President Donald Trump may have kicked the hornet's nest by signing on Friday the "Taiwanese Travel Act", encouraging official visits to Taiwan by officials at all levels with an emphasis on "national security officials."
The signing angered the newly crowned Chinese
President Emperor Xi Jinping, who lashed out at Trump and the US during a speech on Tuesday marking the start of his second term running the world's most populous country. Xi warned that attempts to sow divisions between China and Taiwan would be "punished by history".
His speech follows Chinese bureaucrats' rubber-stamping changes to the constitution that could allow Xi to serve as leader for life, or as some have correctly defined it, emperor.
"Any actions or tricks to separate the country are bound to fail," Xi said. "They will receive the condemnation of the people and the punishment of history."
"We cannot allow, and it is impossible for, an inch of our great country’s territory to separate from China," said Mr. Xi.
Also, several close Xi allies have been confirmed in senior government posts - though Xi somewhat unexpectedly named Yi Gang the next chairman of the People's Bank of China, a veteran deputy governor whose only task it appears is to preserve continuity. China's legislature also approved former anti-graft czar Wang Qishan as vice president and economic adviser Liu He - poised to become China's financial superregulator - as vice premier.
Xi warned in his speech that China has the means to retaliate against attempts to divorce Taiwan from the mainland, per Bloomberg.
In an address to China’s almost 3,000-member national parliament, Xi said China had the capabilities to stop any attempt to formalize the democratically ruled island’s independence. The remarks came just days after U.S. President Donald Trump signed a law allowing high-level official visits to Taiwan, a move that would elevate its diplomatic status.
"All acts and schemes to split China are doomed to failure and will be condemned by the people and punished by history," Xi told the closing session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing. "The Chinese people have the firm will, full confidence and sufficient ability to defeat all activities to split the country."
The remarks on Taiwan were part of a roughly 40-minute speech in which Xi repeatedly emphasized the importance of “the people’s” support for the Communist Party’s rule. The president said public backing was fundamental to achieving his goal of becoming a global power by 2050.
One academic who spoke with Bloomberg said the speech constituted an "official warning" from the People's Republic of China: Don't interfere in mainland-Taiwan relations.
"This is an official warning from China’s top leader to the U.S. and Taiwan," said Wang Jiangyu, an international law professor at the National University of Singapore. "It’s an announcement that China will never compromise on Taiwan-related issues."
While Trump and Xi have maintained the appearance of a cordial relationship, the two men have clashed on issues ranging from Taiwan to trade. As a reminder, just days after his electoral victory, Trump inadvertently offended the Communist Party by accepting a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen who has repeatedly antagonized the mainland after her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, pushed for closer social and economic ties. That call, as it was later revealed, was actually the result of a months-long lobbying push spearheaded by former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.
Tsai has refused to endorse China's "One China" framework, which stipulates that Taiwan is essentially a province. Trump initially signaled support for the doctrine after the phone-call incident, but has also recently taken a tougher stance against Beijing. The new legislation will raise Taiwan's profile in Washington by allowing reciprocal visits between diplomats of both countries, per the Wall Street Journal.
Xi consolidated his power during a quinquennial meeting of China's rubberstamp legislature back in November. At the time, he was unanimously reelected for a second term, and his name was added to the Chinese constitution - making him the first living leader, and only the third since Mao Zedong, to have their name added to the constitution. At the meeting, analysts noted that the lack of a clear successor in the Politburo suggested that Xi will run for at least one more term.