Asia

Chinese ambassador’s farcical claim


China’s ambassador to Australia made an incredibly dubious claim at the national press club in Canberra today, insisting most people in Taiwan consider themselves Chinese.

“There are 23 million people in Taiwan. Don’t they get a say in what should happen to their future?” Ambassador Xiao Qian was asked.

“The future of Taiwan will be decided by 1.4 billion Chinese people,” he responded.

“And at the same time, I believe that the majority of the people in Taiwan believe they’re Chinese. They believe Taiwan is part of China and Taiwan is a province of China. They are for reunion.”

That assertion contradicts a wealth of data measuring the stance of Taiwan’s people.

According to data from National Chengchi University’s Election Study Centre, for example, a mere 2.4 per cent of Taiwanese consider themselves Chinese. A further 30.4 per cent believe they are both Chinese and Taiwanese.

Meanwhile a hefty 63.7 per cent majority consider themselves solely Taiwanese.

The same data shows a majority of Taiwan’s population wants to maintain the political status quo for now, while just 1.3 per cent of people wish to move quickly towards unification with China.

The Democratic Progressive Party, which is pro-independence, has won the last two elections.

Confronted with the opinion polling, Mr Xiao dismissed it as “misleading”.

“I think it is quite obvious that even the people in Taiwan who are in power in the local government, even officials in Taiwan, believe they are Chinese. They want to be part of China, to have Taiwan be part of China” he claimed.

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During his press club address, the ambassador also said China was willing to use “all necessary means” in relation to Taiwan, warning that there was “no room for compromise” to protect its sovereignty.

Rejecting the word invasion and arguing Taiwan should be peacefully reunited with “the Motherland”, he suggested Australians “use their imagination” about what that means.

Mr Xiao was asked about China’s new White Paper on Taiwan that asserts it will “not renounce the use of force and we reserve the option of taking all necessary measures”.

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“Can you explain to Australians who are concerned and worried about the prospect of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and the inevitable consequences of that invasion, what constitutes precisely in the minds of the Chinese Government a ‘compelling circumstance’ that would justify a use of force across the Strait?,’’ the ambassador was asked.

“First, I would rather not use the word ‘invasion’ when we talk about China and Taiwan,’’ Mr Xiao replied.

“Taiwan is different from any other scenario or situation.

“Taiwan is not an independent state. It’s not an independent state. Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China.

“It’s an issue of reunification, complete reunification, and the issue of Taiwan coming back to the motherland.

“China has been so patient for several decades we’re waiting. We are waiting for a peaceful unification.

“But we cannot — we can never rule out the option to use other means so when necessary, when compelled, we are ready to use all necessary means. As to what does it mean ‘all necessary means’? You can use your imagination.”

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The Chinese ambassador was then grilled on French media reports that “when China takes over Taiwan, it will re-educate its 23 million people”.

“Can you confirm with a yes or no – is that Chinese Government policy? Will China re-educate Taiwan’s people to change their minds about the Chinese Communist Party?’’ he was asked.

“It is reasonable for us to understand that their perspective about China, their perspective about their motherland, might take somewhat different views,’’ he replied.

“I think my personal understanding is that once Taiwan is reunited, coming back to the motherland, there might be a process for the people in Taiwan to have a correct understanding of China about the motherland.”

Asked about the detention of Australian citizen Cheng Lei, Mr Xiao said she was being detained under “Chinese rules and laws”.

“Their basic rights are well protected, don’t worry about that,’’ he said.

Reflecting on recent accusations that a Chinese fighter jet carried out a dangerous manoeuvre by cutting in front of an Australian surveillance plane, he described the incident as very unfortunate.

“It happened, in the South China Sea in general, it’s a big area,’’ he said.

“It happened at a particular location. That location is within the territorial space of an island that belongs to China.

“So just like you — you’re in your house, within your compound, somebody is driving around, carrying a gun and trying to peep into your windows. You would feel threatened and feel uncomfortable. So you have to come out and tell those people to keep their distance, at least.”

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