Beijing is more capable than ever of reuniting Taiwan with the mainland given the rise of its global influence, a senior official said on Thursday.
“Today, we are closer than any other historical period and are more confident in achieving the goal of our grand mission of the Chinese renaissance,” said Liu Jieyi, head of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office.
“We have stronger abilities and better conditions in pushing for [Taiwan’s] reunification with the motherland,” he told Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.
Liu’s comments came three weeks ahead of Taiwan’s presidential election – a poll seen by some Taiwanese and American analysts as a referendum on whether to distance the island further from the mainland.
It also came on the eve of the 20th anniversary of Macau’s return to Chinese rule. President Xi Jinping, who is visiting the former Portuguese colony this week, has heaped praise on the city as a successful example of the “one country, two systems” principle – which Beijing has said will provide a model for reunification with Taiwan.
However, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, has been growing in popularity since she rejected the model.
Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province that must be returned to the mainland fold, by force if necessary.
It has suspended formal exchanges with the island since Tsai was elected in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle.
Citing the rapid economic growth of the mainland in the past 40 years, Liu said Beijing had developed to a level where its multiple strengths and global influences were internationally recognised.
“In comparing the strengths between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, the mainland has a comprehensive and overwhelming advantage over Taiwan,” Liu said.
He added that Beijing would continue to expand its influence over the self-ruled island as it firmly advanced the process of peaceful unification.
He said that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait had become an unbreakable community with a shared future. The mainland is now the island’s biggest export market, investment destination and source of a trade surplus.
He also said that international support for the one-China policy had also helped the unification process.
“With 180 countries establishing diplomatic ties with us, our influence with our international friends has grown even bigger,” Liu said, adding this had led separatist forces in Taiwan down a dead end.
He also underscored Xi’s proposal that the island should prepare for cross-strait unification talks under the “one country, two systems” model.
However, Tsai has warned that Taiwan would become like Hong Kong if it accepted Xi’s offer.
“Her strategy of playing up the sense of crisis that Taiwan would end up like Hong Kong or being taken over by mainland China if she lost the race has worked well among Taiwanese people, in particular young voters,” said Yen Chen-shen, a senior researcher of the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University in Taipei.
Various opinion polls have showed Tsai is at least 20 percentage points ahead of the main opposition Kuomintang opponent Han Kuo-yu, who local media has described as Beijing’s favoured candidate.
Mainland Chinese analysts, however, said that Liu’s interview indicated that Beijing did not care who won.
“Liu’s interview reflects that the mainland has gone ahead of its set path to advance [the island’s] unification with the motherland, which will not be affected by the current situation,” said Li Xiaobing, a Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan specialist at Nankai University in Tianjin.
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