China needs to respect the reality that Taiwan is an independent nation, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday.
“We don’t have a need to declare ourselves an independent state,” Tsai told the BBC. “We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China, Taiwan.”
Tsai won re-election on Jan. 11 with a record 8.17 million votes in what was a landslide victory over China-backed candidate Han Kuo-yu.
Related: Hong Kong crackdown swayed Taiwan voters; Chinese influence ops did not, January 14, 2020
Official ties have been suspended since Tsai took office in 2016 and refused to accept the “one-China principle” in which mainland China sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be returned to its control, by force if necessary.
In the BBC interview, Tsai warned against any military action from Beijing, which responded to her re-election by accusing her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party of “dirty tactics.”
“Invading Taiwan is something that is going to be very costly for China,” Tsai said. “We’re a successful democracy, we have a pretty decent economy, we deserve respect from China.”
At a briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Council, said any pro-independence activities seeking to separate Taiwan from the mainland would not be tolerated by the regime of supreme leader Xi Jinping.
In what many observers saw as a thinly veiled threat, Ma cited the “increasing voices” within China expecting Beijing to step up its efforts to protect the “one China principle” through a process of “reunification through military force.” The “One China principle” is Beijing’s assertion that Taiwan is a province of China. The “One China Policy,” which Taiwan adheres to, is that there is only one China in the world. Taipei considers the Republic of China, Taiwan’s official name, its “One China.”
“This sentiment is a result provoked by the actions of the DPP authority and Taiwan secessionists that went against the trend of the times,” Ma said. “Upholding the 1992 Consensus which reflects the adherence to the one-China principle is the unshakeable foundation for the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations.”
“Taiwan secessionist forces and their actions are the biggest threat to the peace across the Straits, and must be contained,” Ma continued.
This week, China’s state-run English language propaganda outlet Global Times urged Beijing to start to “impose military pressure” against Taiwan, which they described as an “unbearable option” for the Taiwanese government.
“It is absolutely the will of the 1.4 billion Chinese people that Taiwan secession must be prevented no matter what action needs to be taken,” Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin said in a video directed at Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials.
Hu also urged the Trump administration against siding with a Taiwanese attempt at succession, declaring that Washington “cannot just consider public opinion in Taiwanese society while disregarding public opinion on the mainland.”
Tsai told the BBC she believes her election victory is proof of how little appetite there is for the “one China concept” and the ambiguity it created over Taiwan’s status.
Taiwan’s president said the “situation has changed” and such “ambiguity can no longer serve the purposes it was intended to serve”.
Tsai also insisted that the sovereignty of the Taiwan was not in doubt or up for negotiation.