Taipei, April 2 (CNA) Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te (賴清德) urged China on Sunday to have confidence to engage in exchanges with Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) instead of looking at the pro-independence party through the eyes of the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT).
Cross-Taiwan Strait peace is the top policy goal of President Tsai Ing-wen's government -- the same as all previous governments under former presidents Lee Teng-hui, Chen Chui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou -- Lai said in a speech celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Journalist magazine.
"China should understand the DPP's culture and its thinking, but not through the KMT," he said, adding that if China does not change its mindset, it would never get a real understanding of the DPP -- and that is the question now," Lai said.
Regarding China's insistence that the DPP accepts the "1992 consensus" before it will talk with the Tsai government, Lai said it was neither necessary for China nor fair to the DPP.
"The reality today is that it is not Taiwan that wants to unify with China; it is also not Taiwan that wants to change the status quo across the strait. The days have passed when Taiwan wants to 'recover the mainland.' It is China that wants to change the status quo of Taiwan because it wants to unify with Taiwan," said the mayor and a DPP stalwart.
"If a big company wants to merge with a smaller one, it will make an offer. Now China wants Taiwan to make an offer. If Taiwan's offer is not acceptable to China, China says it will not have exchanges with Taiwan. China even threatens to use armed force to get Taiwan. This is not right; neither is it fair to Taiwan," Lai said.
China's attitude (toward Taiwan) aside, Lai said it was important for Taiwanese people to reach a consensus. "If the Taiwanese view on China is divided, no peace can be maintained across the strait," he said.
Lai is a political star in Taiwan, having enjoyed high popularity as a political powerhouse in southern Taiwan along with Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu.
As his second term as mayor of Tainan will end next year, people are watching to see what he will choose to do next.
For the first time on Sunday, he disclosed that President Tsai had invited him to serve as the secretary-general of the Presidential Office, an offer he said he declined because his city needed him to finish a project associated with rebuilding from a devastating earthquake and an underground railway project.
There has since been speculation that he will run for mayor in New Taipei in 2018, but Lai said Sunday the DPP should first consider nominating "local politicians" for that job.
(By Sophia Yeh and S.C. Chang)