Former Kuomintang leader Lien Chan yesterday urged the government to work with Beijing to expand cross-strait economic ties and not 'demonise' the mainland.
'Faced with the rise of China, we should be benign, optimistic, and focus on co-existence and shared prosperity,' he said at the opening of a high-profile, two-day economic forum in Beijing.
'There is no need to demonise and vilify China, or see it as a threat,' he said.
Mr Lien, honorary chairman of the party since retiring as KMT head last year, criticised the Taiwanese government of President Chen Shui-bian for restricting investment on the mainland.
The mainland policy of the island's independence-leaning president was in serious conflict with the need to save its flagging economy, said Mr Lien, head of the 170-strong delegation taking part in the forum held by the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party.
In his speech, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference chairman Jia Qinglin criticised Mr Chen for his intensified efforts to promote the island's independence by announcing in February that Taiwan's National Unification Council would 'cease to function'. The council was dedicated to the island's eventual unification with mainland.
'It is a serious challenge to the one-China principle, which has been widely upheld by the international community, and peace and stability across the strait,' Mr Jia said.
He said that shortly after a historic meeting between Mr Lien and mainland President Hu Jintao in Beijing last April, Beijing had offered Taiwan numerous economic benefits, including zero tariffs for 15 kinds of fruit and simplified immigration procedures, to promote cross-strait exchanges.
National Taiwan University agricultural economy professor Lu Yun, one of the panelists, said the zero tariff measure had enabled Taiwanese farmers to think seriously about tapping the great potential of the mainland market.
But Lee Kuan-hsin, chairman of the Taiwan Compatriot Investment Enterprises Association of Kunshan, said the tariff exemption was a good idea that did not work well in practice, largely due to poor marketing methods on the mainland.
'In theory, the price of Taiwan's fruit, which enjoys zero tariffs, should be low, but in reality it is not,' Mr Lee said.