China respects Taiwan's social system, senior official says

BEIJING - China respects Taiwan's social system and values, a senior Chinese leader said on Sunday, in the wake of sweeping protests in Taiwan over a controversial trade deal.

Yu Zhengsheng, China's top political adviser and a member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee, said problems in cross-Straits relations should be resolved by China giving "more understanding, respect and consideration from the perspective of a family" to Taiwan, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Yu made the remarks at a forum on cross-Strait ties in the coastal city of Xiamen. "We respect their identification with the current social system, values and lifestyles; and we know that some friends still harbour misgivings on the development of the cross-Strait relations," Yu said, according to Xinhua.

China's top official in charge of relations with Taiwan is to make his first visit to the self-ruled island this month.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since Nationalist forces, defeated by the Communists, fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has never ruled out the use of force to bring it under its control.

In recent years the two sides have built extensive economic ties, and their first direct government-to-government talks in China in February marked a big step towards expanding cross-strait dialogue beyond trade.

But many younger people feel little connection to Communist-ruled China and there has been a recent upsurge in pride in Taiwan's own cultural and historic identity, including use of the island's indigenous languages, as opposed to the official tongue of Mandarin.

Protesters occupied Taiwan's parliament during three weeks of mass agitation starting in March, angered by a trade pact with China they fear will benefit wealthy companies with Chinese links and undermine Taiwan's cherished democratic institutions.