HONG KONG — Taiwan’s president delivered a resounding affirmation of its freely elected government on Monday, noting that its deepening foothold on the island stands in stark contrast to the authoritarian government of mainland China.
In her first National Day speech, President Tsai Ing-wen called for talks between Taiwan and the mainland government, but she emphasized that Beijing should acknowledge Taiwan’s choice to become a democracy. China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province, while the self-governing island Ms. Tsai leads traces its roots to the formation of the Republic of China in 1911 that overthrew the last Chinese dynasty, only to lose the Chinese civil war to the Communists in 1949.
“I call upon the authorities of mainland China to face up to the reality that the Republic of China exists, and that the people of Taiwan have an unshakable faith in the democratic system,” Ms. Tsai said.
One of the goals of the Chinese government is to reunify Taiwan with the mainland. Although Beijing has never renounced the use of force against the island, it has offered to achieve unification by giving Taiwan considerable autonomy, similar to an arrangement that paved the way for Hong Kong to be returned to Chinese rule in 1997, after more than 150 years of British control.
But in the past two decades, a rambunctious democracy has taken root in Taiwan, and the contrast with life on the mainland is increasingly stark.
Many in Taiwan, especially young people, view the growing economic power of mainland China with deep apprehension. Ms. Tsai, whose Democratic Progressive Party has traditionally favored formal independence for Taiwan, channeled that fear in her victory this year over the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, which favored closer ties with the mainland.
In a statement, the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing presented a starkly different vision of the island’s future, one in which the growing power of mainland China would eventually lead to unification.
“The historical tide is so powerful and irreversible that those who go along with it will prosper, and those who go against it will perish,” a spokesman, An Fengshan, said in a statement on the office’s website.
National Day in Taiwan is known as “Double Ten,” for Oct. 10, and marks the date in 1911 when an uprising in the city of Wuchang led to the downfall of China’s last imperial dynasty and to the establishment of the Republic of China on Jan. 1, 1912.