BEIJING – President Xi Jinping said Wednesday he wants progress on China's decades-long quest for control of Taiwan. However, it seemed unlikely that his proposal would win over the inhabitants of the self-governing island, who had seen Hong Kong's freedoms retreat rapidly under a similar agreement.
Mr. Xi stressed the importance of unifying with Taiwan for his vision of China's national rejuvenation in his first major speech on the controversial island. The Chinese Communist Party sees Taiwan, a living democracy, as a historic mistake – an area that should never have been granted China autonomy. As a passionate patriot, Mr. Xi finds that the status of Taiwan is particularly annoying.
"That the two sides of the strait are still not completely unified is a wound on the Chinese nation that has left the story," said Mr. Xi in his landmark speech in the Great Hall of the People. The political divisions between China and Taiwan, he added, "can not be passed on from generation to generation."
But even with this urgency, Mr. Xi's recipe for bringing Taiwan into "one China" was unlikely to attract many on the island, even after his president Tsai Ing-wen – openly loathed by Beijing – was arrested November had suffered bruising.
On the one hand, Mr. Xi threatened military force if Taiwanese leaders sought independence. On the other hand, Mr. Xi said that if Taiwan agreed with the association, its rights would be guaranteed by the One Country, Two Systems system that Beijing used in Hong Kong after returning from British colonial control in 1997. 19659002] Neither the threat nor the promised reward is likely to significantly weaken Taiwan's opposition to China's demands, said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University, who studies relations between China and Taiwan. 19659002] "Xi Jinping's approach is to use a larger stick and sweeten the carrot," he said in a telephone interview. After Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms have come under pressure from Beijing in recent years, many Taiwanese were likely to be suspicious of Mr. Xi's offerings.
Under the One Country, Two Systems framework, Hong Kong has enjoyed legal autonomy since returning to Chinese sovereignty, and city residents still enjoy far greater freedoms than citizens across China. However, publishing, news media and pro-democracy activism in Hong Kong have receded in recent years, reflecting the growing weight of China's political pressure .
"That will not work, especially given the events in Hong Kong Kong. Who will buy this idea? Said Professor Cabestan, "So many Taiwanese are for independence or already think that Taiwan is independent and should remain independent."
Few experts believe that Mr. Xi's speech triggered an outbreak of a conflict over Taiwan could, however, increase as his speech so shattered with the remarks made by Ms. Tsai.
Taiwan and China have been close to war since 1949, when the Kuomintang forces were defeated by the revolutionary armies of Mao Zedong The country's fears of Taiwan achieving its independence have only grown since the 1990s, when the island resorted to democratic elections that brought to life parties that rejected Chinese identity.
"Tsai and Xi hold on to their positions," said Bonnie S Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Strategic Center e and international studies in Washington. "There is little reason to expect that these important statements will improve the relations between maritime roads. But there is no reason to expect a crisis. "
Mr. Xi's speech was forty years since China unveiled a new approach to unification with Taiwan, shortly after the United States postponed diplomatic relations from the Republic of China – the name of the government on the island – to the Communist government in Beijing.
But in a speech on Monday, Ms. Tsai said Taiwan's 23 million people wanted to maintain its autocracy, and warned against reading the recent setbacks of its Democratic Progressive Party as a rejection of that principle. In November, opposition Kuomintang, which favors closer ties with China, won mayors in Taiwan's three most populous cities. [Tuesday, September 29, 2008] On Tuesday, Ms. Tsai immediately rejected "one country, two systems" as a basis for negotiations.
"Here I must repeat that Taiwan will never accept" one country, two systems, "she told reporters in Taipei, the capital of the island, in response to Mr. Xi's speech. "Democracy is a value and lifestyle that is appreciated by the Taiwanese."
The Taiwan Foreign Ministry also rejected Mr. Xi's proposal. An e-mail commented that the Chinese government had already "severely destroyed Hong Kong, this window into" one country, two systems. "
Mr. Xi called the Taiwanese people generally for unification with China only 3 percent of Taiwanese respondents in a survey published by National Chengchi University last August said they now want the union, with another 12.5 percent claiming to have preferred the status quo and later reunification.
In his speech, Mr. Xi signaled that he was prepared to play a long-term game in order to gain acceptance, if not support, in Taiwan of China's political goals.
"Compatriots on both sides of the strait are a family," He said, "With the One China Principle as the cornerstone, there are no barriers to political parties or groups in Taiwan who come in contact with us."
The Chinese Government was ready to open talks with politicians and representatives from Taiwan as they did so, resisting the island's independence and accepting Beijing's formula for "a China," Xi said. He also had better access to China's huge and growing economy. China already accounts for more than 30 percent of trade in Taiwan, and the promised connections could appeal to some Taiwanese cities that want to boost growth.
Jason Taiu, a Taiwanese legislator who belongs to Kuomintang, said that Taiwanese voters are unlikely to be directly influenced by Chinese overtures, but concerned about economic prosperity.
"Most Taiwanese voters are in the middle," he said. "They value wealth and the management of cross-strait relations."
The analysts saw parallels between Mr. Xi's proposals and the "united front" tactic that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed to divide, tame, and co-opt potential adversaries in China, Hong Kong, and increasingly the US Foreign countries.
"Behind the speech is the clear intention to intensify the united front work, to multiply the ties and ties of dependence on mainland China," said Professor Cabestan. "For someone living in Hong Kong, there are many echoes of what happened here."
Nonetheless, Taiwan's diverse electorate, economy, and politics made it even more difficult for China's split. he said. Ms. Tsai said she would reject all Chinese efforts to help shape Taiwan's decisions by recruiting support from local politicians and groups.
"It must not interfere in the Taiwanese popular election by creating divisions and enticements," said Ms. Tsai in response to Mr. Xi's speech. "It has to be the government or a government-authorized public body that's going to talk."