China's President Xi Jinping has warned that ties between Beijing and Chinese Taipei have been "complex and grim", calling on the self-ruled island's main opposition party to help seek "unification of the country."
In a congratulatory letter to Eric Chu, the newly elected leader of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) party, Xi wrote on Sunday that the Chinese Communist Party and the KMT should collaborate under a "shared political basis."
He expressed hope that both parties could cooperate on "seeking peace in the Taiwan Strait, seeking national reunification and seeking national revitalization."
"At present the situation in the Taiwan Strait is complex and grim," Xi said in the letter released by the KMT.
"In the past our two parties insisted on '1992 consensus' and opposing 'Taiwan independence' ... to promote peaceful developments in cross- strait relations," he added.
The KMT has side-stepped frictions with China by accepting the 1992 consensus, a tacit agreement that there is only "one China”.
In response, Chu said in a letter to Xi, he hoped to "seek common ground and respect differences, increase mutual trust and geniality, strengthen exchanges and cooperation so as to allow the continued peaceful development of cross-strait relations."
He stressed that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait were "all the children of the Yellow Emperor" - in other words, all Chinese.
Chu also blamed Chinese Taipei’s pro-independence government under President Tsai Ing-wen for tensions with Beijing after pursuing anti-China policies.
The KMT on Saturday elected Chu as their leader, who has pledged to renew talks and rekindle stalled high-level contacts with Beijing.
Ties between Taiwan and China improved markedly under former president Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT between 2008 and 2016. The amicable relations culminated with a landmark meeting between Xi and him in Singapore in 2015.
But China has refuses to talk to Tsai, calling her a separatist.
Some analysts have warned that tensions between the two sides were at their highest since the mid-1990s.
China considers self-ruled Taiwan a breakaway province that should be reunited with the mainland under the internationally-recognized “One China” policy. Almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty.
It opposes other countries pursuing ties with the self-ruled island and has consistently warned Washington against engaging with Chinese Taipei.
China has, in the past, said its military exercises near Taiwan are a “solemn warning” to secessionist factions in the self-ruled island and their foreign backers, particularly, the United States.
The self-ruled island’s President Tsai Ing-wen has pledged to defend the island and has made modernizing its armed forces a priority, including developing a fleet of new submarines, buying new F-16 fighters from the United States and upgrading its warships.
The US is the island’s largest weapons supplier and an avid backer of Taiwan’s secessionist president.