BEIJING China warned Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party on Wednesday that its stance on relations with Beijing could threaten a hard-won state of peaceful coexistence, as the island's closely watched elections draw near.
China has slowly ramped up the rhetoric ahead of Taiwan's January 14 presidential and parliamentary polls, offering both economic incentives for the self-ruled island and making veiled threats that a vote for the DPP would harm vital trade ties.
Beijing will be hoping that pro-China President Ma Ying-jeou, who has signed a series of landmark agreements with Beijing since he became Taiwan's president in 2008, gets back into office and continues his policy of detente.
China has made little secret of its distaste for the DPP, even as its candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, tries to lay out a more moderate line than former President Chen Shui-bian, whose strong support for Taiwan's independence infuriated Beijing.
Speaking at a regular news briefing, Yang Yi, spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said a return to those days would be a disaster. The DPP's Chen held office from 2000 to 2008.
"Upholding the 'Taiwan independence' platform of one country on either side of the Taiwan Strait would be a step backward into the era of Chen Shui-bian, and that would inevitably threaten the peaceful development of cross-strait ties," he said.
China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the civil war with the Communists in 1949.
China maintains that Taiwan is simply a wayward Chinese province which has no right to seek independence, and it has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
It has also warned that any attempt by the island to formally announce independence would lead to war, which could also drag in Taiwan's main backer, the United States.
Yang repeated that whoever is in charge on the island must accept the "1992 consensus," referring to Beijing's cherished "one-China" principle, which includes Taiwan as part of China.
Beijing and Taipei agreed to their own interpretations of the "one-China" principle and both sides held landmark talks in Singapore the following year.
But the DPP does not recognize that a consensus was reached then, even as Tsai has said an administration led by her would pursue a "balanced, stable and moderate" policy towards China, shying away from the party's previous strong anti-China words.
"Denying the '1992 consensus' will wreck the basis for cross-Strait consultations, which will of course be unable to continue," Yang said.
"I will not make any comments about the election, (but) we still hope that compatriots on both sides of the Strait will work hard to maintain the current good trend of the peaceful development of relations," he added.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)