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Chinese President Xi Jinping claimed on Saturday that he would achieve “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, but refrained from addressing any use of force following a week of tensions with the island.

China’s People’s Liberation Army on Monday flew 56 planes off the southwest coast of Taiwan, setting a new record and easing four days of sustained pressure involving 149 flights. All were in international airspace, but prompted Taiwan’s defense forces to scramble in response and fears that any wrong move could provoke an unexpected escalation.


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Xi’s speech on Saturday emphasized China’s “splendid tradition” of protests, a notable step back from a strong promise in July to “break” any attempts at formal independence.

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“Taiwan’s independence separatism is the biggest obstacle to achieving homeland reunification, and the most serious hidden threat to national rejuvenation,” Xi said on the anniversary of the revolution that ended imperial China. He stressed that “reunification” is in the best interest of the people of Taiwan, and that China will defend its sovereignty and unity. Reuters.

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“No one should underestimate the determination, strong will and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi said. “The historic task of complete integration of the Motherland must and must be accomplished.”

China took center stage in a week following Chinese air force activity and an incident in which a US nuclear submarine hit an object while submerged in the South China Sea. Additionally, The Wall Street Journal reported this week that a contingent of US Special Operations and Marine Forces is secretly operating out of Taiwan in an effort to train the local military and improve the country’s security.

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Xi’s most recent speech struck an expected bad tone with Taiwan, with the presidential office issuing a clear rebuke.

“The future of the country lies in the hands of the people of Taiwan,” the office said.

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In a separate statement, Taiwan’s China-policy-making Mainland Affairs Council called on Beijing to “abandon its provocative measures of infiltration, oppression and destruction” and return to talks.