TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- After China's President Xi Jinping gave a speech in which he rehashed the Chinese Communist Party's stance on the "inevitable" unification of Taiwan with China and offered the tattered "one country, two systems" framework abused in Hong Kong and Macau, there was little applause heard in Taiwan, and the facts on the ground stand in stark contrast with his assertions.
During Xi's speech, he claimed that "The Chinese dream [of national rejuvenation] is the common dream of compatriots across the strait," and offered a carbon copy of the“one country, two systems” framework used and abused in Hong Kong and Macao as the model for Taiwan's future. Xi then threatened military intervention if Taiwanese leaders do not bow to Beijing's demands for unification, "We do not promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option to use all necessary measures."
That same day, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) countered by saying, "Taiwan will never accept a ‘one country, two systems’ framework." The majority of Taiwan’s public opinion resolutely opposes “one country, two systems,” she added. “This is the Taiwan consensus.”
In fact, Tsai's statements are far more accurate than Xi's. A survey carried out in 2018 by National Chengchi University (NCCU) found that only 3 percent of Taiwanese wanted unification with China now and 12.5 percent said they preferred staying with the status quo for now before eventually being "reunified" with China. While another survey, carried out by the Taiwan National Security in 2016, found that 72 percent of Taiwanese already consider Taiwan to be an independent country.
The red line at bottom are those favoring unification now. (Chart by NCCU)
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted yesterday that Xi's threat to use force to unify Taiwan with China is "folly" and that only the people of Taiwan can decide their destiny:
Forced unification is a folly. #Taiwan is a free & democratic country where #HumanRights are protected. Only its 23 million people can decide their own destiny. The leader of #China must join the rest of the global community & respect this reality.— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan)
Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of political science at the Hong Kong Baptist University, told the New York Times that neither the stick of an invasion of Taiwan or the carrot of economic incentives would likely change Taiwanese opposition to unification. "Xi Jinping’s approach is to use a bigger stick and to make the carrot sweeter. But having seen Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms squeezed by Beijing in recent years, many Taiwanese people were likely to be suspicious of Mr. Xi’s offers," said Cabestan.
Jonathan Sullivan, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham in Britain, told the New York Times that virtually no block of Taiwanese voters would find the disastrous "one country two systems" system being used in Hong Kong appealing. "Taiwan is not a colony à la Hong Kong, and it has everything to lose and nothing to gain from agreeing to it," said Sullivan.