TAIPEI: Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday (Jan 2) that the island will not accept a "one country, two systems" political arrangement with China, while stressing that all cross-strait negotiations need to be on a government-to-government basis.
"The vast majority in Taiwan resolutely oppose 'one country, two systems'. This is the 'Taiwan consensus'," she told reporters during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Taipei.
"We call on China to bravely step forward for democracy, for only by doing so can it truly understand the people of Taiwan's thinking and insistence."
Tsai's comments came after Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a speech on Wednesday that nobody can change the fact that Taiwan is part of China, and that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should seek "reunification".
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All people in Taiwan must "clearly recognise that Taiwan independence would only bring profound disaster to Taiwan", Xi said.
"We are willing to create broad space for peaceful reunification, but will leave no room for any form of separatist activities," he said.
"We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means," he said, adding that the issue is China's internal affair and that it would permit "no external interference".
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Relations have been strained for the past two years since the election of President Tsai, who has refused to acknowledge Beijing's stance that the island is part of "one China".
Some in Taiwan say worsening relations with Beijing have harmed business, as cuts to pensions and a reduction in public holidays compound frustrations over a stagnant economy where salaries have not kept up with the rise in cost of living.
This appears to have come at a cost for Tsai, whose party suffered a massive defeat in last November's mid-term polls, prompting her to resign as leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. The main opposition Kuomintang, which oversaw an unprecedented thaw with Beijing before Tsai took office in 2016, made gains.
A defiant Tsai on Wednesday warned Beijing that Taiwan's people will never give up the kind of freedoms unseen on the authoritarian mainland.
Beijing "must respect the insistence of 23 million people for freedom and democracy" and "must use peaceful and equal terms to handle our differences", she said.