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China, Taiwan tensions escalate after Tsai Ing-wen speech

China, Taiwan tensions escalate after Tsai Ing-wen speech
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (C) was sworn in before the portrait of former Taiwan President Sun Yat-sen on Wednesday following her reelection as president. Photo by Taiwan Presidential Office/EPA-EFE

May 20 (UPI) -- China warned Taiwan on Wednesday after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said she rejects Beijing's demand Taipei reunify with China under the "one country two systems" proposal that does not recognize Taiwanese sovereignty.

Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of Beijing's State Council, condemned Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party, after she was sworn in for a second four-year term, China Central Television reported.

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Ma said Tsai and ruling party politicians do not recognize the 1992 Consensus, when both sides of the Taiwan Strait agreed that there is only one China. By refusing to acknowledge past political agreements, Taipei is "unilaterally damaging the political foundations of cross-strait ties," Ma said, according to Chinese state media.

Tsai, who enjoys a near-75 percent approval rating following Taiwan's successful containment of COVID-19, had said any mainland policy that does not place Taiwan on equal footing with Beijing is unacceptable.

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"Here, I want to reiterate the words 'peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue.' We will not accept the Beijing authorities' use of 'one country, two systems' to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo. We stand fast by this principle," Tsai had said Wednesday.

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Chao Chun-shan, a professor of China Studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan, told Taiwan's Central News Agency Tsai's speech did not contain any provocative content that would disturb bilateral relations.

While referring to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Tsai had said she hopes the "leader on the other side of the strait will take on the same responsibility, and work with [Taiwan] to jointly stabilize the long-term development of cross-strait relations," according to the Financial Times on Wednesday.

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Chao said the "leader on the other side" phrase could be interpreted as extending an olive branch to Xi.

Cross-strait relations have deteriorated since Tsai first assumed office in 2016. Meanwhile, the United States has stepped up expressions of support for Taiwan in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic.

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