Taiwan will never allow China to "meddle" in its future, the government said on Wednesday, after a Chinese government spokesperson said Beijing was willing to make the utmost effort to strive for a peaceful "reunification" with the island.
China claims democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory. Taiwan's government rejects China's sovereignty claims.
China has been carrying out military drills near Taiwan since early last month, after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, including firing missiles into waters near the island, though the activities have since scaled back.
Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, told a news conference in Beijing ahead of next month's once-in-five-years Communist Party congress that China was willing to make the greatest efforts to achieve peaceful "reunification".
"The motherland must be reunified and will inevitably be reunified," Ma said.
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said the island's future was up to its 23 million people to decide.
"It allows no meddling by the other side of the Taiwan Strait," it said in a statement.
China uses illegal military exercises and legal and economic retaliation to attempt to coerce Taiwan's people, the council added, labelling Beijing's behaviour as "abominable".
China has proposed a "one country, two systems" model for Taiwan, similar to the formula under which the former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Ma said Taiwan could have a "social system different from the mainland" that ensured their way of life was respected, including religious freedoms, but that was "under the precondition of ensuring national sovereignty, security, and development interests".
All mainstream Taiwanese political parties have rejected that proposal and it has almost no public support, according to opinion polls, especially after Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 after the city was rocked by sometimes violent anti-government and anti-China protests.
"The Taiwanese people have already clearly rejected it," the Mainland Affairs Council said.
China has also never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, passing a law in 2005 giving the country the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if it secedes or seems about to do so.
China has refused to talk to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen since she first took office in 2016, believing she is a separatist. She has repeatedly offered to talk on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
But Tsai's predecessor Ma Ying-jeou held a landmark meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in 2015.
Speaking at the same news conference, Qiu Kaiming, head of the research department at the Communist Party's Taiwan Work Office, said the Xi-Ma meeting showed their "strategic flexibility" towards Taiwan.
That "showed the world that Chinese people on both sides of the Strait are absolutely wise and capable enough of solving our own problems", he added.
Taiwan's government says that as the island has never been ruled by the People's Republic of China, its sovereignty claims are void. (Reuters)