China pledges friendship with Taiwan amid tensions over US Bill

Mr Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, speaking at the conference's opening session at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 3, 2018.
Mr Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, speaking at the conference's opening session at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 3, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China wants to deepen friendship with Taiwan, the ruling Communist Party's fourth-ranked leader said on Saturday (March 3), a day after state media warned that China could go to war over Taiwan if a US Bill promoting closer ties with the island becomes law.

China has been infuriated over the Bill, telling Taiwan on Friday that it would only get burned if it sought to rely on foreigners, adding to the warnings from state media about the risk of war.

The legislation, which needs only President Donald Trump's signature to become law, says it should be US policy to allow officials at all levels to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts, permit high-level Taiwanese officials to enter the US "under respectful conditions" and meet US officials.

Mr Yu Zhengsheng, the Communist Party's fourth-most senior official, put on a friendlier face at the opening session of a largely ceremonial advisory body to Parliament which he heads, making no direct mention of the Bill.

"We will deepen solidarity and friendship with our compatriots in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as well as overseas Chinese," Mr Yu told the 2,000-odd delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.

The body will "mobilise all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation to work together for the greater national interests and realisation of the Chinese Dream", Mr Yu added. He was referring to President Xi Jinping's aspiration to restore a rejuvenated China to its full standing globally.

Hong Kong has been another troublesome area for China's leadership, especially after students organised weeks of protests in late 2014 to push for full democracy.

 
 

Young activists in both Hong Kong and Taiwan have irked Beijing in recent years by pushing for greater autonomy or even independence and by organising protests against China's influence.

Hong Kong and Macau were former European colonial outposts that returned to Chinese rule in the 1990s.

China's hostility towards Taiwan has risen since the election to president of Ms Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party in 2016.

China suspects Ms Tsai wants to push for formal independence. This would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, though Ms Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to ensuring peace.

Beijing considers democratic Taiwan to be a wayward province and an integral part of "one China", ineligible for state-to-state relations. It has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.