China warns Taiwan trade ties need political stability

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang waves as he arrives for a press conference after the closing session of the National People's Congress.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang waves as he arrives for a press conference after the closing session of the National People's Congress. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang warned self-ruled Taiwan on Wednesday (March 16) that efforts to boost trade between the two could only happen if there was political stability, though adding that he felt confident in the peaceful development of relations.

China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after the Chinese civil war.

Beijing has repeatedly warned against any moves towards independence since January's landslide win by Ms Tsai Ing-wen and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in presidential and parliamentary elections. Ms Tsai assumes office in May.

Speaking at a news conference at the end of the annual meeting of China's parliament, Mr Li said it was in the interests of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait there be peaceful development of relations.

"We will introduce more policies to boost business cooperation between the mainland and Taiwan on the premise that there will be continued peaceful development of cross-strait relations," Mr Li said.

The bedrock of that peaceful development depends on the"1992 consensus", he said, referring to Beijing's cherished "one China" principle that includes Taiwan as part of China.

"As long as one adheres to the political foundation of the 1992 consensus and recognises that the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China anything can be discussed," he said.

Ms Tsai has said she would maintain peace with China, and Chinese state-run media have also noted her pledges to maintain the "status quo" with China.

Mr Li, who neither referred to Ms Tsai nor her party by name, said he met Taiwan business people in the south-eastern province of Fujian last year to assure them preferential policies would not change.

"Why did we do that? Because we're all members of one big family," he said. "I for one feel optimistic about the future of peaceful development of cross-strait relations. There is a strong blood tie between the two sides that cannot be severed and I also believe that closer business cooperation will bring benefits to people of both sides."

Chinese President Xi Jinping said this month that China would never allow the historical tragedy of Taiwan being "split" off from the rest of the country to happen again, warning the island against any moves towards formal independence.

Japan ruled Taiwan as a colony for about five decades until the end of World War Two. China's last dynasty, the Qing, had ceded Taiwan to Japan in 1895 after losing the first Sino-Japanese war.