China, Taiwan in High-Level Talks

China, Taiwan in High-Level TalksChina, Taiwan in High-Level Talks

The Chinese President Xi Jinping and leader of Taiwan's ruling party Eric Chu held the highest level talks between the two sides in six years.

Xi said during the meeting that China and Taiwan should settle political differences through consultation, but with Taiwan's acceptance that it is part of China, according to Xinhua state news agency. He also said Beijing will make greater efforts to open up to Taiwan and help it to develop economically.

"The two sides can consult with each other on equal basis under the principle of 'one China', and reach a reasonable arrangement," Xi said, BBC reported.

Xi added that both parties "should be brave when facing lingering political differences and actively search for a solution."

Nationalist Chairman, Eric Chu, was in Beijing for the meeting, a sign of warming relations between the sides. But any rapprochement is controversial in Taiwan, which has seen protests over the prospect of closer ties.

Chinese nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949 after a brutal civil war with the communists. China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that will ultimately return.

But many Taiwanese oppose reunification and fear that growing economic dependency on Beijing could be the first step towards that outcome, correspondents say.

Dip in Popularity

Taiwan's ruling Nationalist party, the KMT (Kuomintang), has seen its popularity decline and protests at home, dubbed the "Sunflower Movement," over its warming ties with the Chinese Communist Party.

Chu's Nationalists are viewed as pro-China, while the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is widely seen as leaning towards independence, something China says it will never allow.

In March last year, hundreds of students occupied parliament for weeks to demonstrate against a trade pact that the KMT signed with China. Thousands rallied on the streets against the mainland.

Chu's party is nevertheless currently pushing to join China's new development bank. Taiwan's initial application to the bank was rejected by Beijing because of the name under which it applied, which implied it was an independent nation.

However Beijing said it would welcome an application by Taiwan under an "appropriate" name.

The KMT had its worst-ever performance in local elections in November and president Ma Ying-Jeou stepped down as party chief, to be replaced by Chu.

This trip is expected to bolster Chu's influence. He has repeatedly said that he will not join the race for January's presidential election, but he remains the most promising candidate to rival DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen.

While business ties between Taiwan and China have improved to their best level in six decades since Jeou took office in 2008, there have been no talks on Taiwan's political future.