May 24, 2017 / 11:13 AM / 2 months ago

China's Xi urges Taiwan business lobby to back "one China" principle

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China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with South Korean special envoy Lee Hae-chan (unseen) at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China May 19, 2017.Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping urged a business lobby for Taiwan enterprises on the mainland to support the "one China" principle and contribute to unity between Beijing and Taipei, state media said on Wednesday.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be recovered by force if necessary, after defeated Nationalists fled there in 1949, following the loss of a civil war to the Communists.

Beijing remains deeply suspicious of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who took office just over a year ago, believing she wants to push the island toward formal independence. She says she wants to maintain peace with China.

China welcomes Taiwanese investment, Xi told the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland in a letter on its tenth anniversary, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Xi urged the body to make "unremitting efforts to contribute to the realization of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people (and) wide unity with Taiwan compatriots (by) supporting the one China principle," Xinhua added.

"Both sides of the Strait share an inseparable common destiny," Xi said in the letter, read to a meeting of around 400 Taiwanese in Beijing by Zhang Zhijun, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office, the news agency said.

In the past, the business lobby, which groups about 130 Taiwanese business associations across China, has pushed for greater engagement with Beijing in Taipei.

In 2012, it met then Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou to push for permission for Taiwan citizens to become full-fledged members of the Chinese People's Consultative Conference, an advisory body to the ruling Communist Party.

But the effort failed, relegating Taiwan businessmen to honorary positions.

The lobby has been a target of a concerted campaign by the Communist Party to spread China's influence in Taiwan via its United Front Work Department, which reaches out to non-party groups.

Since ties began to thaw in the 1980s, Taiwan businesses have invested billions of dollars in China, drawn by a common culture and language and the country's vast market and pool of cheap labour.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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