Xi’s speech offers nothing new: Ex-AIT officials

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Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. Xi urged both sides to reach an early consensus on the unification of China and Taiwan and not leave the issue for future generations. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

WASHINGTON (CNA) — Two former officials at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on Jan. 2 said a Taiwan policy speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) earlier that day contained nothing new.

In an e-mail reply to CNA, former AIT Chairman Richard Bush said he has not read the English translation of Xi’s speech but judging from media reports, it was mainly meant to reiterate China’s long-standing policy.

“I haven’t seen an English text of Xi’s speech yet … My impression, from media accounts, is that this is a reiteration of many or all of the key elements of long-standing PRC policy,” Bush wrote.

Meanwhile, former AIT Director Douglas Paal, who is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, noted that Xi delivered the speech at a gathering marking the 40th anniversary of the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” in which Beijing called for unification and an end to military confrontation.

“This is the fortieth anniversary of Ye Jianying’s speech on future reunification and so Beijing feels a need to restate its policy. I don’t make out anything really new so far,” Paal wrote.

Commenting on Xi’s reiteration of the “one country, two systems” formula in his speech, Paal wrote: “I think Xi reiterated standing policy, and from his point of view, things are moving slowly in China’s direction.” Paal also said he does not expect to see large changes in the further development of cross-strait relations.

“I expect more of the same from both Beijing and Taipei. Neither sees many benefits in changing course,” he wrote.

In his speech, Xi called for unification under the “one country, two systems” formula and defined the 1992 consensus as being based on the “one China” principle.

Xi said both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China and should work toward unification under the “one China” principle.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) later Wednesday called a press conference saying: “We have never accepted the ‘1992 consensus.’ The fundamental reason is that the ‘1992 consensus’ as defined by Beijing is, in fact, the ‘one China principle’ and ‘one China, two systems’ formula.”

“Taiwan will never accept the ‘one China, two systems’ formula, and the vast majority of Taiwan’s people are firmly opposed to the approach designed by Beijing,” she said, noting that Xi’s speech proved that “Taiwan’s misgivings are correct.”

By Chiang Chin-ye and Evelyn Kao