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Chinese president uses threats to urge Taiwan to unify with mainland China


Xi Jinping warned that the use of force was not off the table if Taiwan refused to cooperate

Mark Schiefelbein-Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the people of Taiwan on Wednesday that they were welcome to join a unified China, but warned that he was not ruling out military action if they refused.

What's the background?

After World War II, China went through a civil war. This ended with the communist forces of Mao Zedong forcing the nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek to retreat to Taiwan in 1949. Chiang and his supporters took over the island and set up a dictatorship.

Since then, Taiwan has claimed its independence from China, but the Chinese government has refused to recognize this. China has pressured other nations to cut off economic and diplomatic ties with Taiwan, in order to pressure the Taiwanese government into rejoining China.

In Taiwan's November elections, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's party lost. Tsai accused China of interfering in order to oust her from power because of her outspoken opposition to Taiwanese unification with China.

The U.S. cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979, in order to strengthen its relationship with China.

What did President Xi say?

Xi promised Taiwan that under Chinese rule it could have the same "one country, two systems" model that Hong Kong has. Hong Kong was a former British territory, but was given back to China in 1997 under the condition that it would keep a "high degree of autonomy" and not be subjected to China's socialist economic policies.

"Different systems are not an obstacle to unification, and even less are they an excuse for separatism," Xi said in his statement. "The private property, religious beliefs and legitimate rights and interests of our Taiwanese compatriots will be fully assured.

"Reunification is the historical trend and the right path, Taiwan independence is ... a dead end," he warned. He promised "lasting peace" and "good and prosperous lives" for the Taiwanese people after unification.

"With the great motherland's support, Taiwan compatriots' welfare will be even better, their development space will be even greater," he said.

Xi also stressed that "foreign interference is intolerable," and that his government "will not promise to renounce the use of force."

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