China

A more confident China threatens to use military force in Taiwan, holds up Hong Kong as a model

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has issued a new threat to use military force in Taiwan as Beijing intensifies efforts to achieve unification with the self-governing democratic region, holding up Hong Kong as a model for Taipei.

In a major address on Wednesday, Mr. Xi promised economic gifts to Taiwan if it places itself under Beijing’s rule, saying “with the great motherland’s support, Taiwan compatriots’ welfare will be even better, their development space will be even greater.”

What China calls “reunification” should happen peacefully and Beijing would protect Taiwan’s freedoms, Mr. Xi said, specifically pointing to the Hong Kong model of “one country, two systems” as a Taiwanese solution.

It was a notion that Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen immediately rejected Wednesday amid concern that Mr. Xi is directing what Lai I-chung, who chairs the International Co-operation Council of Taiwan think tank, called a “major policy change.”

“Xi Jinping is eager to take unification with Taiwan as a matter of higher urgency,” Mr. Lai said.

In his speech, Mr. Xi reiterated Beijing’s willingness to use its military power in a region it sees as a renegade province.

China will not “promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option to use all necessary measures” to forestall Taiwanese independence, he said, directing his comments at those seeking greater autonomy in Taiwan as well as foreign forces – comments seen as a reference to the United States, whose strong ties to Taiwan have made it a key counterbalance to China.

The Chinese President spoke on the 40th anniversary of a 1979 New Year’s pledge by China to halt bombardment of Taiwanese islands in hopes of attaining the “sacred mission” of bringing the two sides together.

Cross-straits ties, particularly economic links, have flourished in the decades that followed.

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About the author

Nathan VanderKlippe

Nathan VanderKlippe is the Asia correspondent for The Globe and Mail. Based in Beijing, his reporting takes him across the region, where he covers political developments, social trends, international affairs, refugee crises, natural disasters and, occasionally, hockey games. He has spoken with political and business leaders, including Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, former president of Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou, JD.com founder Richard Liu and many others. He served two terms on the board of the Foreign Correspondents Club of China. Prior to joining the Globe in 2009, VanderKlippe was a print and television correspondent in Western Canada based in Calgary, Vancouver and Yellowknife. He has covered Canada's energy industry, aboriginal issues and Canada’s north. His reporting has been recognized by the National Newspaper Awards, National Magazine Awards, the Canadian Association of Journalists, Amnesty International, The Society of American Business Editors and Writers and The International China Journalists Association.