Beijing rebuffs latest offer of talks from Taipei as a 'cheap trick'

Supporters of Taiwanese independence rallying in Taipei yesterday in support of outgoing US President Donald Trump. PHOTO: REUTERS
Supporters of Taiwanese independence rallying in Taipei yesterday in support of outgoing US President Donald Trump. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • China has rebuffed the latest offer of talks from Taiwan, saying the government was engaging in a "cheap trick" and provocation, and noting that it has sought confrontation with Beijing at every turn.

Taiwan is ready to have "meaningful" talks with China as equals as long as it is willing to put aside confrontation, President Tsai Ing-wen had said in her New Year's speech on Friday, which is seen by some as offering another olive branch to Beijing.

China views the self-governed island as part of its own territory, and cut off a formal talks mechanism in 2016 after Ms Tsai, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was first elected.

Speaking at the presidential office, Ms Tsai said that in the past year, Chinese military activity near Taiwan has threatened peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

"As long as the Beijing authorities are determined to defuse antagonism and improve cross-strait relations, in line with the principles of reciprocity and dignity, we are willing to jointly promote meaningful dialogue," Ms Tsai said, echoing comments in her national day speech last October.

In a statement late on Friday, China's Cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) said there was no way of changing the reality that the island was part of China, and the refusal of Taiwan's government to accept that was the root cause of present tensions.

Since 2016, Taiwan's ruling DPP "has continued to provoke by seeking independence, confronting the mainland at every turn, deliberately creating confrontation across the Taiwan Strait", the TAO said.

"They again talked about so-called 'dialogue,' but where can that come from?" the office said, adding: "We urge the DPP authorities to stop these cheap tricks that dupe people."

Ms Tsai, re-elected by a landslide last year on a pledge to stand up to China and defend Taiwan's democracy and security, has repeatedly said Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name.

Taiwan now has de facto independence; for China, reunification is the ultimate goal, and by force if necessary.

Tensions have risen in recent months after two senior US officials made high-profile visits to Taiwan: Health Secretary Alex Azar in August, and Undersecretary of State Keith Krach in September. China has ramped up its military activities near Taiwan, including on occasion flying fighter jets across the median line of the narrow Taiwan Strait, which usually serves as an unofficial buffer.

China has said it is responding to "collusion" between Washington and Taipei, angered at growing US support for the island. Beijing views this as a precursor to Taiwan declaring formal independence, a red line for China.

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has also reiterated China's firm resolve to safeguard national interests, while stressing that the Chinese side is obliged to speak up for justice when faced with power politics and bullying.

Mr Wang clarified the stance in a recent interview with Xinhua News Agency and China Media Group on the international situation and China's diplomacy last year.

"We have responded resolutely and rationally to unjustified moves by the United States. We have handled issues relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet with justified, strong and proportionate countermeasures and won one fierce battle after another in international organisations, vigorously safeguarding China's sovereignty, dignity and development interests," he said.

REUTERS, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 03, 2021, with the headline 'Beijing rebuffs latest offer of talks from Taipei as a 'cheap trick''. Print Edition | Subscribe