In a speech marking the 110th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution, Xi Jinping said peaceful “reunification” with Taiwan is inevitable and claimed Sun Yat-sen’s legacy as the Chinese Communist Party’s own. The Xinhai Revolution overthrew the Qing Dynasty and led to the establishment of China’s first democratic republic. October 10, the date of the Wuchang Uprising that sparked the revolution, is celebrated in Taiwan as National Day. Xi asserted that the Taiwan issue “arose out of the weakness and chaos of our nation, and it will be resolved as national rejuvenation becomes a reality.” Xi’s speech on Taiwan and the revolution comes amidst high tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Huizhong Wu of The Associated Press reported on Xi’s speech:
“Reunification of the nation must be realized, and will definitely be realized,” Xi vowed before an audience of politicians, military personnel and others gathered in the hulking chamber that serves as the seat of China’s ceremonial legislature.
“Reunification through a peaceful manner is the most in line with the overall interest of the Chinese nation, including Taiwan compatriots,” the leader added.
[…] “The Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affair, which tolerates no external interference,” Xi said on Saturday. “No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s strong determination, will and capability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” [Source]
The speech was more restrained than the martial fare Xi offered during celebrations marking the CCP’s 100th anniversary in July. Although in his July speech, Xi notably refrained from putting a deadline on “reunification” (the term is in quotation marks because Taiwan has never been part of the People’s Republic of China), he promised to “utterly defeat” any efforts towards Taiwanese independence. Yet Xi’s comparatively calm rhetoric in his latest speech was belied by a number of bellicose actions taken against Taiwan by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Over 150 PLA Air Force planes flew into Taiwan’s ADIZ (air defense identification zone) during early October, in what one anonymous source told Reuters might be simulated attacks on a U.S. carrier fleet. (See The China Story for a visual of the incursions, which are happening in the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s ADIZ.) Chinese plans often fly into Taiwan’s ADIZ—in April of this year the number of such missions raised unrealized specters of war. Yet scholars such as Oriana Skylar Mastro of Stanford University believe that war is a real threat. “Even moderate voices in Beijing have been calling for tossing out peaceful reunification, I think the military option is the option now,” she told The New York Times. As if to underscore her point, state-run tabloid Global Times republished a series of cartoons depicting a PLA invasion of Taiwan:
Here’s “the landing operation”. You won’t find any of Taiwan’s ~24 million civilians in it.
In fact, you won’t find them in any of the grotesque war fantasies of Chinese mainland cartoonist “JeffHoly.”
— Will Glasgow (@wmdglasgow) October 13, 2021
— Jeremy Goldkorn (@goldkorn) October 13, 2021
Days after the largest of the incursions, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. special forces and Marines have been secretly stationed in Taiwan for over a year, training Taiwanese ground forces and teaching small-boat operations. In August, the state-run tabloid Global Times warned that if U.S. troops were discovered to be in Taiwan, China might “destroy and expel US troops in Taiwan by military means.” In an apparent attempt to dissipate tension, United States President Joe Biden gave a puzzling statement on Taiwan to the White House press corps: “I’ve spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree we’ll abide by the Taiwan agreement. That’s where we are. And we made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding.” The statement raised eyebrows—and left Taiwanese diplomats seeking clarification—because the United States and China have no “Taiwan agreement” to speak of. At Al Jazeera, Erin Hale covered the American and Taiwanese reactions to Biden’s verbal gaffe:
The US president appeared to be referring to a 90-minute conversation he had with Xi on September 9. And while his remark appeared aimed at calming fears, it only caused confusion.
[…] “The confusion is there is no such thing as a ‘Taiwan agreement’ let alone any sort of agreement on anything related to Taiwan,” [Lev Nachman, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard’s Fairbanks Center in the US,] said. But “it feels frustrating to see language not be pristinely precise at a time when it really ought to be,” he added.
[…] “[KMT supporters] think that Biden’s ‘Taiwan agreement’ is another evidence that Taiwan is just a chess piece on the chessboard, indicating that Taiwan has no say in its own future since the agreement is merely made between Xi and Biden,” [Austin Wang, an assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.] [Source]
On Twitter, analyst Jessica Drun offered a refresher course on the United States’ Taiwan policy:
Our “One China” policy is *not* Beijing’s “One China” Principle despite the latter’s continued insistence that it is.
The official US position is that Taiwan’s status is undetermined.
— Jessica Drun 莊宛樺 (@jessicadrun) October 6, 2021
Despite the public festivities in Beijing on October 10, sometimes known as “Double Ten,” Hong Kong residents were banned from commemorating the occasion. Yan Zhao and Xinqi Su of AFP reported on the enforced silence:
For more than 50 years, Ng Hong-lim has led celebrations in Hong Kong to mark Taiwan’s national day -– but this year he fears doing so could get him arrested.
“I don’t think there will be another chance,” Ng sighed. “It’s really regrettable.”
[…] Hong Kong’s security chief Chris Tang last month warned that celebrating the “Double Ten” could constitute support for Taiwanese independence — a crime under the city’s draconian new security law.
[…] Following security chief Tang’s warning last month, restaurant bookings for more than 100 tables by Ng’s group [were] abruptly cancelled.
[…] Both Lee and Ng said they would not “test the red lines” under the national security law, but still hope to commemorate the day in the future. [Source]
A reminder that even mainland China pays tribute to Sun on 10 October: https://t.co/bXkIbfY5Pj
Once an oasis of freedom, the ultra-sensitivity bred by Hong Kong’s widening crackdown on political unorthodoxy has made it, in some ways, even more repressive than the mainland PRC. pic.twitter.com/yEOPpMLaRR
— Ryan Ho Kilpatrick 何松濤 (@rhokilpatrick) October 10, 2021
Much of Xi’s speech focused on claiming Sun’s legacy as the Party’s own—even as it negates the foundational principles of the Xinhai Revolution. At China Heritage, Geremie Barmé published a translation of famed Chinese journalist Dai Qing’s 2011 speech on the meaning of the Xinhai Revolution in China today:
In the century that has passed since the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 undertook to ‘bury imperial politics’, China remains incapable of freeing itself from the caliginous spectre of autocracy and totalitarianism.
[…] Even more relevant to my point, however, is what I regard as China’s self-imposed civilisational darkness, in particular the country’s ‘manufactured ignorance’, that is, the state-sponsored beclouding of understanding and the despoliation of education. These both serve to aid and abet the asphyxiation of the spirit.
The country’s leaders willfully and knowingly engaging in policies aimed at national nescience and sciolism. This enterprise is engineered in such as way as to make it impossible for the Chinese to understand their history and the historical figures who have played an essential role in it. [Source]