Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to defend her island’s freedom and democracy on Tuesday, using a National Day speech to warn that Taiwan would not bow to pressure.
Tsai said in her second National Day address since taking office in May, 2016, her government was still seeking breakthroughs in ties with Beijing and promised consistent and stable policies.
“We need to remember democracy and freedom were rights obtained through all of Taiwan people’s countless efforts,” Tsai said.
“Therefore, we need to use all our power to defend Taiwan’s democratic and freedom values and lifestyle,” she said.
Her remarks came just days before China holds its five-yearly Communist Party Congress, where its leadership for the next term is expected to be decided.
Cross-strait relations with Beijing have nosedived since Tsai took office, with China cutting off official channels with Taiwan to pressure Tsai and her party into recognizing the “one China” principle agreed by the previous Nationalist government.
China considers Taiwan a renegade province to be taken back by force, if necessary.
Tsai announced in September a new Cabinet headed by William Lai, the former mayor of the southern city of Tainan, whose recent remarks that Taiwan was an “independent” country have rattled some in Beijing.
In recent months Tsai has instead sought to give Beijing a roadmap where its “goodwill” can be extended, which in turn can give her a chance to reciprocate and rein in the more independence-leaning hardliners on the island.
“We have offered our greatest goodwill,” she said on Tuesday.
“I have repeatedly said, our goodwill doesn’t change, our promises don’t change, we won’t walk on the old path of confrontation, but we won’t bow to pressure,” she said.
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to make his first visit to China in mid-November, which could further put ties under the spotlight.
Tsai also vowed to press on with a host of domestic reforms, including social housing, elderly care services, and judicial reforms, among others. Her administration enacted pension reforms just weeks ago.
In July, Taiwan’s parliament approved an infrastructure stimulus plan that aimed to boost domestic demand while rebalancing the economy away from its heavy reliance on exports.