TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Chinese leader, Chairman Xi Jinping, will give his first major speech of 2019 on Jan. 2, which will focus specifically on Taiwan.
On Monday, Dec. 31, China’s state backed media outlet, Xinhua, made the announcement that Xi Jinping will hold an address in the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday, which will likely be directed at the people and government of Taiwan.
Xi’s address will mark the 40th anniversary of an important policy message entitled “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” made on Jan. 1, 1979, by the Standing Committee of the Fifth National People’s Congress of the Chinese communist party (CCP).
The original 1979 message announced an end to active bombing campaigns targeting the Kinmen and Matsu islands. Emphasizing the CCP’s claim over Taiwan, the message also offered to open lines of communications and negotiation with Taipei.
The offer was refused outright by then-president Chiang Ching-kuo, who crafted a “three noes” policy in response, which was announced in April, 1979. The policy demanded there be “no contact, no compromise, and no negotiation” with the CCP.
Given the increasingly antagonistic posture and provocative actions of Beijing towards Taiwan over the past year, it seems unlikely Xi will make overtures towards renewed dialogue or rapprochement.
In comparison to the situation in 1979, the attitudes of Taipei and Beijing seem to have reversed, with the Tsai administration regularly seeking opportunities to communicate with Beijing, which has consistently ignored Taipei's overtures towards dialogue.
In 1979, China’s government had just committed itself to a slew of reforms following the disastrous decade of the Cultural Revolution, under the leadership of Mao and the Gang of Four. In China at the time there may have been hope for conciliatory negotiations, which were rebuffed by the KMT leadership.
Now, the situation has been reversed. It is the government of Taiwan which seeks to achieve harmonious relations with an increasingly unreasonable China.
On Dec. 18, Xi Jinping gave an address to mark the 40th year anniversary of market liberalization and social reform that began in 1978 under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping.
Many observers expected Xi to make major policy announcements or address the trade war with the U.S., but the speech proved to be a long and redundant exercise in extolling communism.
In that address, Xi appealed to the historical fiction of a “1992 Consensus” established between the governments of Taiwan and China, and also emphasized that the CCP remains“resolutely opposed to Taiwan Independence.”
Earlier in March 2018, Xi threatened Taiwan with the “punishment of history” should the nation remain free and independent from communist rule.
Like Xi’s earlier speech in December, his New Year's Day address may simply be a rehash of old party lines, and lack any meaningful changes in policy.
However, there remains the possibility that Xi’s New Year's speech may be one of malicious intent and military threats, which may prove a discouraging sign for cross-strait relations in the year ahead.
Oct. 1, 2019 will mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of China’s communist government. Many have speculated that Beijing may consider military action against the independent country of Taiwan to coincide with important anniversaries for China's communist party.
Edit: Earlier reports said the speech would take place on Jan. 1, this has since been changed to a Jan. 2 date. The Taiwan News report on Xi's address can be read here.