SHANGHAI (AP) — The chairman of Taiwan's ruling Nationalist party said Sunday that further cooperation between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan was of utmost importance ahead of expected talks with President Xi Jinping as the former bitter enemies continue their two decade-old rapprochement.
"Cross-strait relations are something we all have to face," said Eric Chu, leader of the Nationalists, or Kuomintang. "The 21st century is one of cooperation, not one of confrontation. We must use a healthy attitude, a positive attitude to welcome an era of cross-strait cooperation."
Chu, a likely candidate for the island's presidency in next year's election, spoke at the opening ceremony of a cross-strait economic and cultural forum in Shanghai attended by representatives from small and medium-size businesses.
Yu Zhengsheng, the chairman of China's top legislative advisory body, told the forum the key to the peaceful development of cross-strait relations was opposing Taiwan's independence.
Chu, who took over as party leader in January from Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, is expected to hold talks with President and Communist Party Secretary-General Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday.
Chu is the third Nationalist chairman to visit the mainland and the first since 2009.
The Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek were driven to Taiwan by Mao Zedong's Communists during a civil war in 1949, leading to decades of hostility between the sides.
Relations began to warm in the 1990s, partly out of their common opposition to Taiwan's formal independence from China, a position advocated by the self-governing island republic's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party.
Beijing considers Taiwan to be Chinese territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary, although it ruled the island for just four of the past 110 years.
That prospect has grown increasingly unpopular on the island, especially with younger voters, and opposition to the Nationalists' pro-China policies was seen as a driver behind heavy local electoral defeats for the party last year that led to the resignation of the previous chairman, President Ma.