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China’s Xi Jinping Slams the Door on Taiwanese Appeals for Independence

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday made clear his administration will stifle any attempt by self-governed Taiwan to declare independence from Beijing as appeals for complete autonomy intensify in Taipei.

"We will never allow anyone, any organization, or any political party, at any time or in any form, to separate any part of Chinese territory from China," Xi said at the opening of the annual Communist Party Congress.

"We have the resolve, the confidence, and the ability to defeat separatist attempts for Taiwan independence in any form," Xi continued.

Xi's tough talk on regions creeping toward formal declarations of independence drew the longest applause of his three-hour speech and prompted immediate backlash from officials in Taipei, who said it was "absolutely" the right of the island's more than 23 million people to vote on independence.

Taiwanese sovereignty is a sensitive issue in China. Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province that will eventually reunify with mainland China and has refused to renounce the option of deploying force against the democratic state should it pursue independence.

Chinese officials in June suspended regular diplomatic contact with their Taiwanese counterparts when the island's new leader refused to publicly embrace the principle of a single Chinese nation that encompasses Taiwan.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council last week renewed calls on China to reinstate diplomatic contact with the island.

"The Republic of China is a sovereign state and we will protect our sovereignty," Chiu Chiu-cheng, deputy head of the Mainland Affairs Council, told a group of international reporters in Taipei on Thursday.

"If China wants to have peace and a stable relationship, we need to sit down and talk. China needs to understand Taiwan is a sovereign state and we need to figure out how to cooperate under this condition," Chiu said.

Tensions between Taiwan and mainland China have escalated over the past year following the presidential election of Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Beijing is wary of Tsai's open criticism of senior Chinese officials and refusal to denounce calls for Taiwanese independence.

Though she has vowed to maintain the delicate cross-strait status quo based on the historical fact that in 1992 Taiwan and the mainland agreed to consider themselves part of one Chinese nation with respective interpretations, Tsai has stopped short of endorsing the One China policy.

In a bold National Day address in Taipei last week, Tsai reinforced her commitment to upholding Taiwan's sovereignty and said the island will not bend to pressure from Beijing, such as China's ongoing efforts to isolate Taipei from the international community.

"Since May 20 last year, we have exerted maximum goodwill in order to safeguard the peaceful and stable development of cross-strait ties," Tsai said, before adding, "We will continue to safeguard Taiwan's freedom, democracy, and way of life, as well as assure the Taiwanese people's right to decide our own future."