China’s reunification is ‘unstoppable’, says Beijing’s top man on Taiwan affairs

Beijing sees Taiwan as part of China to be reunited by force if necessary. Most countries, including the United States, Taiwan’s top weapons supplier, do not recognise the island as an independent state. However, Washington is opposed to any attempt to take Taiwan by force and is committed to arming it.

Fujian is located just to the west of the Taiwan Strait and is the closest part of the mainland to Taiwan, both geographically and culturally.

Despite Taipei’s warnings that the forum is a “united front tool”, Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), sent a delegation led by vice-chairman Sean Lien Sheng-wen. Beijing has described the forum as the biggest platform for cross-strait “people-to-people exchanges”.

Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office said it expected over 7,000 attendees from Taiwan to join some 50 events during the week-long forum on grass-roots governance, youth exchanges, and cultural and economic exchanges.

Chang Li-shan, chief of Taiwan’s Yunlin county, also attended the forum and was invited to speak at the opening ceremony, drawing criticism from Taipei’s Mainland Affairs Council. Chiu Chui-cheng, the council’s minister, expressed “displeasure” over local officials joining the events.

The opening event on Saturday was hosted by Song Tao, director of mainland China’s Taiwan Affairs Office. Fujian party chief Zhou Zuyi was among the other high-ranking officials there.

In his speech, Wang said the foundation, “driving force” and development of cross-strait relations all depended on the people.

He urged people on both sides to “resolutely oppose Taiwan independence and foreign interference” and “jointly push cross-Strait relations back on the right track”.

The KMT’s Lien said at least 60 per cent of Taiwan’s population “disagreed with the elected government’s speeches and actions on Taiwan independence”, as reflected in the island’s presidential and legislative elections this year.

He called on the two sides to “reduce hostile words and practices” so that “people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait will not have any doubts or uneasiness about the interactions between the two sides”.

“We must also not be kidnapped by a few extreme people with ulterior motives, let alone be misled by some extreme remarks,” he added.

Lien touted the KMT’s approach to promoting “peaceful win-win cooperation” in his speech and during his meeting with Wang before the opening ceremony.

In January, William Lai Ching-te from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party was elected as Taiwan’s new leader with 40 per cent of the votes.

In his inauguration speech, Lai said the Republic of China, Taiwan’s official name, and the People’s Republic of China were “not subordinate to each other”. Beijing described the speech as a “confession of Taiwan independence” and has previously described him as a “separatist” and “destroyer of cross-strait peace”

Beijing has described Taiwanese leader William Lai’s inauguration speech as a “confession of Taiwan independence”. Photo: EPA-EFE

The People’s Liberation Army then held massive military drills around Taiwan. Beijing said the exercises were “punishment” for “Taiwan separatists” and a “severe warning” to outside forces intent on interference and provocation.

In a blow to Taiwan’s chemical exports, tariff cuts took effect on Saturday on 134 items under the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement – the only trade agreement between Beijing and Taipei.

The Straits Forum, held annually since 2009, has been a platform for signalling new Taiwan policies. At last year’s forum, Wang announced that a cross-strait “integration development” pilot zone would be built in Fujian.

In September, Beijing released a comprehensive guideline for building the zone to promote peaceful reunification.

The plan called on Fujian authorities to remove long-standing restrictions on Taiwanese living on the mainland – such as inconveniences in housing, employment and social security.

Beijing also aims to create interconnected communities between the mainland city of Xiamen and the Taiwan-controlled island of Quemoy, also known as Kinmen, which are less than 5km (three miles) apart. Similar plans are under way for Fujian’s provincial capital of Fuzhou and the Taipei-governed archipelago of Matsu, which are about 20km apart.

Fujian party chief Zhou told the forum that 121 major projects for Fujian-Taiwan integration have been planned or implemented since last year, including providing water, gas, electricity and bridges to Kinmen and Matsu.

Wang said in his speech that these policies had been “widely welcomed”.

Beijing has so far issued 16 policy documents to promote the plan, including 20 measures issued by the Ministry of Education on Wednesday to make it easier for Taiwanese students and teachers to find courses and jobs in Fujian.

In a meeting attended by senior officials before the forum on Friday, Wang urged related government departments to make the integration of Fujian and Taiwan “deeper” and “more solid”.

While this year’s forum appeared to emphasise peace, some delegates raised concerns about the cross-strait situation.

During a parallel event on Friday, Cheng Ting-wen, secretary general of the Chinese Youth International, an organisation that promotes youth exchanges, expressed worries about the PLA’s presence in the Taiwan Strait.


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