Bloomberg News

Taiwan’s Lien Meets China’s Hu, Sees Mainland Political Reform

November 13, 2011

(See EXT2 <GO> for more on the APEC meetings.)

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Lien Chan, the honorary chairman of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang Party, said he believes China’s leaders are considering some degree of political reform “in the coming decade.”

“I do believe that it is an issue that is being considered by the leadership,” Lien, who met with Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Honolulu, said in an interview last night. “What that will lead to, nobody can tell.”

Any moves toward political openness in mainland China are followed closely in Taiwan, a democracy. A poll by the Global Views Security Research Center in April found that 7.5 percent of Taiwan’s people favor unification, 27 percent support independence and 53.5 percent want to maintain the status quo. China has said a union may be achieved through a “one-country, two-systems” approach, as was used to repatriate Hong Kong in 1997. Lien mentioned laws protecting property rights and local elections as signs of recent political progress.

Lien, 75, was chairman until 2005 of the political party that ruled on the mainland until 1949, when the advancing Communists, now led by Hu, pushed Chiang Kai-Shek to retreat to Taiwan. As chairman of the KMT, Lien steered the party away from a pro-independence line that stoked anger and military threats from mainland China.

Increase in Commerce

The return of the KMT to power in 2008 under President Ma Ying-jeou was followed by closer ties to the mainland, including direct air travel, increased trade, and regular visits between KMT officials and their Communist counterparts.

Trade between Taiwan and mainland China totaled $133.1 billion in the first 10 months of this year, a 12 percent increase from a year earlier, according to Chinese customs statistics. The total was just behind Germany, which recorded $140.2 billion in trade with China in the same period, the customs figures show.

Lien said the talks with Hu yesterday focused on progress made in promoting closer economic ties between the mainland and Taiwan. Hu refers to him as his “old friend,” Lien said. The two have met at previous APEC summits and at other events. Ties between Taiwan and the mainland will continue to deepen as the two sides take incremental steps to improve relations, he said.

“Piece by piece, little by little, you add mutual trust, you add good feelings for each other,” Lien said. “And I think that will certainly bring the relationship across the strait to a new stage.”

January Election

Taiwan’s presidential election, scheduled for January, will affect the course of ties to the mainland, Lien said. He praised Ma’s performance, without criticizing the records of Ma’s two opponents, People First Party leader James Soong and the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen.

Ma said last month that he hopes to sign a peace agreement with China within a decade, provided there is domestic consensus and trust on both sides. Tsai says Taiwan’s future must be determined by its people and not by the island’s cross-strait neighbor.

Lien said the focus on improving cross-straits ties should be on economic relations, with closer political ties to follow.

“What we need to do, of course is strengthen, deepen our economic relations,” he said, adding that the two nations will address the “easier” tasks first. “We’ll take up the economic ones first, and shelve the others for the time being.”

--Editors: John Buckley, Alastair Reed

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Forsythe in Beijing at mforsythe@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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