The head of Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party called for more chances for the island to participate in international organizations after a meeting Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose government views the territory as a renegade province.
Eric Chu also affirmed his party's support for a consensus reached between Chinese and Taiwanese negotiators in 1992 that is interpreted by Beijing as a commitment to eventual unification.
That stance is held as sacrosanct by China but has become increasingly unpopular among Taiwanese youth who see their island as an independent country.
Illustrating the matter's delicacy, the party issued a statement saying that the "'92 consensus" was the basis for dialogue, but that its exact meaning was open to interpretation.
"We hope exchanges can deepen between the sides, and that on the basis of the "92 consensus,' Taiwan will in future have even more international space to develop and even more opportunities in international organizations and activities," the statement said.
Despite increasingly close economic ties, support for political unification on Taiwan has remained low. Opposition to the Nationalists' pro-China policies contributed to heavy local electoral defeats for the party last year that led to Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou resigning as party chairman.
The sensitive unification issue is expected to feature prominently in next year's Taiwanese presidential elections, in which Chu is considered a likely candidate.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Xi, Chu said that Taiwan hopes not only to have "space to participate but also to join hand in hand and together create a win-win situation with the other side of the [Taiwan] strait" in the economic, environmental and other fields.
Chu, a former accounting professor and mayor of Taiwan's New Taipei City, spoke at a news conference following his talks with Xi. No Chinese officials attended the event, a reminder of the culture gap between China's authoritarian one-party system and Taiwan's freewheeling democracy.
The Nationalists were driven to Taiwan by Mao Zedong's Communists during the Chinese civil war in 1949, leading to decades of hostility between the sides. Chu, who took over as party leader in January, is the third Nationalist chairman to visit the mainland and the first since 2009.
The Associated Press