President Tsai Ing-wen stated on Sunday that Taiwan would continue to strengthen its defenses to ensure that no one can force the island to embrace China's path, which offers neither freedom nor democracy.
Taiwan, which China claims its land, has been subjected to increasing military and political pressure to accept Beijing's rule, including repeated Chinese air force flights in Taiwan's air defense identification zone, which has caused international alarm.
On Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to achieve "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan, although he did not mention the use of force. Nonetheless, Taipei reacted angrily, claiming that only Taiwan's people had the power to decide the country's future.
Tsai expressed her wish to reduce tensions across the Taiwan Strait while speaking at a National Day rally, stating that Taiwan will not "act rashly."
"But there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure," she warned in a speech outside the presidential office in Taipei's central district.
"We will continue to bolster our national defence and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us," Tsai continued.
"This is because the path that China has laid out offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people."
China has offered Taiwan a "one country, two systems" autonomy model similar to Hong Kong's. Still, all major Taiwanese parties have rejected it, particularly in light of China's security crackdown in the former British colony.
Despite Beijing's lack of rapid response to her address, Tsai reiterated her offer to engage China on an equal footing.
Beijing has refused to cooperate with her, describing her as a separatist who refuses to acknowledge Taiwan's status as part of "one China" and does not recognize the Taiwanese government.
Tsai claims that Taiwan is an independent country known officially as the Republic of China and that she will not back down from preserving its sovereignty and freedom.
She said that Taiwan's goodwill would not wane, and the country will do all possible to prevent the status quo with China from being unilaterally altered.
Tsai cautioned that Taiwan's situation is "more complex and fluid than at any other point in the past 72 years" and that China's regular military presence in Taiwan's air defense zone has harmed national security and aviation safety.
She is in charge of a military modernization program aimed at bolstering the country's defenses and deterrent, which includes the development of its submarines and long-range missiles capable of striking deep into China.
Fighter planes roared across the skies above the presidential office, while truck-mounted missile launchers and other weaponry passed in front of the stage where Tsai sat, as part of the National Day parade Tsai witnessed.
Tsai noted that Taiwan is on the front lines of safeguarding democracy.
"The more we achieve, the more China puts pressure on us. As a result, I'd like to remind all of my fellow citizens that we don't have the luxury of letting our guard down."