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Kuomintang chief reaffirms support for eventual reunion with China

BEIJING — The head of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang yesterday reaffirmed the party’s support for eventual unification with the mainland when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping, who, in turn, offered talks to resolve their political differences, but only if Taiwan accepts that it is part of China.

Mr Eric Chu, chairman of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang party, with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing yesterday. Photo: REUTERS

Mr Eric Chu, chairman of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang party, with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing yesterday. Photo: REUTERS

BEIJING — The head of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang yesterday reaffirmed the party’s support for eventual unification with the mainland when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping, who, in turn, offered talks to resolve their political differences, but only if Taiwan accepts that it is part of China.

Kuomintang chairman Eric Chu also called for more chances for the island to participate in international organisations.

Speaking at a news conference following his talks with Mr Xi, Mr Chu said Taiwan hoped not only to have “space to participate, but also to join hand in hand and together create a win-win situation with the other side of the (Taiwan) Strait,” in important areas regarding regional peace, economics and environmental protection.

Earlier, in the first meeting between the leaders in six years, Mr Xi, as head of China’s ruling Communist Party, met Mr Chu in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

“The two sides can consult with each other on equal basis under the principle of ‘one China’ and reach a reasonable arrangement,” Mr Xi said.

Eventual unification between both sides of the Taiwan Strait is a stance that China holds sacred, but also an issue that is increasingly unpopular among young Taiwanese.

The unification issue is expected to feature prominently in next year’s presidential elections in Taiwan, in which Mr Chu is considered a likely candidate. Some believe China wants to show the island’s voters that voting for the Kuomintang would be a vote for stable relations with the mainland, seeing that Mr Chu is someone Beijing can work with.

During the meeting, Mr Xi also said China would ensure more economic opportunities for Taiwan’s people as China continues down its path of reform. “We are willing to give priority to Taiwan in opening-up. Our efforts to open up to Taiwan compatriots will be bigger,” he said.

The Kuomintang was driven to Taiwan by Mao Zedong’s Communists during the Chinese Civil War in 1949, leading to decades of hostility between both sides.

Relations began to warm in the 1990s, partly out of their common opposition to Taiwan’s formal independence from China, a position advocated by the island’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Relations between the two parties “do not entirely equal cross-strait relations”, but are an important component of relations between the two sides, Mr Chu said.

Mr Chu had previously said he would not join the race for Taiwan’s presidency in January, but he remains the most promising candidate to rival the DPP’s candidate, Ms Tsai Ing-wen.

Exchanges between the mainland and the island are laden with symbolism, and Mr Chu’s schedule in China included a visit to the grave of Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern Chinese democracy, who is revered by both the Communists and the Kuomintang.

During the meeting, Mr Chu also affirmed Taiwan’s desire to join the proposed Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. China does not want the island to join using a name that might imply it is an independent country.

Mr Chu said the island would continue to insist on joining the bank as “Chinese Taipei”, the name under which it participates in the Olympics and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Mr Chu’s comments during his meeting with Mr Xi were carried live on Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television.

Despite increasingly close economic ties, Taiwanese support for political unification has remained low, especially among younger voters. Thousands of young people occupied Taiwan’s Parliament in March last year in an unprecedented protest against a planned trade pact calling for closer ties with Beijing.

Opposition to the Kuomintang’s pro-China policies contributed to heavy local electoral defeats for the party last November, which led to Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou resigning as party chairman. AGENCIES

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