China seeks peace with Taiwan, stable economy

 

China's premier has vowed to work for peaceful reunification with self-ruled Taiwan, seeking to dispel alarm at an anti-secession law that could heighten regional tensions.

In his annual address to the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing's Soviet-era Great Hall of the People, Mr Wen Jiabao also pledged to keep the world's seventh-largest economy growing without overheating.

The 3,000 NPC delegates peppered Mr Wen's two-hour speech with applause, clapping loudest when he appealed for national unity, signaling their approval for the law that could prove the legal basis for an attack on Taiwan.

"This law represents the common will and strong determination of the entire Chinese people to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and never allow secessionist forces working for 'Taiwan independence' to separate Taiwan from China under any name or by any means," Mr Wen said.

Beijing has claimed sovereignty over the offshore island of 23 million since the end of China's civil war in 1949, when the defeated Nationalists fled there from the Communist-held mainland.

China has threatened to attack if Taiwan formally declares independence, and will boost defense spending by more than 12 percent this year in order to back up that pledge.

But Wen tempered his comments: "We will make the greatest possible effort to do anything conducive to the development of cross-Straits relations and the country's peaceful reunification."

Details of the law will be unveiled in parliament on Tuesday, and NPC delegates are thought likely to approve the measure, which is being closely watched around the region and in the United States, on March 14th.