Taiwan, an autonomous territory claimed by the Chinese government, is scheduled to vote later this month to choose a new president.
After Chinese President Xi Jinping said that “unification” was inevitable, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen emphasized that the future of the autonomous island and its relationship with China must be decided by the people.
The Chinese government claims Taiwan as its own territory and has not ruled out using force to achieve its goals.
Tsai has increased political and military pressure on the island since she was first elected in 2016, ramping up her campaign in the weeks leading up to the next presidential and parliamentary elections on January 13. .
In a bullish New Year’s Eve speech, President Xi took a stronger tone than usual on the island, promising the people that China would “be sure to unify.”
Asked about Xi’s speech at a New Year’s press conference held at the Presidential Office Building in Taipei, Tsai emphasized that Taiwan is a democracy and that it is the people who will decide its future.
“This will require the collective will of the Taiwanese people to make a decision. After all, we are a democratic country,” she said, calling on the Chinese government to respect the election results and calling for the separation of the two countries. He stressed that it is the responsibility of both sides to maintain peace and stability in the strait.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense announced early Monday that it had spotted four Chinese military aircraft and four Chinese naval vessels near Taiwan. It was announced that one aircraft had entered the air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the southwest region.
The Chinese government considers Tsai and Vice President William Lai Qingde, the leading candidate for the top job, to be “separatists” and has rejected offers for dialogue.
Tsai, who was re-elected in a landslide in 2020, has strengthened ties with the United States, Taiwan’s most important ally, and stepped up efforts to modernize the island’s military.
“Everyone’s house is locked, not to irritate the neighbors, but to protect their own safety. The same goes for the door to the countryside. Taiwanese people want peace, but… , we want peace with respect,” she said.
Tsai and Lai are from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has dominated the island’s politics in recent years, and the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) is the opposition party.
Analysts told Al Jazeera last month that the Chinese government is waging a multipronged campaign to ensure that the Democratic Progressive Party is not re-elected and that Taiwanese people consider it the “right choice.”
In his New Year’s address, Xi reiterated his goal of unifying China and Taiwan.
“Our compatriots from both countries, [Taiwan] The Straits should be bound by a common sense of purpose to share in the glory of national recovery.”
Tsai has already served two terms and cannot run for another term. She plans to resign in May when the next president takes office.