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China's Xi Jinping and Taiwan's Eric Chu in high-level talks

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Image 0The leader of Taiwan's ruling party and Chinese President Xi Jinping have held the highest level talks between the two sides in six years.

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.

Mr 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," Mr Xi said.

Some believe Beijing wants to show Taiwan's voters that Mr Chu is someone it can work with, and that voting for his party, the Kuomintang (KMT), is a vote for stable relations with China.

While Mr Chu has said he will not run in next January's presidential race, he is considered the KMT's best chance for defeating the pro-independence opposition party's candidate.

As a result, he is also Beijing's best hope at keeping the momentum of the past seven years of hard-won improved ties on course.

The KMT has seen its popularity decline and protests at home, dubbed the "Sunflower Movement", over its warming ties with the Chinese Communist Party.

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.

Mr 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 the President Ma Ying-jeou stepped down as party chief, to be replaced by Mr Chu.

Source: bbc

May 4 2015, 15:46

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