Xi’s New Year Message to Taiwan Offers Little Hope for Reconciliation

Xi’s New Year Message to Taiwan Offers Little Hope for Reconciliation
Chinese President Xi Jinping listens to a speech during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Jan. 2, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.

In his first major policy speech on Taiwan since taking office in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Taipei on Wednesday that efforts to assert independence could be met with force and called unification between the “two sides of the strait” the “great trend of history.” Xi’s address at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, which largely reaffirmed China’s current policy toward Taiwan, came just over a month after the major opposition party, the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT), made gains in Taiwan’s local elections, dealing a blow to President Tsai Ing-wen’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Xi’s speech coincided with the 40th anniversary of the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” a landmark event in the perilous history of cross-strait relations. On Jan. 1, 1979, China declared an end to the routine artillery bombardment of Taiwanese offshore islands and offered to open communication between the two sides. Taiwan’s president at the time, Chiang Ching-kuo, rejected the offer, and later that year spelled out the self-governed island’s “three nos” policy toward China: no contact, no compromise and no negotiation. To this day, Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province.

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