China will never renounce the right to use force over Taiwan, President Xi Jinping has declared at the opening of a major party meeting.
China views democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, but the island’s government has strong objections and believes sovereignty should be claimed by its people.
Speaking at the opening of the ruling Communist Party’s 20th congress, the country’s biggest political event, Mr Xi said China always “respected, cared for and benefited” Taiwan’s people.
He added that he was committed to promoting economic and cultural exchanges across the Taiwan Strait.
“Resolving the Taiwan issue is the Chinese people’s own business, and it’s up to the Chinese people to decide,” Mr Xi said.
“We insist on striving for the prospect of peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and best efforts, but we will never promise to give up the use of force, and reserve the option to take all necessary measures.”
To a long round of applause, he concluded: “The historical wheels of national reunification and national rejuvenation are rolling forward, and the complete reunification of the motherland must be achieved.”
During Mr Xi’s speech, which mentioned “safety” and “security” 73 times, he explained that China will also accelerate the building of a world-class military and strengthen its ability to build a strategic deterrent.
Beijing has offered Taiwan a “one country, two systems” model of autonomy – the same formula it uses for Hong Kong -but all mainstream Taiwanese political parties have rejected that proposal.
‘Meeting on the battlefield is not an option’
Her trip infuriated the Chinese government, which views visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognising its sovereignty.
Since then, military activities have continued near Taiwan but at a reduced pace.
In retaliation to Mr Xi’s comments, Taiwan’s presidential office said it would not back down on its sovereignty or compromise on freedom and democracy.
Maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and in the region is the common responsibility of both sides, and meeting on the battlefield is not an option, Taiwan’s presidential office said.
It also reiterated its continued stance that the island’s people clearly oppose Beijing’s idea of “one country, two systems” management.
At the end of the Communist Party’s week-long congress, Mr Xi, 69, is widely expected to win a third leadership term, cementing his place as the country’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong.
The event will be attended by around 2,300 delegates from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including political leaders of all ranks as well as delegates from the private sector, doctors, farmers, “model workers”, and even China’s first female astronaut.