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China and Taiwan claim Oct. 10 as a political holiday but for different reasons

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Tensions between China and Taiwan are once again on display. Over the weekend, both celebrated October 10, or the Double Ten anniversary, but for very different reasons. NPR's Emily Feng explains the dueling political narratives.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Double Ten commemorates the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, a series of events that led to the end of imperial rule in China. The People's Republic of China celebrated the day with top Communist Party officials gathering in Beijing for a speech by leader Xi Jinping. In his speech, Xi spoke of the need to follow the Communist Party so as to continue the revolution begun in 1911. He also mentioned Taiwan, which Beijing believes is part of China.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT XI JINPING: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: Taiwan independence, he said, is a serious hidden threat to the national rejuvenation of China. Taiwan, or the Republic of China, as it officially calls itself, also celebrates Double Ten because it considers the day its birthday. These competing claims to the same holiday underscore the growing tensions between China and Taiwan and between Beijing and Washington, an important Taiwan ally. So on Sunday, Taiwan's leader, Tsai Ing-wen had a speech of her own to counter Xi's.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT TSAI ING-WEN: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: She said, "We hope for an easing of relations with China and will not act rashly, but there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure. Nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us."

Taiwan also flew fighter jets over its capital and paraded missile launchers and armored vehicles. It was a striking visual display of military might only days after China flew record numbers of fighter planes into airspace around Taiwan. The entire event on Sunday was a careful balancing act.

SHELLEY RIGGER: That is Tsai Ing-wen showing her consistency.

FENG: Shelley Rigger is a political science professor at Davidson College and an expert in Taiwan studies. She points out Tsai used both the names Taiwan and Republic of China, or ROC, in her speech.

RIGGER: You know, she uses these references to the kind of old era framework in which the ROC is still claiming to be Chinese intentionally as a way of saying, I am not declaring independence right now.

FENG: Beijing also appears to be de-escalating tensions somewhat. In his address, Xi Jinping said he preferred Beijing to peacefully rather than militarily take control over Taiwan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

XI: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: He said, "Peaceful reunification is most in line with the overall interest of the Chinese nation, including that of our Taiwanese compatriots."

But the Communist Party leader also said that, quote, "Nobody should underestimate the powerful ability of the Chinese people to defend its sovereignty." Those mixed signals mean Beijing is leaving the fate of Taiwan once again undecided.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.