China willing to make utmost effort for peaceful ‘reunification’ with Taiwan, says govt spokesman

BEIJING – China is willing to make the utmost effort to strive for a peaceful “reunification” with Taiwan, a government spokesman said on Wednesday, following weeks of Chinese military manoeuvres and war games near the self-ruled island.

Mr Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, issued the statement at a news conference in Beijing.

“The motherland must be reunified and will inevitably be reunified,” he said. “China’s determination to safeguard its territory is unwavering.”

China claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory. Taiwan’s government rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying that only the island’s people can decide their future.

Mr Ma’s comments came days after President Joe Biden said US military forces will defend Taiwan if there is “an unprecedented attack”.

China lodged a formal complaint with the US in response, pointing out that Mr Biden’s comments send a “seriously wrong signal” to separatist forces in Taiwan.

China has been carrying out drills near Taiwan, including firing missiles into waters near the island, since early August after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei.

China has proposed a “one country, two systems” model for Taiwan, similar to the formula under which the former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Mr Ma said Taiwan could have a “social system different from the mainland” that will ensure their way of life is respected, including religious freedoms.

But that will have to be “under the precondition of ensuring national sovereignty, security and development interests”, he said.

All mainstream Taiwanese political parties have rejected that proposal, and it has almost no public support, according to opinion polls.

China has also never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control. In 2005, the country passed a law giving it the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if it secedes or seems about to.

China has refused to talk to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen since she first took office in 2016, believing she is a separatist. She has repeatedly offered to talk on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

But Ms Tsai’s predecessor, Mr Ma Ying-jeou, held a landmark meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in 2015.

Speaking at the same news conference, Mr Qiu Kaiming, head of the research department at the Communist Party of China’s Taiwan Work Office, said the Xi-Ma meeting showed their “strategic flexibility” towards Taiwan.

That “showed the world that Chinese people on both sides of the (Taiwan) Strait are absolutely wise and capable enough of solving our own problems”, he said.

Taiwan’s government says that as the island has never been ruled by the People’s Republic of China, Beijing’s sovereignty claims are void. REUTERS