China, which celebrates national day on Oct 1, and Taiwan, which marks it eight days later, are involved in a period of unusually high tension with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) having sent its aircraft into Taiwan's air defence zone for five continuous days, including a record 56 planes on Oct 4, accompanied by a war of words. President Xi Jinping emphasised China's longstanding resolve by taking to the airwaves to tell the breakaway province that a peaceful, complete reunification is in the best interests of both peoples and "will and can be realised". For a leader who, not too long ago, vowed to smash heads if Taiwan formally tried to declare independence from China, this was a markedly less truculent speech.
Taiwan's response has been to release a patriotic air force video and to say that only Taiwanese will decide their future. President Tsai Ing-Wen has said that while the territory will not act rashly, China should have "absolutely no illusions" that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure. She offered talks on the basis of parity, no doubt aware that this will fall on deaf ears since Beijing regards her as an advocate for independence. Ms Tsai's spokesman Xavier Chang says Taiwan has drawn lessons from Beijing's tightening grip on Hong Kong. China in turn said Ms Tsai's speech incited confrontation and distorted facts. Rather than moving closer, the two appear to be drifting towards opposite poles.