Status: 20.11.2023, 21:07 PM
Raising the Taiwanese flag in the center of Taipei: China claims the island state as part of its own territory. © Brennan O'Connor/Imago
A few weeks before the presidential elections in Taiwan, China is stepping up its rhetoric. Now, an ex-ambassador has said there is "no room for concessions" to Taipei.
For the former Chinese ambassador to the United States, the annexation of democratically governed Taiwan to China is a "matter of life and death." In an interview with Hong Kong's South China Morning Post published on Monday (20 November), Cui Tiankai said: "The Taiwan issue is a matter of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity. So it's a matter of life and death for China." Cui was China's diplomatic representative in Washington from 2013 to 2021.
The government in Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its own national territory, which is to be united with the communist-ruled People's Republic by force if necessary. According to Cui, there is "no room for concessions" on this issue. The Chinese people must be "ready to do whatever it takes to defend our national sovereignty," the ex-ambassador said. However, Cui also made it clear that a union should take place as peacefully as possible. It is crucial that all parties adhere to the "one-China principle", which from Beijing's point of view means that there is only one China – the People's Republic, to which Taiwan also belongs. "Everything else is negotiable," Cui said.
China and Taiwan: Xi Jinping threatens violence
China's head of state and party leader Xi Jinping had called the Taiwan issue "the biggest and potentially most dangerous problem in U.S.-China relations" during a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden last week, a U.S. official said after the meeting. Biden had made it clear to Xi that "peace and stability" in the Taiwan Strait were his top priority. In response, Xi replied that peace was "all well and good, but at some point we have to come to a more general solution." Last year, Xi declared that China would "never promise to renounce the use of force."
The question of how the relationship between the two countries should be shaped in the future is currently also playing a key role in the Taiwanese election campaign. In mid-January, the island nation will elect a successor to outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen, who will not be allowed to run for re-election after two terms in office. According to polls, the most promising candidate is currently Tsai's deputy Lai Ching-te of the ruling People's Democratic Party. China regards Lai as a separatist: The 64-year-old has repeatedly described himself as a "pragmatic worker for Taiwan's independence" in the past, but emphasizes in the current election campaign that he does not want to formally declare Taiwan independent as president. In fact, Taiwan is already independent of China, but has diplomatic relations with only 13 countries. The U.S. and Germany also do not officially recognize the government in Taipei.
Taiwan Presidential Election: Opposition Divided
On Monday, Lai announced that he would nominate former Taiwanese representative to Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, as his candidate for vice president. China's Taiwan Affairs Office then referred to Lai and Hsiao as an "independence double pack."
For the opposition, three candidates are running in the presidential election who, unlike Lai and President Tsai, are pursuing a more Beijing-friendly course, but also reject unification with China. Rather, Ko Wen-je of the Taiwanese People's Party, Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang and entrepreneur and independent candidate Terry Gou are focusing on détente through rapprochement with Beijing. Ko and Hou are currently negotiating a joint candidacy. A decision is expected in the next few days: by next Friday, all candidates who want to stand for election in January must officially register with the competent authority. (sh)