Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said she would welcome talks so long as her government was allowed to represent itself and pursue self-rule.
"It's rather empty and doesn't have any new points except that cross-strait unification would not affect the interests of other countries", said Fan Shih-ping, political analyst at National Taiwan Normal University, adding that Xi's words may also be intended for the United States, which views Taiwan as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy.
FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) looks on as his tea cup is replenished during the second plenary session of the National People's Congress in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on March 9, 2018.
What did President Xi say?
"The political disputes that have existed for a long time. affect the healthy and continuous development of the cross-strait relationship and can not be passed from generation to generation", he said.
At the same time, Taiwan has developed a vibrant democratic system and a deepening sense of local identity that is distinct from China - and, for some, hostile to the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2015, he held an unprecedented leader-to-leader meeting with then-Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou.
But Taiwanese voters dealt Ms. Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party a serious blow in mayoral elections in November, forcing Ms. Tsai to abandon her position as party chair.
Xi proposed talks between the two sides to work out "a systematic arrangement for the peaceful development of the cross-strait relationship".
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The Chinese President's Wednesday address was a far cry from one he gave in March past year, in which he said "not a single inch of our land" could be ceded from China, adding the country was prepared to "fight the bloody battle against our enemies". The KMT generally interprets the consensus as maintaining the status quo rather than adopting a "one country, two systems" framework.
Yesterday, Tsai warned Beijing that Taiwan's people would never give up the kind of freedoms unseen on the authoritarian mainland.
Apart from keeping up the pressure on the Tsai administration, President Xi's speech was also a warning to the U.S., which China worries will leverage the Taiwan issue to force more concessions from the Chinese. Her remarks signaled that she would continue to take a firm line toward Beijing despite her recent election losses to Taiwan's more Beijing-friendly Kuomintang, Chiang's former party.
Tsai also urged China to understand Taiwanese people's thinking and needs.
Wednesday's statement comes amid escalating tensions between the US and China.
On Jan 1, 1979, China stopped decades of regular artillery bombardment of Taiwan-controlled islands off the mainland.
Despite this disclaimer, Xi's speech, which came on the 40th anniversary of a key policy statement which opened the door to improving relations between Beijing and Taipei, was largely placatory in nature, reiterating China's vision that Taiwan would be reunited with the motherland under a "one country, two systems" basis, much like the one practiced in Hong Kong, which would usher in a new era of prosperity for all.
"I don't think the speech was negative", said David Lu, vice president of the equity department at Taishin International Bank in Taipei.