The Taiwanese president stood firm against Chinese President Xi Jinping in a speech Sunday and said the island, which is separated from China by the Taiwan Strait, would not “bow to pressure” from the mainland. The speech comes amidst heightened pressure from China’s communist leadership in Beijing and only a day after Xi pushed for “reunification” of Taiwan with China.
“Our position on cross-strait relations remains the same: neither our goodwill nor our commitments will change. We call for maintaining the status quo, and we will do our utmost to prevent the status quo from being unilaterally altered,” said President Tsai Ing-we in a speech honoring the country’s founding on Sunday afternoon.
“We hope for an easing of cross-strait relations and will not act rashly, but there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure,” she said. “We will continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us. This is because the path that China has laid out offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people.”
Taiwan, a democratically governed nation, has been independent of mainland rule for over seven decades. But in recent weeks, the nation has faced threats to its independence from China, threats that include the communist government sending nearly 150 fighter jets over Taiwanese airspace over the course of several days.
On Saturday, during a speech in the Great Hall of the People, Xi called on Taiwan to “join hands” and reunify with China.
“National reunification by peaceful means best serves the interests of the Chinese nation as a whole, including our compatriots in Taiwan,” said Xi.
“Those who forget their heritage, betray their motherland, and seek to split the country will come to no good end; they will be disdained by the people and condemned by history,” he said.
The response from the Taiwanese president to Xi’s remarks echoes comments from the Mainland Affairs Council, which requested that China “abandon its provocative steps of intrusion, harassment and destruction,” according to Reuters.
In a statement, the U.S. State Department said the U.S. was committed to Taiwan and called on China “to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan.” Like most countries around the world, however, the United States does not recognize Taiwan as an official country or as the Republic of China, its name for itself.
In fact, only about 15 countries recognize Taiwan as the official seat of the Chinese government, and as such, do not recognize mainland China’s leaders as legitimate. All but two of these countries — Guatemala and Haiti — have less than 10 million citizens.