Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Taipei on January 5, 2019.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen called on Saturday for worldwide support to defend the self-ruled island's democracy and way of life in the face of renewed threats from China. They received awards from leaders, including Xi. Taiwanese politics have also shown a rejection of Chinese identity since the 1990s, reflecting their disinterest in reunification with the mainland.
Hailing the landmark, pioneering and historic military achievements since the 18th CPC National Congress, Xi said the armed forces had resolutely safeguarded national sovereignty, security and development interests and withstood complex situations and severe struggles.
Tsai said it would be impossible for her government or any Taiwanese politician to accept Xi's recent remarks "without betraying the trust and will of the people of Taiwan". Though the Chinese government is open to discussion with representatives from Taiwan, it requires that the representatives oppose Taiwanese independence and accept the formula for unification. She is squeezed between China and more radical members of her own party who favour pushing for independence - something Taiwan has never formally declared. While the PRC is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, Taiwan is a democratic government with many of its freedoms not reflected in the PRC.
China still sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, despite the two sides being ruled separately since they split in 1949 after a civil war.
Xi's speech, his first major address on Taiwan, has given Tsai a chance to position herself as the young democracy's defender, both to the outside world and to voters who will decide next year whether she stays in office. Regardless, the use of military force is likely to reinforce Taiwan's opposition to the "one China" unification idea, and adds a component of potential violence to an otherwise calm disagreement. Taiwan doesn't seem willing to take the risk.