Taiwanese President says ties with China must be decided by will of people

President Tsai Ing-wen emphasized on Monday that Taiwan’s relationship with China should be determined by the will of the people, and the foundation of peace must rest on “dignity.” This statement came in response to Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s assertion that “reunification” with Taiwan is inevitable.

As China escalates military pressure to assert sovereignty claims over Taiwan, which is set to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on January 13, Xi’s New Year’s Eve remarks struck a more assertive tone compared to the previous year. Tsai addressed Xi’s speech during a New Year’s press conference, highlighting the fundamental principle of democracy in determining the course of relations with China.

Tsai emphasized that the joint will of Taiwan’s people, expressed through democratic processes, should guide decisions regarding relations with China. She stressed the importance of China respecting the outcome of Taiwan’s election, with the responsibility of both sides being to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

China has framed the upcoming election as a choice between war and peace, rejecting multiple offers of talks by Tsai due to the belief that she is a separatist. Tsai, in response, has prioritized bolstering and modernizing Taiwan’s defenses, including advancing an indigenous submarine program.

Drawing an analogy, Tsai mentioned that just as locks on doors at home are for safety rather than provoking neighbors, Taiwan seeks peace with dignity. She urged vigilance against potential interference by China in the election, whether through fake news, military pressure, or trade tactics.

Addressing recent economic threats from China, Tsai encouraged Taiwan’s companies to diversify globally, highlighting the risks associated with reliance on China’s unstable market. She stressed the importance of trade and economic exchanges not becoming political tools.

China has particularly criticized Vice President Lai Ching-te, the presidential candidate for Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Party, labeling him a dangerous separatist. Both major Taiwanese parties, the Democratic Party and the Kuomintang, assert that the island’s people have the sole authority to decide their future.

Tsai, concluding her two terms in office, cannot run again and will step down in May when the next president is sworn in.

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