BEIJING (AP) — China’s leader Xi Jinping will meet with a senior figure in Taiwan’s ruling Nationalist Party this week as Beijing’s outreach across the Taiwan Strait gains momentum, even while deep-seated political divisions remain.
Spokeswoman Fan Liqing for the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs said Xi would talk with Lien Chan, who arrived in Beijing on Monday for a four-day visit, but she offered few details.
Lien’s visit follows the first-ever high-level talks last week between officials of the two governments since China and Taiwan split during civil war in 1949. Though the discussions achieved no concrete result, they marked a concession in Beijing’s usual refusal to recognize the authority of the government in Taipei. The sides agreed to hold a further round of government-to-government talks at a date to be announced.
China claims self-ruling island democracy Taiwan as its own territory, to be recovered by military force if necessary.
Lien is the Nationalist Party’s honorary chairman and is a former premier and vice president who ran twice for president, both times unsuccessfully.
Last week’s talks in the city of Nanjing signaled Xi intends to carry forward predecessor Hu Jintao’s more measured approach to Taiwan relations. That change of tack followed years of threats to attack the island if it declares formal independence or delays unification indefinitely that were only to seen to have backfired. In 1995-96, China fired missiles, conducted military exercises off the Taiwanese coast, and tried to influence its internal politics, further alienating Taiwanese people.
While Xi has said unification cannot be postponed for generations, he has shown no desire to rush matters, in subtle recognition of Taiwanese sentiments and the difficulty of melding China’s authoritarian one-party system with Taiwan’s freewheeling democracy.
The calmer approach received a boost when Taiwan elected pro-China Nationalist Party leader Ma Ying-jeou as president in 2008. That gave Beijing the opportunity to use economic incentives as the centerpiece of its Taiwan policy in the apparent hope that it will prompt Taiwanese people to look at relations with China more favorably and tamp down anti-China sentiments.
Since 2008, trade doubled to $197.2 billion last year. Taiwan enjoys a $116 billion trade surplus with China, one of the few countries or regions that can boast that. Taiwanese companies have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in the mainland, with companies such as Foxconn employing millions of workers making iPhones, Playstations and other popular goods.
Taiwan also benefits heavily from an opening to Chinese tourists, who travel across the 150-kilometer (100-mile) Taiwan Strait.