Chinese President Xi Jinping said Wednesday that independence for Taiwan is against history, and that no political party can stop the path toward reunification.
In a speech marking 40 years since the start of improving ties, he reiterated Beijing's call for peaceful unification on a one-country-two-systems basis.
Xi's words that Taiwan "must and will be reunited" follow along with Beijing's long-standing view on its most sensitive issue, though there is some worry in Taiwan that with his increased power Xi is in a stronger position than his predecessors when it comes to achieving this goal.
Xi Jinping has insisted that the island would ultimately be reunified with the mainland, and the issue should not be left for future generations to deal with.
Ahead of Xi's speech Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen defended self-rule and said Beijing must respect its sovereignty.
She added that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait needed a pragmatic understanding of the basic differences that exist between them in terms of values and political systems.
"We do not promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures, targeting external interference and a very small number of "Taiwan independence" separatists and their separatist activities, not against Taiwan compatriots", he said. As part of the government's New Southbound Policy, visitors from six Southeast Asian countries were allowed visa-free entry to Taiwan if they held a resident card or visa for Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, any European Union or Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, or the USA that had expired less than 10 years prior to their date of arrival.
"It's rather empty and doesn't have any new points except that cross-strait unification would not affect the interests of other countries", said Fan Shih-ping, political analyst at National Taiwan Normal University, adding that Xi's words may also be intended for the U.S., which views Taiwan as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy. Beijing, and some in Taiwan, maintain a "One China" theory that the island and the mainland belong under the same umbrella - although they dispute who should be ruling.
Chinese President Xi Jinping used his speech to say that reunification with Taiwan was inevitable. Getty Images
Mrs Tsai warned China on Tuesday that Taiwan's people would never give up the kind of freedoms unseen on the authoritarian mainland.
Beijing has won over more and more of Taipei's few global allies to cut diplomatic ties with the island and establish relations with China instead.
President Xi has taken steps to unify the two lands since becoming China's leader in 2012.
All people in Taiwan must "clearly recognise that Taiwan independence would only bring profound disaster to Taiwan", Xi said.
Taiwan's leader rejected Xi's call just hours later.
At the same time, Taiwan has developed a vibrant democratic system and a deepening sense of local identity that is distinct from China - and, for some, hostile to the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party.
Hong Kong was a former British territory, but was given back to China in 1997 under the condition that it would keep a "high degree of autonomy" and not be subjected to China's socialist economic policies.
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