“The reunification of the motherland is a historical inevitability,” Xi said in his New Year’s address on Sunday, according to a translation by Reuters.
“Compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should be bound by a common sense of purpose and share in the glory of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” he added.
An official translation by state news outlet Xinhua used simpler phrasing, quoting Xi as saying “China will surely be reunified, and all Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should be bound by a common sense of purpose”.
Xi made a shorter reference to unification during last year’s message, stating only that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are “members of one and the same family”. However, Taiwan is set to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in mid-January, and opinion polls currently show Vice President Lai Ching-te of the ruling Democratic Party (DPP) in the lead for the presidency.
Lai has described himself as a “worker for Taiwanese independence,” while Beijing views him as a “destroyer of peace across the Taiwan Strait”, according to China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.
Taiwan has governed itself since nationalist forces led by Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island in 1949, after they lost a civil war to the Communists. Beijing’s official position is that it will strive to peacefully reunify the island with the Chinese mainland, while reserving the right to use military force if necessary.
Xi made no mention of military force in his New Year’s speech. Last month, the Chinese government clarified that a declaration of independence by Taipei “means war”.
In 1971, the United Nations recognized the government in Beijing as the legitimate government of China, leading to many countries removing their recognition of Taiwan. Since 1972, the US has accepted, but not endorsed, Beijing’s position that “there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China”.