The mainland is determined to safeguard national sovereignty and the “one China” principle, a Beijing official has claimed after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday that the island would not bow to pressure from the mainland.
An Fengshan, a spokesman for the mainland Taiwan Affairs Office – responding to Tsai’s comments in an interview with The Wall Street Journal – said that the “1992 consensus” is unshakable.
“Our position is steadfast on opposing any ‘Taiwan independence’ activities,” An said.
“No forces nor anybody should underestimate the resolution of more than 1.3 billion people on the mainland,” An said.
Relations between mainland and Taiwan have deteriorated since Tsai, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party become the island’s president.
She has refused to acknowledge the “1992 consensus” – a tacit understanding reached between the Chinese Communist Party and Taiwan’s then-ruling Kuomintang leadership that there was one China, although either side was free to interpret what that meant.
Beijing has given a furious response to Tsai, cutting down cross-strait exchanges and snubbing Taiwan’s international presence.
Taiwan was denied official participation in a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation – a decision believed to reflect pressure from Beijing.
Tsai told the Journal that the island’s economic ties with the mainland had become increasingly competitive rather than complementary, adding that Taipei would neither budge under political pressure from Beijing nor revert to a confrontational attitude towards it.
“Recently, mainland China seems to have gone back to the old path of suppression and dividing [Taiwan society],” Tsai said.
Alexander Huang Chieh-cheng, a professor of strategic studies at Taiwan’s Tamkang University, said Taiwan was being “choked in its throat” as it was squeezed out of international participation.
“Taiwan’s participation in international health or aviation agency is seen by the Taiwanese people as reasonable pursuit, and should not be politicised,” Huang said.
Huang said Tsai had remained restrained in her attitude towards Beijing, and that her emphasis that Taiwan would not “revert to its old path of confrontation” was to provide reassurance to the international society, including its ally the US, that Taiwan was not a “trouble maker”.
Hu Benliang, a researcher at the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Tsai’s remarks had reflected “inconsistency” in her approach to cross-strait relations.
“Although [Tsai] said she wanted to maintain interaction with the mainland, she would not acknowledge the 1992 consensus, and shirk the responsibility on the mainland,” he said.
“Now, the mainland has an overwhelming advantage over Taiwan and is in control [of Taiwan’s room for international participation].”