Merely a day later, Xi described his vision for unification via a "one country, two systems" approach to "safeguard the interests and well-being of Taiwanese compatriots".
Mr Xi said both sides were part of the same Chinese family and that Taiwanese independence was "an adverse current from history and a dead end".
President Xi Jinping used his new year's speech to call for the reunification of Taiwan with China, saying the country reserves the right to use force to do so, but would prefer for the process to be peaceful.
That trend was broadly seen as an undercurrent in the 2016 election of Ms. Tsai, who calls Taiwan a "nation" and, in a January 1 address, said Beijing "must face the reality of the existence of the Republic of China", the formal name for Taiwan.
"This is the first time a Chinese leader has so directly pointed out the feasibility of a Taiwan mode of 'one country two systems, ' and so openly vowed China's will and determination for it", said Liu Guoshen, who leads the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University.
It's unclear how his message will be received by the 23 million people on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. As part of the government's New Southbound Policy, visitors from six Southeast Asian countries were allowed visa-free entry to Taiwan if they held a resident card or visa for Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, any European Union or Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, or the USA that had expired less than 10 years prior to their date of arrival.
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Though Xi insisted that "it's a legal fact that both sides of the Strait belong to one China, and can not be changed by anyone or any force", his speech was to some degree conciliatory, calling for discussion and increased economic cooperation.
In his speech, Mr. Xi reiterated Beijing's willingness to use its military power in a region it sees as a renegade province.
Last year, Taiwan's ruling party suffered a massive defeat in mid-term polls, causing Tsai to resign as leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, while the main opposition Kuomintang, which oversaw an unprecedented thaw with Beijing before Tsai took office in 2016, made gains. The rival Nationalists set up their own government on Taiwan, an island 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the Chinese mainland.
The U.S. cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979, in order to strengthen its relationship with China.
China implemented the "one country, two systems" model in Hong Kong after the territory's return to China in 1997, but pro-democracy Hong Kongers have accused Beijing of failing to honor its pledge of allowing the territory a high degree of autonomy.
"Deviating from the "One China" principle will make the situation of cross (strait) relations tense and chaotic".
Taiwanese people "must understand that independence will only bring hardship", Mr Xi said, adding Beijing would never tolerate any form of activity promoting Taiwanese independence. Over the past year, Beijing has ramped up efforts to isolate Taiwan, through pressuring worldwide companies and airlines to list the territory as part of mainland China.