Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday said reunification with Taiwan must happen, though he appeared to strike a more conciliatory tone on the matter than he has in other recent remarks. He did not directly mention using force to bring the island, which China claims as its territory, into Beijing’s fold, instead saying that it should happen peacefully.
But it’s unclear just how committed Xi is to that rhetoric. Some China watchers are still convinced that Beijing would be willing to launch a military operation in the coming years, and the government has been pouring money into the People’s Liberation Army. “Even moderate voices in Beijing have been calling for tossing out peaceful reunification,” Oriana Skylar Mastro, a fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, told The New York Times. “I think the military option is the option now.”
Plus, while Xi avoided making any threats this time around, he did add that “no one should underestimate the Chinese people’s staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity” and called Taiwan’s independence movement the biggest obstacle to achieving the reunification of the motherland, and the most serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation.” That likely will have a lot of folks reading between the lines.