BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - China warned Taiwan’s main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Wednesday to heed the lessons of the last time it was in power and not push for independence, as the party announced its candidate for next year’s presidential election.
The DPP’s Chen Shui-bian infuriated Beijing during his time as president from 2000 to 2008. The Chinese accused him of trying to push for the island’s independence and weaken its Chinese cultural heritage.
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province, to be put under Beijing’s control by force if necessary.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, asked about the stance on China of the DPP’s presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, said the crux of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait was to oppose independence for Taiwan.
“If (the DPP) upholds the Taiwan independence splittist position of ‘one country on either side of the strait’, then it will be hard to find a way out for cross-strait relations,” spokesman Ma Xiaoguang told a regular news briefing.
“This is not a new talking point - this is what happened between 2000 and 2008. One need not look far for a lesson,” he added.
Ma would not comment directly on the presidential election.
Speaking in Taipei, Tsai said the development of cross-strait relations had to be subject to the will of Taiwan’s people and could not be undertaken as party-to-party negotiations.
“The basic principle of our party in cross-strait relations is to maintain the status quo,” Tsai, who is also the DPP’s chairwoman, said.
Tsai, 58, a fluent English speaker educated at Cornell and the London School of Economics, ran uncontested in the DPP primary.
She will face an unknown contender from the Nationalist Party, which currently holds the presidency and has a majority in the legislature.
Faced with sinking popularity, the Nationalists will have to battle hard for the presidency against a resurgent DPP, which is sceptical of the warming ties with China championed by the Nationalist’s President Ma Ying-jeou.
Tsai ran, and lost, in 2012. If elected this time, she would be the first female president in Taiwan’s history.
Ma, who cannot run again after two terms in office, has overseen a series of landmark economic deals with China, although there have been no political talks.
But the Nationalists have faced a backlash from a public suspicious of any thaw in ties with autocratic China. Last year hundreds of students occupied Taiwan’s legislature in protest at a trade deal with China.
Editing by Alan Raybould