On the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of a thaw in Beijing's relationship with Taiwan, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized his position that the island is part of China and that foreigners should not interfere in the matter of Taiwanese independence.
"The issue of Taiwan is part of China's domestic politics. It is a core interest of China, and the ... feelings of the Chinese people, and foreign interference is intolerable," Xi said, according to an official English-language translation broadcast on state media.
Beijing views Taiwan as a province that has gone astray and has no right to international recognition as a separate political entity. Chinese authorities would like to bring the island under their control and they have indicated they would use force, if needed. In the last year or so, the Communist government has increased its pressure on multinational companies to refer to Taiwan as a part of China.
Democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being controlled by Beijing. Beijing, and some in Taiwan, maintain a "One China" theory that the island and the mainland belong under the same umbrella — although they dispute who should be ruling.
"Deviating from the 'One China' principle will make the situation of cross (strait) relations tense and chaotic. That's harming the interests of our Taiwan compatriots,“ Xi said. "Reunification is a historical trend and it is the right path. Taiwan independence is an adverse current of history and is a dead end."
Rather than recognizing an implicit agreement that Taiwan will adhere to the "One China" idea, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and some leaders in her Democratic Progressive Party have left open the option for an independent nation.
The "Message of Compatriots in Taiwan" on Jan. 1, 1979, declared an end to routine artillery bombardment of Taiwan-controlled islands close to China, marking a turning point from decades of hostility between the two sides. Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in Dec. 1949 after losing a civil war to the Communists.
Ahead of Xi's speech, Tsai said Tuesday that China must use peaceful means to resolve its differences with Taiwan and respect its democratic values.
"Here, I would like to call on China to face squarely the reality of the existence of the Republic of China on Taiwan," Tsai said, referring to the island's formal name.
China "must respect the insistence of 23 million people on freedom and democracy, and must use peaceful, on parity means to handle our differences," she added.
On Wednesday, Xi advocated for peaceful unification of the two sides and said the "private assets, religions, and beliefs and legitimate rights of the people in Taiwan will also be fully guaranteed."
"The unification of China will never hurt the legitimate interests of other countries including their economic interests in Taiwan," Xi added. “It will only bring more opportunities for other countries."
—Reuters contributed to this report.