May 7, 2014 / 6:28 AM / 5 years ago

China's Xi stresses benefits of ties after Taiwan protests

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday that economic integration between China and Taiwan was mutually beneficial, would bring positive results for both sides and should not be disturbed, state media reported.

A portrait done by cartoonist Zhu Zizun of China's President Xi Jinping, is seen during China International Cartoon & Animation Festival in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Protesters occupied Taiwan’s parliament and mounted mass protests over a three-week period starting in March in anger at a trade pact between China and Taiwan, which they fear will benefit wealthy companies with Chinese links and undermine Taiwan’s cherished democratic institutions.

It was the largest anti-Beijing protest in years on the island, where Nationalist forces fled in 1949 after losing to the Communists in a civil war.

Xi, meeting with former Taiwan presidential candidate and politician James Soong in Beijing, appeared to address those protests indirectly, saying China wanted to know more about the concerns of people in Taiwan.

“Based on the concept that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are of one family, there is no difficulty that cannot be overcome as long as each side feels for the other and treats the other with sincerity,” Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying.

“We’d like to know more about the practical needs of the Taiwan people, especially those of the grassroots, and take proactive and effective steps to take care of vulnerable groups.”

China will not change its policy of promoting the peaceful development of relations and will pursue pragmatic measures to boost exchanges, cooperation and mutual benefit, Xi added.

Run as a dictatorship for decades after 1949, Taiwan developed democratic institutions from the 1980s and now has a lively legislature, free elections and a vibrant free media, in stark contrast to Communist-led China.

The pact would open 80 Chinese service sectors to Taiwan investment and 64 Taiwanese sectors to the mainland. Protesters were particularly angry about the opening of sensitive sectors such as printing and advertising.

The pact’s supporters view it as a necessary step in Taiwan’s regional and global integration. Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou says it will create jobs.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski

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