Chinese President Xi Jinping has said in his televised New Year address that China will “surely be reunified” with Taiwan, renewing Beijing’s threats to take over the self-ruled island, which it considers its own.
Taiwan split from China amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing continues to regard the island of 23 million people with its high-tech economy as Chinese territory and has been ramping up its threat to achieve that by military force if necessary.
“China will surely be reunified, and all Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should be bound by a common sense of purpose,” Mr Xi said in his annual address, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
China has described Taiwan’s January 13 presidential and parliamentary elections as a choice between war and peace.
Beijing considers the presidential front-runner, William Lai, from the ruling Democratic People’s Party, who currently serves as vice president, a “separatist” and has accused him and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen of trying to provoke a Chinese attack on the island.
On Saturday, Chen Binhua, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, called Mr Lai a “destroyer of peace” following a televised debate earlier that day in which Mr Lai defended Taiwan’s right to rule itself as a democracy.
Mr Chen said Mr Lai’s discourse at the debate was “full of confrontational thinking”, adding that the vice president is “the instigator of a potential dangerous war in the Taiwan Strait”.
Mr Lai had said during the debate that Taiwan is not subordinate to China and that he is open to communications with Beijing “as long as there is equality and dignity on both sides of the Taiwan Strait”.
While Mr Lai does not describe himself as seeking independence from Beijing, he generally maintains that Taiwan is already an independent country.
His election rivals include Hou Yu-ih, from the more China-friendly Kuomintang Party, and Ko Wen-je, from the Taiwan People’s Party.