By Yew Lun Tian and Yimou Lee
BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) -Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged on Thursday to complete “reunification” with self-ruled Taiwan and vowed to “smash” any attempts at formal independence, drawing a stern rebuke from Taipei, which lambasted the Communist Party as a dictatorship.
China, which considers democratically-ruled Taiwan its own territory, has stepped up efforts under Xi to assert its sovereignty claims, including regular flights by fighter jets and bombers close to the island.
“Solving the Taiwan question and realising the complete reunification of the motherland are the unswerving historical tasks of the Chinese Communist Party and the common aspiration of all Chinese people,” Xi said in a speech on the 100th birthday of the ruling Communist Party.
“All sons and daughters of China, including compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, must work together and move forward in solidarity, resolutely smashing any ‘Taiwan independence’ plots.”
In response, Taiwan’s China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council said while the Communist Party had achieved “certain economic development”, it remained a dictatorship that trampled on people’s freedoms, and should embrace democracy instead.
“Its historical decision-making errors and persistent harmful actions have caused serious threats to regional security,” it added.
Taiwan’s people have rejected the “one China principle”, which states the island is part of China, and Beijing should abandon its military intimidation and talk with Taipei on an equal footing, the council said.
“Our government’s determination to firmly defend the nation’s sovereignty and Taiwan’s democracy and freedom and to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait remains unchanged.”
While China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, Xi called for a process of “peaceful reunification”.
Still, he said that nobody should “underestimate the Chinese people’s strong determination, firm will, and formidable ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
The defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communist Party.
Most Taiwanese have shown no interest in being ruled by China. Taiwan says only the island’s people can decide their future, and has decried Chinese pressure.
China believes Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is a separatist bent on declaring independence. She says Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee in Taipei; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Clarence Fernandez)