Beijing and Taipei must begin taking steps to close the political divide between them, President Xi Jinping told a senior Taiwanese envoy yesterday.
The president's remarks to former Taiwanese vice-president Vincent Siew Wan-chang on the sidelines of a regional economic summit are the first time Xi has publicly indicated a desire to tackle the six-decade political split during his tenure.
Many in Beijing see political talks as the next step towards eventual reunification between the mainland and Taiwan, which have been ruled separately since Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist forces fled across the strait in 1949. The two sides remain military rivals.
"The issue of the political divide that exists between the two sides must step by step reach a final resolution and it cannot be passed on from generation to generation," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying during a 30-minute meeting with the Taiwanese delegation at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia.
"We have already said many times that [we are] willing to have equal consultations with Taiwan on cross-strait issues within the framework of the one-China principle and make reasonable and fair arrangements for this."
Increasing "mutual political trust" across the Taiwan Strait and jointly building "political foundations" were crucial for ensuring the peaceful development of relations, he said.
A series of economic and cultural pacts negotiated by Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou have helped make ties between Beijing and Taipei the strongest they have been since the civil war. But the prospect of political talks with the Communist Party remains controversial in democratically ruled Taiwan.
Siew, who attended the Apec summit on Ma's behalf, said the political split would take a long time to resolve.
"It is a problem that has lasted for more than 60 years, and because of that, it cannot be fixed in just a few years," Siew said. "It is not known how long it will take to fix the problem. Both sides need greater understanding."
After the talks between Xi and Siew, Wang Yu-chi, minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, met his mainland counterpart, Zhang Zhijun , and suggested establishing a better communication mechanism between officials handling cross-strait affairs.
Xi's remarks were seen as evidence the new leadership in Beijing will push for a cross-strait political solution in the 10 years before another generation of leaders takes over.
"There is no doubt the Chinese leadership wants to make some progress," said Yang Lixian , a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Taiwan Studies. "But the lack of political trust would be a major sticking point."
Li Jiaquan, another researcher with the institute, said Beijing hopes Ma can further improve the political environment before his term ends in four years, laying the ground for his successor to strengthen communications with the mainland.