China underlined its commitment to its claim to Taiwan on Saturday, telling assembled world leaders that anyone who thwarts its resolve to reunite with the self-governing island will be crushed by the wheels of history.
The language was forceful but, for Chinese leaders, well within the realm of normal.
Only when China is fully reunited can there be real peace in the Taiwan Strait, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the UN General Assembly.
He said Beijing would take the strongest measures to oppose any outside interference.
China regularly and vehemently defends its claim to Taiwan, which broke away from the mainland after a civil war in 1949 and now operates with its own government.
A visit last month by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi sharply increased tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The language, while pointed, reflected the typical Chinese intensity about the island; its claim is rarely ignored in major international speeches.
Taiwan is a central issue in Chinese politics, and Wang’s appearance at the leaders’ meeting in place of his boss, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, was a signal that the speech was not necessarily meaningful.
The PRC government is the only government representing all of China, Wang said, referring to China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China. The one-China principle has become a fundamental norm in international relations.
He added: “Any attempt to obstruct China’s reunification is bound to be crushed by the wheels of history.
China exerts regular worldwide pressure on any country, company, cartographer that even implies that Taiwan might be a separate nation.
At the Olympics, for example, Taiwan must compete as Chinese Taipei. The mainland’s government muscle has isolated the island’s government, although a few UN members continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei rather than Beijing.
At the UN meeting on Saturday, a few speakers before Wang, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves spoke forcefully about allowing Taiwan to raise its profile in international organizations, including the World Health Organization.
How can we stand sideways, in relative silence and contented inaction, in defiance of Taiwan’s legitimate right to exist in accordance with the wishes and will of the Taiwanese people? He asked.
Wang’s appearance at the 2022 in-person UN General Assembly came after two years of remote pandemic-era speeches by China’s top leader.
Xi did not attend this year’s event, which Russian President Vladimir Putin also skipped. US President Joe Biden spoke on Wednesday.
The United States and China have tough diplomacy and disagree on many fundamental issues. They have been arguing for decades over human rights, most recently over the mistreatment of ethnic Uyghurs in China’s western Xinjiang region. Beijing views US criticism as hypocritical and an act of interference in its internal affairs.
This is always reflected in the remarks of Chinese leaders. Wang’s speech used lightly coded phrases and references that criticized Washington without coming out and saying it. For example, Wang said, we strongly oppose attempts to politicize human rights, and we must uphold fairness and oppose bullying, both references to long-standing irritations he has with American politics.
With Taiwan and human rights still hampering China-US relations, Wang and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in person on the sidelines of the General Assembly on Friday.
U.S. officials said Blinken stepped up efforts by the Biden administration to pressure China to end provocative actions against Taiwan. China’s Foreign Ministry, in a summary of the meeting, said Wang told his counterpart that “current China-US relations are facing serious impacts, and there are lessons from which the US side must learn lessons”.
He said the two discussed the recent wrongdoings of the US side on the Taiwan issue. However, he also said: Both parties consider the meeting to be frank, constructive and important and have agreed to maintain communication.
After Mao Zedong’s communist forces took control of China in 1949, Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists decamped to Taiwan and maintained their separate government. It was recognized by the United States until 1979, when Washington established relations with Beijing.
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