President Xi Jinping used his new year's speech to call for the reunification of Taiwan with China, saying the country reserves the right to use force to do so, but would prefer for the process to be peaceful.
"We are willing to create a vast space for peaceful unification, but we will never leave any room for any sort of Taiwan independence separatist activities", he said speaking at Beijing's Great Hall of the People. He has also described taking Taiwan, which has been a de facto independent country since the end of China's civil war in 1949, as a requisite step in China's century-long journey back to Great Power status. It was caused by Beijing conducting missile tests over Taiwan's outlying islands in a failed attempt to sway voters not to re-elect Lee Teng-hui, whose high-profile visit to the U.S. had infuriated the mainland government.
Though Xi insisted that "it's a legal fact that both sides of the Strait belong to one China, and can not be changed by anyone or any force", his speech was to some degree conciliatory, calling for discussion and increased economic cooperation.
In a new year's speech earlier this week, Tsai said China must use peaceful means to resolve its differences with Taiwan and respect its democratic values.
Xi also sent a warning to Taiwan independence advocates, who include supporters of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
"This is the first time a Chinese leader has so directly pointed out the feasibility of a Taiwan mode of 'one country two systems, ' and so openly vowed China's will and determination for it", said Liu Guoshen, who leads the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University. He called independence for the self-governing island against history and a dead end.
Most Taiwanese say in polls they oppose Xi's goal of unification, and the Communist leadership doesn't recognize the autonomy of Taiwan.
Women form 385-mile 'wall' in protest against against Sabarimala temple ban
The Sabarimala temple is devoted to the deity Lord Ayappa, who according to legend was born from a union between two male gods. The Sabarimala temple historically barred women and girls aged 10 to 50 from entering, since a state court ruling in 1991.
Over the years, Beijing has issued three open letters urging Taiwan to reunite with the motherland, the last one in 1979 after the death of Mao. "Since Hong Kong was returned to China, its freedom and democracy have faced a lot of limitations".
But when Tsai's party, which leans toward declaring formal independence and is anathema to the mainland government, lost in nationwide local elections two months ago, Beijing cheered the results as a signal that Taiwanese voters rejected her anti-China stance.
Despite much publicity over 152 missing Vietnamese tourists, Taipei's efforts to replace the decline in tourist arrivals from the mainland have apparently paid off. Arguably, an additional 1 or 2 million tourists might have arrived had it not been for Beijing's discouragement, although a major push to attract other visitors might not have been implemented.
Beijing denies any interference in Taiwan's internal affairs.
Chairman Xi's talk came a day after President Tsai took a hard line on Taiwan's future relationship with China in her New Year's address.
Beijing has adopted a multi-pronged approach to diminish Taiwan's presence on the worldwide stage in recent years, including blocking it from global forums and poaching its dwindling number of official diplomatic allies.