BEIJING — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned Taiwan on Tuesday against making more provocative moves that heighten cross-strait tensions but also offered an olive branch to the island's leadership for dialogue in exchange for giving up activities that promote independence.
"As long as they are committed to the one-China principle we are ready to have dialogues and negotiations, including with the Democratic Progressive Party, as long as the party is willing to give up its platform for Taiwan independence," Wen said during his annual meeting with the press at the end of the National People's Congress.
Wen slammed the administration of Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian for "going all-out to pursue their goal of independence," including proposing constitutional changes and scrapping policy guidelines leading toward eventual unification with the mainland.
The moves "seriously undermined peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," Wen said. "The Taiwan authority will lose all public support for his unjust cause."
"We are fully prepared for all eventualities," said Wen, referring to Beijing's threats to take Taiwan back by force if it tries to declare formal independence.
The Chinese premier's other main concern during this year's parliamentary meetings was the nation's peasants. The government made sweeping promises to bring welfare and prosperity to the long-neglected Chinese countryside.
"I myself am the son of a farmer," Wen said. "What saddens me the most is that over the past three years I have not been able to find better solutions for issues most important to the public, such as the high price of healthcare, education and housing."
The premier vowed to do more to solve such problems. "I'd like to assure you, once you know the difficulties and the problems, the problems are no longer so difficult," Wen said. "Failure is not an option."
Most analysts give the administration of President Hu Jintao and Wen relatively high marks for their performance three years after coming to power. They seem to have put their stamp on policy and have consolidated their power at the upper reaches of the Communist Party, analysts say.
What sets the pair apart from their political predecessors is a commitment not just to economic development but also to bridging the country's yawning rich-poor gap.
Beijing plans to invest more than $40 billion in rural areas this year to build a "new socialist countryside."
The big task ahead, however, will be to implement Hu and Wen's rural development programs at the local level, reduce layers of government and staff local ranks with their allies. These are essential steps for maintaining political momentum.
Many residents of the countryside feel that too much wealth was channeled to Beijing, Shanghai and a handful of rich eastern provinces under the policies of past leaders Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping.
"China's economic development is very imbalanced," said Yang Zhaohui, a Communist Party history professor at Peking University. "These local governments are not happy that they didn't benefit more."
Western analysts say the administration shows little sign of significant movement in the areas of political reform and land reform, at a time when corruption is rife and unrest tied to farm seizures is growing.
Wen admitted that land is the core issue concerning the Chinese peasantry. But there are no plans to change the ownership rights for rural land, which belongs not to individual farmers but rather to village collectives. But Wen stressed the importance of protecting farmers' rights, especially during land seizures for commercial development. Any illegal land grab must be harshly punished, he said.
During the premier's meeting with the press, he mentioned that he had found thousands of questions and suggestions from the public on the Internet and that cyberspace is a tool that can help the government improve its work. Asked about Internet censorship in China, the premier said that freedom comes with responsibilities.
"As the people's government we welcome the democratic supervision of the people," Wen said. "Every citizen has the right to use the Internet. But they must also follow the law and safeguard our national interest."