A pilot takes part in a drill conducted by the People's Liberation Army around Taiwan island on Aug 7. (WANG XINCHAO/XINHUA)
Observers say national sovereignty to be defended, separatist activities combated
The Chinese mainland will firmly maintain its strategic dominance to steer cross-Straits relations in the right direction this year, according to observers.
Last year saw turbulence in Taiwan, with unprecedented separatist activities taking place on the island.
Tension in the region escalated in August when then-United States house speaker Nancy Pelosi made a high-profile visit to Taiwan, despite repeated warnings from Beijing. The visit openly violated the one-China principle and also angered Chinese people.
The Chinese government took countermeasures following "provocative meddling" in the Taiwan question — China's internal affairs — by conducting military drills around the island and sanctioning "Taiwan independence" separatists who colluded with foreign forces.
The tense atmosphere has eased in recent months, especially after President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of the Taiwan question while meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in November, and with the defeat of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, in local elections in Taiwan the same month.
Bao Chengke, assistant director at the Institute for East Asian Studies in Shanghai, said these two events had a far-reaching impact on cross-Straits relations by showing that neither the international community nor people in Taiwan accept separatist acts of "Taiwan independence".
However, experts said risks will remain over the Taiwan Straits this year. Conflict could erupt at any time, as factors such as Sino-U.S. strategic competition, a potential visit to Taiwan by new U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and separatist activities are likely to impact the situation in the region.
Delivering his New Year address on Dec 31, Xi called for cross-Straits efforts to ensure prosperity for the Chinese nation.
"The people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits are members of one and the same family. I sincerely hope that our compatriots on both sides of the Straits will work together with a unity of purpose to jointly foster lasting prosperity for the Chinese nation," he said.
Looking back at the increasing challenges over the past year, Song Tao, who became head of the mainland's Taiwan affairs authority last month, said, "The Chinese mainland has maintained the initiative and ability to steer cross-Straits relations."
Song, head of the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said efforts were made to effectively deter external forces from using the island to contain the mainland.
"Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese, and any attempt to separate Taiwan from China will never succeed," he said, adding that the mainland will continue to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and take firm action against separatist activities and external intervention.
Song made the remarks in a New Year message published in the latest issue of Relations Across Taiwan Straits magazine, calling for joint efforts from both sides of the Straits to safeguard peace and stability.
"On the basis of the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, we are ready to conduct extensive and in-depth consultations with people of vision from all walks of life in Taiwan on cross-Straits relations and national reunification," he said.