Beijing says it seeks peaceful reunification with Taiwan, but warns island over separatist forces

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks at The Third Wednesday Club, a high-profile private industry trade body in Taipei, Taiwan, on Aug 19, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters

A top Chinese leader in charge of Taiwan affairs said Beijing was still seeking peaceful reunification with Taiwan, but warned people on the island against relying on foreign powers to seek independence.

The remarks by Wang Yang, who is ranked No 4 in the Communist Party hierarchy, came as concerns about a military conflict between China and the United States run high over a possible trip by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the self-ruled island.

Wang told a seminar in Beijing on Tuesday that Beijing was willing to engage in dialogue with different parties in Taiwan under the condition of recognising the 1992 consensus to seek peaceful reunification, while warning that Taiwan independence was a serious danger to national rejuvenation.

“On the basis of the one-China principle, we are willing to conduct dialogue, communication and democratic consultation with all parties, groups and people in Taiwan on cross-strait political issues, and issues related to peaceful reunification of the motherland,” Wang was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

The 1992 consensus is an understanding between the two sides that there is one China, but that each can have their own understanding of what that means. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, has rejected that consensus since 1996, leading Beijing to suspend official exchanges and step up military and diplomatic pressure on the self-ruled island.

“The Taiwan authorities refuse to recognise the 1992 consensus, and some countries condone the separatist forces agitating for ‘Taiwan independence’ to cause trouble and provocation. If they continue, Taiwan will be pushed into the abyss of disaster and bring serious harm to the majority of Taiwan compatriots,” Wang said.

“The majority of Taiwan compatriots must deeply understand that reunification is beneficial, and that Taiwan independence is a dead end. They should understand that they cannot rely on outsiders.”

Wang’s remarks came as Beijing repeatedly warned Pelosi against visiting Taiwan.

Pelosi would be the first sitting speaker to do so since Newt Gingrich visited the island in 1997.

Beijing has already said it would take “forceful measures” and its military “won’t turn a blind eye” if Pelosi went ahead with the trip. Chinese military watchers said Beijing might deploy aircraft carriers and announce a no-fly zone and a restricted navigation zone for military exercises near the Taiwan Strait, which would force Pelosi’s aircraft to make a detour.

US President Joe Biden has said the Pentagon believes Pelosi’s trip is not a “good idea right now”, but some US congressmen said dropping the trip would mean Washington was giving in to Beijing’s pressure.

Tensions across the Taiwan Strait are expected to be a key agenda item during upcoming talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Biden , expected to take place on Thursday.

The topics to be discussed would include “everything from the tensions over Taiwan, to the war in Ukraine, as well as how we better manage competition between our two nations, certainly in the economic sphere”, according to a White House national security spokesperson.

Beijing considers self-ruled Taiwan to be a renegade province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it back into the fold. It has stepped up pressure on the island in recent years with intensive naval drills and fighter jet sorties around it.

Wang said the 1992 consensus should not be distorted, nor rejected. Rejection of the consensus would only lead to cross-strait tension, he added.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.