Ambassador says China’s missile barrages are justified by Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan

China’s ambassador to Australia has justified his country’s missile bombardment of the waters around Taiwan by declaring that the United States ‘fired the first shot’ in allowing House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit the island.

Addressing the National Press Club in Canberra, Ambassador Xiao Qian said China had asked Australia to understand and support Beijing’s one-China policy.

He said that after the foreign ministers of Australia, the US and Japan condemned China’s use of missiles in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, a Chinese embassy spokesperson in turn expressed her country’s condemnation of the three nations’ statement.

‘And we used the word “condemnation” because number one, it was the US side who fired the first shot. They’re the ones who violated the one-China principle,’ Xiao said. ‘They say they are committed to one-China principle in words, but actually are doing something just the opposite.’ They provoked it, he said. ‘We’re the ones who reacted for defence, to protect our territorial sovereignty and integrity.’

Earlier in his speech, Xiao read out Australia’s own one-China policy, which, like that of the US, acknowledges China’s claim to Taiwan but does not accept it.

Asked how long China’s military drills around Taiwan would continue, Xiao said his country was sending a clear message to those who backed an independent Taiwan.

The critical point, he said, was that if every country put the Chinese Communist Party’s one-China policy into practice, peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait would be guaranteed.

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was a violation of the US commitment to the policy and caused the escalation of tension across the Taiwan Strait, he said. ‘The Chinese side is taking action in reaction to what has been done by the US side.’

The purpose was to warn those who supported having ‘one China, one Taiwan’ or two Chinas and who were trying to break Taiwan from China. ‘The reaction is legitimate; it’s justified and there’s no reason for a reapproach.’

The ambassador said China was determined to show that on the question of Taiwan, there was no room for compromise. ‘It’s not something like economic development or trade relations or issues in some other areas. On the question of Taiwan, it’s an issue relating to sovereignty and territorial integrity. There’s no room for us to compromise.

‘And how long it’s going to last?’ asked Xiao rhetorically. ‘A proper time; I think there will be an announcement.’

Asked why the 23 million people in Taiwan should not decide on their future, having seen what’s happened in Hong Hong, Xiao said the process in Hong Kong had generally been successful—but with problems. ‘There are some loopholes in this process and by taking necessary measures at the national constitution level, we solved the problem and we have full confidence that the future of Hong Kong will be even a brighter.’

On the wishes of the Taiwanese people, Xiao said bluntly that ‘Taiwan is part of China’ and the Chinese people were determined to protect that. ‘The future of Taiwan will be decided by 1.4 billion Chinese people.’

Xiao said most people in Taiwan believed that they were Chinese and that Taiwan was a province of China. ‘They are for reunion. We do have a group of people, or a handful of people perhaps, that are seeking for Taiwan independence movement, gradual independence.’

Those claims, however, do not reflect the prevailing sentiment in Taiwan. Numerous polls of Taiwanese have shown increasingly strong support for maintenance of the status quo or independence.

Asked if China planned to ‘re-educate’ the 23 million Taiwanese if it took over the island, Xiao said he hadn’t read about such a policy, but then indicated that something along those lines was likely. ‘I think my personal understanding is that once Taiwan is reunited, coming back to the motherland, there might be process for the people in Taiwan to have a correct understanding of China about the motherland.’

So, would that be along the lines of camps for Uyghurs in Xinjiang? Xiao responded: ‘The people in Xinjiang are also Chinese citizens and they recently [received] education in school, in colleges, in university, in China about their motherland. That’s pretty normal.’ The US and other countries have described the situation in Xinjiang as genocide.

On China’s effective occupation of the South China Sea, its creation and fortification of islands there, and its dangerous interception of an Australian patrol aircraft, Xiao said China and some other countries claimed certain areas and territories in the South China Sea. China had taken necessary measures ‘to protect the security of the areas which belong to us’. The ambassador said China’s claims were ‘inherited’ by the CCP from the Republic of China in the wake of the civil war and it had no room to deviate from them.

Xiao said that what he called ‘the aircraft incident’ was very unfortunate and he compared Australia’s patrol over the South China Sea to an armed home invasion.

‘You’re in your house, within your compound, somebody is driving around, carrying a gun and trying to peep into your windows see what you’re doing, with your family, and what you’re talking about between your family members. You would feel threatened and feel uncomfortable. So, you have to come out and tell those people to keep distance, at least.’

It happened within the territorial space of an island that belonged to China, he said. That is disputed by the Australian government, however.

The ambassador laid much of the blame for the deterioration in Australia–China relations on the Australian media, saying its coverage was mostly negative and ‘harming the friendship between our two peoples’.

Xiao said China’s economic measures against Australian imports were not sanctions. Chinese consumers liked Australian products and ‘more positive’ actions by Australia might persuade them to return to them.

He said China did not intend setting up a military base in Solomon Islands.

And would China release journalist and Australian citizen Cheng Lei? Xiao said there were a ‘couple of Australian citizens in China that are under custody according to Chinese rules and laws. Their basic rights are well protected, don’t worry about that.’

He said that during the severe periods of the pandemic, there were times when they were not accessible to their relatives or diplomats from Australia. ‘Now it’s easy to get access to their relatives either in Australia or the Australian embassy in China. The cases are still under jurisdiction process and we want to sort it out according to Chinese rule and the law.’

Despite a succession of uncompromising messages, Xiao stressed that he was a new ambassador out to reset the Australia–China relationship after what he called a difficult period. That had got off to a good start, he said. But there was more to be done.

‘I’m here to seek friends, not rivals or adversaries or even enemies.’