President Tsai Ing-wen says that Taiwan and China must find “a way to coexist.” Her statement came after she rejected China’s “one country, two systems” model.
“Cross-strait relations have reached a historical turning point. Both sides have a duty to find a way to coexist over the long term and prevent the intensification of antagonism and differences,” Tsai said during her inauguration on Wednesday.
“We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo. We stand fast by this principle,” said Tsai. She also stressed that she plans to “engage in dialogue with China.”
China considers Taiwan as its province with no right to its own diplomatic representation. However, the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled over Taiwan.
Meanwhile, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office pointed out that the “reunification” of Taiwan with the mainland is a “historical inevitability” which “cannot be stopped by anyone or by any force,” according to state news agency Xinhua.
China “will never tolerate any act of splitting the country, and will not tolerate any external forces interfering in China’s internal politics,” said Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson, Ma Xiaoguang, as cited by Xinhua.
Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have been simmering since the election of Tsai, a politician from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, in 2016. China closed its doors for any official meeting with Taiwan after she got elected.
Beijing also courted Taiwan’s few allies, convincing them to build diplomatic ties with China instead.
Beijing blocked Taiwan’s participation as an observer in an annual World Health Organization event. Taiwan had been working to become a part of the conference, emphasizing its willingness to share their successful response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Faced with changing circumstances, I will hold firm to my principles, adopt an open attitude to resolve issues, and shoulder my responsibilities as president,” Tsai said, according to an official translation of her speech.
“I also hope that the leader on the other side of the Strait will take on the same responsibility, and work with us to jointly stabilize the long-term development of cross-strait relations,” Tsai added, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Tsai enters her second and final term in office after winning in January.
She supported protesters in Hong Kong to emphasize concerns about Beijing’s control on civil liberties in the special administration region.
After her re-election, China multiplied its military drills around the island.
“In the face of complex and changing cross-strait circumstances, we have made the greatest effort to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait over the past four years, gaining approval from the international community,” Tsai said in her speech.
“We will continue these efforts, and we are willing to engage in dialogue with China and make more concrete contributions to regional security,” she said.
Michael Boyden, managing director at Taiwan Asia Strategy Consulting, believes that China’s pressure on Taiwan will escalate.
Taiwan must set constructive dialogues with China in the next four years under Tsai’s leadership, as the pressure “is only going to intensify in my opinion,” Boyden said during an interview on CNBC’s “Street Signs.”
Xi may be “president for life, but he is not immortal,” he said. “He wants to be the Chinese leader who resolves the Taiwan issue. He certainly does not want to be the Chinese leader who let Taiwan slip away, so the pressure is only going to intensify.”
Taiwan recorded 1.54% GDP growth in the first quarter of 2020, its lowest performance in nearly four years. China has always been the largest trading partner of Taiwan.
Tsai said Taiwan will continuously develop its global ties.
“Over the next four years, we will continue to fight for our participation in international organizations, strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation with our allies, and bolster ties with the United States, Japan, Europe, and other like-minded countries,” she said.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday congratulated Tsai on her re-election.
“The United States has long considered Taiwan a force for good in the world and a reliable partner,” he said in a statement. He noted that US support for Taiwan is “bipartisan and unanimous.”