Chinese leader Xi Jinping said on Saturday that a “peaceful” reunification of Taiwan with China’s mainland was in Beijing’s interests, despite ratcheted up military threats against the self-governing island.
Xi spoke at an official celebration in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People that focused largely on the need for the ruling Communist Party to continue to lead China as the country rises in power and influence.
“Reunification of the nation must be realized, and will definitely be realized,” Xi vowed before an audience of politicians, military personnel and others gathered in the hulking chamber that serves as the seat of China’s ceremonial legislature.
“Reunification through a peaceful manner is the most in line with the overall interest of the Chinese nation, including Taiwan compatriots,” the leader added.
Xi’s remarks came just days after the Chinese military sent a record number of military aircraft flying towards Taiwan in exercises that the self-ruled island has called a threat. Over the course of four days, starting last week, the mainland People’s Liberation Army flew fighter jets, bombers and airborne early warning aircraft 149 times towards Taiwan, with the largest single maneuver involving 52 jets.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 amid a civil war, with the then-ruling Nationalist Party fleeing to the island as Mao Zedong’s Communists swept to power on the mainland.
Saturday’s ceremony in Beijing was in honor of the 110th anniversary of the Chinese revolution that led to the overthrow of the Qing emperors and the establishment of the Republic of China under Sun Yat-sen. Taiwan celebrates Oct. 10 as National Day and Xi’s address touched on common aspirations for a unified future, despite the stark differences between China’s authoritarian one-party system and Taiwan’s vibrant multi-party democracy.
Taiwan’s National Day celebrations this year will feature a rare display of military equipment, including missiles and a performance by fighter jets to be held Sunday in front of the Presidential Office Building in the center of the capital, Taipei.
That marks the first inclusion of military hardware in Taipei’s official celebrations in years, and the first since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016.