Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with James Soong at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Mar. 7. (Photo/CNS)
Chinese president Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for extended dialogue and interaction between the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to enhance understanding and bring them closer psychologically.
Mainland China has no intention of taking advantage of Taiwan, nor is there a risk of one side "compelling or swallowing" the other, Xi said in meeting in Beijing with James Soong, chairperson of Taiwan's People First Party, a part of the pan-blue coalition along with the ruling Kuomintang.
Xi said Beijing will expand communications with all sectors of Taiwanese society, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in central and southern Taiwan.
During the meeting at the Great Hall of the People, Soong said there have been recent changes in Taiwan, including the rise of a more autonomous civic consciousness and a desire by the public to be masters of their own fate.
In response, Xi said that "based on the concept that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family, there is no difficulty that cannot be overcome as long as each side feels for the other and treats the other with sincerity."
Economic integration will bring about mutual benefits and win-win results for Mainland China and Taiwan and should not be disrupted, he added.
Xi also spoke highly of Soong and the PFP's role in promoting the development of cross-strait ties, upholding the one-China principle and opposing what Xi called separatist attempts.
Soong said that the recent occupation of the Legislative Yuan by protesters and the demonstrations in front of the Presidential Office in downtown Taipei in March showed a self-regulated civic awareness in Taiwan.
These actions also indicated the success of Taiwan's civic education, the most valuable asset of Chinese communities worldwide, Soong said, according to Taipei's Apple Daily.
Soong said most of the hundreds of thousands of people who joined forces with the Sunflower Movement in March were against opacity of operations by the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou, and were neither anti-China nor anti-free trade.
At the heart of the controversy is a lack of sincere and effective communication about the cross-strait trade-in-services agreement, which will affect the livelihood of the 8 million employees of SMEs who made up 80% of Taiwan's labor force, Soong said.
In response, Xi said China "would like to know more about the practical needs of the Taiwan people, especially those at the grassroots level, and will take proactive and effective steps to look after disadvantaged groups."
Both sides of the Taiwan Strait should promote and facilitate more exchanges between young people to help them realize the peaceful development of cross-strait ties and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people in the world, which would enable them to shoulder the responsibility of achieving those two goals, Xi said.
Chang Wu-ueh, a China expert at Tamkang University in northern Taiwan, told reporters that Xi understands the lack of mutual trust between the people on both sides, thus Beijing will expand contact and communication with "all echelons of Taiwan society" and emphasize the importance of "face-to-face" interaction.
"It is conceivable that the top priority in Beijing's policies toward Taiwan will focus on interaction and cooperation with teenagers, civic groups and grassroots associations in the future," Chang added.
Tung Chen-yuan, chair of the Graduate Institute of Development Studies at National Chengchi University, told CNA that Beijing was concerned about the Sunflower Movement's opposition to the trade-in services agreement and that Xi's remarks reflected the attitude and "response" of China's top leadership to the protests.
Tung said the attitude of Taiwan's youth toward China reflects the structural differences in the situations on both sides.
These differences include Beijing's military intimidation, its efforts to put pressure Taiwan's international relations and the form of political institutions on both sides, he said.
It was Soong's first meeting with Xi, although the PFP chairperson has visited China more than once since his first trip in 2005. Soong, who served as the elected governor of Taiwan province from 1994 to 1998, arrived in Beijing on Tuesday on a four-day visit.
Xi Jinping 習近平
James Soong 宋楚瑜
Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九
Chang Wu-ueh 張五岳
Tung Chen-yuan 童振原