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Xi says China 'must be, will be' reunified with Taiwan

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Chinese across the Taiwan Strait as well as at home and abroad to work together for the nation's greater good, and to advance the process toward the peaceful reunification of China. Photo: Reuters 

China must be and will be reunified with Taiwan, President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday as he called for the two sides to work together to realize the "historic task" of complete reunification.

"It is a historical conclusion drawn over the 70 years of the development of cross-Strait relations, and a must for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in the new era," Xi said in a speech at Beijing's Great Hall of the People to commemorate the 40th anniversary of "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan", reported the official Xinhua News Agency.

He called on Chinese people across the Taiwan Strait as well as at home and abroad to work together for the Chinese nation's greater good and go with the tide of history, to jointly push forward the peaceful development of the cross-strait relations and advance the process towards peaceful reunification.

Xi also sent a warning to advocates of Taiwan's independence, who include supporters of Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen. "It's a legal fact that both sides of the straits belong to one China, and cannot be changed by anyone or any force," Xi said.

Issued by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress - China's Parliament - on Jan 1, 1979, the "Message" first proposed ending the military confrontation across the Taiwan Strait through dialogue and welcomed exchanges between the two sides.

Up until then, China had conducted routine artillery bombardment of Taiwan-controlled offshore islands close to the mainland.

Chiang Kai-shek fled with defeated Nationalist forces to Taiwan in December 1949 after losing a civil war to the Communists. Despite the deep business, cultural and personal links which exist today, no peace treaty or formal end to hostilities has been signed.

Ahead of Xi's speech in Beijing, Tsai warned on Tuesday that China must use peaceful means to resolve its differences with Taiwan and respect its democratic values.

In a new year's address in Taipei, Tsai said that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait needed a pragmatic understanding of the basic differences that exist between them in terms of values and political systems.

"Here, I would like to call on China to face squarely the reality of the existence of the Republic of China on Taiwan," Tsai said, referring to the island's formal name.

China "must respect the insistence of 23 million people on freedom and democracy, and must use peaceful, on parity means to handle our differences," she added.

China views Taiwan as a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if needed.

China has heaped pressure on Tsai since she took office in 2016, cutting off dialogue, whittling down Taiwan's few remaining diplomatic allies and forcing foreign airlines to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites.

China fears Tsai wishes to push for Taiwan's formal independence, though Tsai says she wants to maintain the status quo.

Liu Jieyi, head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said in his new year's message that they had not wavered last year in the face of "deliberate provocations" from Taiwan's government.

"Although the way ahead won't all be plain sailing, we have the confidence and the ability to vanquish risks and challenges," he said in a statement on the office's website.

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