A possible candidate in Taiwan’s presidential elections met the man in charge of handling the Chinese mainland’s affairs with the self-ruled island on Friday in what observers say was a calculated but daring move to show off his credentials as someone Beijing can trust. Parts of the meeting between Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, from the Kuomintang party, and Liu Jieyi, head of the Taiwan Affairs Office, which came at the end of Ko’s three-day visit to Shanghai, were broadcast live via Facebook. The meeting with Liu was an important part of Ko’s trip, during which he also attended the 10th twin city forum between Taipei and Shanghai and presented himself as an alternative to the traditional mainland-friendly politicians from Taiwan’s major opposition party, the Kuomintang, observers said. Neither of the two men mentioned the “one China” principle that Beijing insists on as the political foundation of cross-strait relations. But Liu said the two sides belonged to “one big family”. Ko had also used the phrase to describe cross-strait ties and that might have helped him to get a green light from Beijing for his Shanghai visit. Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province awaiting reunification with the mainland – by force if necessary – has suspended official exchanges with Taiwan since Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party became president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle. Ko Wen-je tries to paint himself as person Beijing can trust “The exchanges and cooperation between the compatriots on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have become increasingly closer … and to the extent that they are one big family,” Liu said. He said also that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s message to Taiwanese compatriots, made in January, had “indicated the direction for the development of cross-strait ties”. Ko did not comment on Xi’s message, but stressed the importance of cross-strait exchanges and mutual understanding. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said it was closely following the meeting. It had earlier warned Ko against meeting Liu without reporting to the island’s authorities beforehand. Known front-runners in the January presidential race have in recent months expressed hawkish views towards the mainland for fear that adopting a conciliatory posture would cost them voter support. Taiwan has recently tightened rules on contact with the mainland as a result of strained relations between the two sides. To increase the pressure on Tsai, Beijing has staged a series of war games around Taiwan and poached three of its diplomatic allies. Talks between US, Taiwanese defence officials ‘could become new normal’ Chiu Chui-cheng, a spokesman for the Mainland Affairs Council, said no local government heads, politicians or individuals could represent the island in political talks with the mainland or sign political agreements. Asked if Ko would be punished for failing to report his meeting with Liu, Chiu said the Taipei city government informed the council on Friday morning of the change to Ko’s itinerary, which included a meeting with Liu in the late afternoon. During his stay in Shanghai, Ko also met Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong and agreed with him that the two sides should seek to build peaceful cross-strait ties and improve mutual understanding under the existing political arrangement. While on the mainland, Ko also visited Kunshan in Jiangsu province, where a large number of Taiwanese businesses and start-ups are based, in a move likely aimed at soliciting support from the business community. Asked by Taiwanese reporters on Friday if his visit to Kunshan had anything to do with his desire to run for president, Ko said: “The visit had nothing to do with politics as some 700,000 Taiwanese people live in the neighbourhood of Kunshan, which is a major stronghold for mainland-based Taiwanese businesses.” On a visit to 17 start-up companies run by Taiwanese entrepreneurs on Thursday, Ko said he wanted to understand how they worked so the two sides could learn from each other’s experiences. Ko has yet to say if he will run for president, but various opinion polls have him with upwards of 20 per cent of the vote should he do so. He is particularly popular with young people. He is expected to clarify his position after the Kuomintang primaries on July 14.