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China’s Xi claims ‘reunification’ with Taiwan is ‘inevitable’ as crucial election looms

Hong Kong CNN —

The “reunification” of Taiwan with China is “inevitable,” Chinese leader Xi Jinping claimed in a speech Tuesday, reiterating Beijing’s long-held stance on the self-ruled island democracy ahead of a crucial election there next month.

“The realization of the complete reunification with the motherland is an inevitable course of development, is righteous and what the people want. The motherland must and will be reunified,” Xi said in an address marking the 130th anniversary of People’s Republic of China founder Mao Zedong’s birth.

The comments echo those previously made by Xi – one of China’s most powerful leaders since Mao – who has made taking control of Taiwan a cornerstone of his broader goal to “rejuvenate” China to a place of power and stature globally.

But they take on particular significance now, coming just weeks ahead of a critical presidential vote in Taiwan. There, political parties’ differing views on relations with China often make elections a litmus test for public sentiment on Beijing – and bring what Taiwan claims are a ramping up of influence operations on the island from China’s ruling Communist Party.

This year’s election follows years of heightened tensions, as Beijing has been ratcheting military, political and economic pressure on the island under the leadership of President Tsai Ing-wen, who is widely seen as cultivating Taiwan’s unofficial relationship with the United States.

Tsai’s successor candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party, Vice President Lai Ching-te, is leading in the polls and is openly loathed by Chinese officials.

Lai is ahead of two other candidates – Hou Yu-ih from the Kuomintang party and Ko Wen-je from the Taiwan People’s Party – who are seen as favoring