BEJING // Lien Chan, the honorary chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang Party (KMT), said he believes China's leaders are considering some degree of political reform "in the coming decade".
"I do believe that it is an issue that is being considered by the leadership," said Mr Lien, who met the Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum in Honolulu. "What that will lead to, nobody can tell."
Any moves towards political openness in mainland China are followed closely in Taiwan, a democracy. A poll by the Global Views Security Research Center in April found that 7.5 per cent of Taiwan's people favour unification, 27 per cent support independence and 53.5 per cent want to maintain the status quo. China has said a union may be achieved through a "one-country, two-systems" approach, as was used to repatriate Hong Kong in 1997. Mr Lien mentioned laws protecting property rights and local elections as signs of recent political progress.
Mr Lien, 75, was chairman until 2005 of the political party that ruled on the mainland until 1949, when the advancing Communists, now led by Mr Hu, pushed Chiang Kai-shek to retreat to Taiwan. As chairman of the KMT, Mr Lien steered the party away from a pro-independence line that stoked anger and military threats from mainland China.
The return of the KMT to power in 2008 under President Ma Ying-jeou was followed by closer ties to the mainland, including direct air travel, increased trade and regular visits between KMT officials and their Communist counterparts.
Trade between Taiwan and mainland China totalled US$133.1 billion (Dh488.9bn) in the first 10 months of this year, a 12 per cent increase from a year earlier, according to Chinese customs statistics. The total was just behind Germany, which recorded $140.2bn in trade with China in the same period, the customs figures show.
Mr Lien said his talks with Mr Hu focused on progress made in promoting closer economic ties between the mainland and Taiwan. Mr Hu refers to him as his "old friend", Mr Lien said. The two have met at previous Apec summits and at other events. Ties between Taiwan and the mainland will continue to deepen as the two sides take incremental steps to improve relations, he said.
* Bloomberg News