Premier: China will offer Taiwan 'preferential policies'

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks during a press conference after the closing session of the National People's Congress in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China's premier says more "preferential policies" planned for Taiwan, stresses "peaceful reunification"

BEIJING — China will introduce more "preferential policies" for Taiwan so the self-governed island's residents can enjoy the same treatment as mainland Chinese citizens, Premier Li Keqiang said Friday.

Li said new initiatives will be implemented to invite people from Taiwan to "work hand-in-hand to realize our shared dream for the nation." They follow 31 incentives recently introduced to bolster China's argument that political unification should follow increasingly close economic ties.

Such appeals form the carrot in China's strategy toward Taiwan in contrast with the stick of threatened military attack.

China has used increasingly aggressive rhetoric toward Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid a civil war 70 years ago, but has sought to balance the two approaches to try to avoid alienating those in the island republic who are wary of Beijing.

The ruling Communist Party maintains that Taiwan is part of China. It opposes Taiwan independence and formally says it seeks a "peaceful reunification."

President Xi Jinping did not rule out the use of force during a January speech on cross-strait relations, when he proposed a "one country, two systems" approach akin to China's current arrangement with the former British colony of Hong Kong. That would enable Taiwan to keep its own economic and legal system.

The suggestion has been rejected by Taiwan's independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen, who said China must accept the continued existence of the Republic of China, the formal name of the former mainland government that fled to Taiwan in 1949. The U.S. switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but remains a key Taiwanese bulwark against China's threats.

China appears pleased with the impact of last year's "31 Measures," and Li held open the possibility of even greater advantages, while offering no details.

"When people on both sides of the strait enjoy the same development opportunities, they will become closer and closer," Li said at a news conference held on the closing day of the ceremonial legislature's annual session.

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