Top officials attending a national meeting on Taiwan last week mentioned the possibility of speeding up democracy on the mainland. Chinese sources said yesterday that leaders indicated reunification would be expedited if political developments, including democratic standards, were at a similar level on the mainland and Taiwan. President Jiang Zemin and Vice-Premier Qian Qichen were among senior cadres who addressed the Taiwan Work Meeting called in Beijing by the party Central Committee and the State Council. 'Cadres handling Taiwan work have, all along, emphasised the need to narrow the economic gap across the Taiwan Strait,' the source said. 'However, they have recently begun to talk about matching political developments and that the mainland should 'catch up' in democratisation.' Also at last week's conference, it is understood a senior cadre raised the possibility of expanding direct elections, which have been held at the village level since the late 1980s. He reportedly said elections by universal suffrage could be extended to at least the county level when conditions were ready. However, a diplomatic source said there was a difference of opinion among Beijing leaders about the speed of democratisation. 'Some top cadres favour extending elections to the provincial or even national level by 2020 to 2025, while others think the country should only hold county-level elections by 2020,' he said. The diplomat said that as the matter remained sensitive, internal talks on the possibility of expanding universal-suffrage elections were not reported in the official media.