elections

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(, Jan01’23) – President Xi Jinping has admitted in his televised annual New Year Eve speech that his country’s economy was in trouble, with some being unable to meet basic needs, while vowing that the democratically self-ruled island of Taiwan will “surely be reunited”.

The defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong’s communists who founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Republic of China remains Taiwan’s formal name. Beijing continues to regard the island of 23 million with its high-tech economy as PRC territory and has been ramping up its threat to achieve that by military force if necessary.

“The reunification of the motherland is a historical inevitability,” Reuters Dec 31 quoted Xi as saying, noting that the official English translation of his remarks published by the Xinhua news agency, however, used a more simple phrase: “China will surely be reunified”.

“All Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should be bound by a common sense of purpose and share in the glory of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” Xinhua Dec 31 quoted Xi as saying, replacing “all “compatriots” with “all Chinese”, as noted by Reuters.

He struck a stronger tone than last year’s message, where he spoke of Taiwan being part of the “same family”, noted the Jan 1.

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His message came ahead of Taiwan’s crucial Jan 13 elections that will determine the island’s – and also China’s – cross-strait policy for the next four years.

In Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen said in her New Year’s address that the island’s relations with China must be decided by the “will of the Taiwanese people”. Her government has repeatedly warned that Beijing was trying to interfere in the election, where a new president and government will be chosen.

Taiwan’s Republic of China-founding Kuomintang party (KMT) has traditionally favoured warmer ties with Beijing – though it denies being pro-China. Its main rival, Ms Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has ruled Taiwan for the past eight years and takes a stronger line towards China, insisting it is sovereign and not a part of China.

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Fears have often been voiced that China could venture to invade Taiwan to divert people’s attention if the economic trouble threatens the country’s stability and the communist party rule.

China’s businesses are struggling and job seekers have trouble finding work, Jan 1 cited Xi as acknowledging in his address.

The report said: “This is the first time Xi has mentioned economic challenges in his annual New Year’s messages since he started giving them in 2013. It comes at a critical juncture for the world’s second largest economy, which is grappling with a structural slowdown marked by weak demand, rising unemployment and battered business confidence.”

Acknowledging the “headwinds” facing the country, Xi has admitted in the televised speech: “Some enterprises had a tough time. Some people had difficulty finding jobs and meeting basic needs.”

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China has described Taiwan’s upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections as a choice between war and peace.

Beijing considers the presidential front-runner, William Lai (or Lai Ching-te), who currently serves as vice president from the ruling DPP, a dangerous “separatist” and has accused him and President Tsai of trying to provoke a Chinese attack on the island, noted the AP Dec 31 and the Reuters report.

Lai’s election rivals include Hou Yu-ih from the more China-friendly Kuomintang party, and Ko Wen-je from the Taiwan People’s Party. Hou has also denounced Lai as an independence supporter.


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