Taiwan pushes for autonomy, ‘practical understanding’ with China
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen stood firm against Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call in early January 2019 for a “one country, two systems” political setup between the two countries, news agencies reported.
At a January 2, 2019, news conference, Tsai, pictured, rejected Xi’s assertion in a policy speech in early January 2019 that Taiwan is part of China and that “reunification” should be sought by both entities, Reuters reported.
“China must face the fact of the existence of Taiwan, Republic of China, and not deny the system of a democratic country that has been commonly built up by the Taiwan people,” Tsai said, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
In his speech, Xi threatened that any independence movement would lead to “disaster” and that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) “will not leave any room” for such activities, according to the Nikkei Asian Review website.
Xi is looking for Taiwan to adhere to an arrangement similar to that established between Hong Kong and China in which the former territory became a part of China but retained some autonomy.
Although Hong Kong citizens have more freedoms than Chinese citizens, such as freedom of expression and press, which the territory negotiated with Britain-controlled Hong Kong, Xi has been gradually chipping away at those rights since he came to office, protesters contend. Hong Kong became a British colony during the war of 1842 but was transferred to China in 1997.
“We have experienced a lot in 2018 — society, politics and people’s livelihoods have all regressed. I can’t see hope in 2019,” said Kwan Chun-pong, who was among several thousand democracy advocates who rallied on January 1, 2019, on the streets of Hong Kong, according to Agence France-Presse.
Meanwhile, a civil war in the late 1940s divided Taiwan from China and resulted in Taiwan nationalists establishing a separate government.
“What’s really needed between the two sides is a practical understanding of the differences between values, beliefs and lifestyles,” Tsai explained during an earlier speech on January 1, 2019, delivered for the new year, AP reported.
Xi has continued to push for a “one China” rule that incorporates Taiwan, which Tsai rebukes. The PRC increased its aggressive activities toward Taiwan in 2018, including flying military aircraft near the island, pressuring nations to disengage with Taiwan diplomatically and discouraging Chinese tourists to visit the island, among other activities.
In her speech, Tsai cautioned Taiwan city and county officials about PRC economic and other influences. She warned against relying on “vague political preconditions” for investments or “forced submission of secret passwords,” referencing pressure to transfer trade secrets, the AP reported. “We don’t oppose normal cross-strait exchanges, and even more we don’t oppose city-to-city exchanges,” she said. “However, exchanges across the strait need to be healthy, and they need to be normal.”
Some analysts observed that Xi was attempting to stoke nationalism and energize his base in his speech in his warnings to Taiwan.
“Xi badly needs some victories on the power front,” Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the Nikkei Asian Review, given mounting challenges to the president’s authority. “Xi Jinping is ramping up the tension and doubling down on the military dimension.”