Beijing warned Taiwan on Monday that its planned March referendum would push cross-Straits ties to the "brink of danger."
The referendum, scheduled to be held alongside "presidential" elections on March 20, would "increase tension in cross-Straits relations and push the relations step by step to the brink of danger," State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan told a gathering to mark the ninth anniversary of former president Jiang Zemin's eight-point proposal for reunification with Taiwan.
Tang said: "This kind of provocative action will only stir up antagonism and hostility."
On Friday, Chen outlined plans for a referendum he said was aimed at preventing the mainland from attacking Taiwan and from unilaterally changing the political status quo.
The referendum will ask voters if Taiwan should buy better anti-missile weapons if the mainland refuses to pull back missiles aimed at the island, and if Taiwan should talk to Beijing to create a peaceful and stable framework for future relations.
Tang called for negotiations to end the state of hostility under the "one China" principle, which dictates that both Taiwan and the mainland are part of one country.
Chen has rejected the "one China" precept and incensed Beijing by redefining bilateral ties as "one country on each side."
Tang told the gathering China was confident Taiwan would eventually return to the fold.
The state councilor added that the 23 million Taiwan compatriots are "our blood brothers" and the mainland will try all kinds of means to achieve the peaceful reunification.
Earlier on Monday, one of China's top Taiwan watchers warned the island it is drawing closer to triggering a crisis with plans for the referendum.
"The proposed referendum aimed at clearing the way for his splittist schemes will prove to be more risky and provocative," Wu Nengyuan, director of the Institute of Modern Taiwan Studies under the Fujian Academy of Social Sciences, said.
"More radical separatist steps may ensue from the vote to drag the cross-Straits situation into an uncontrolled state," Wu said.
Tensions across the Taiwan Straits have been simmering since Taiwan passed a controversial bill in November allowing referendums to be held for the first time.
In December, US President George W. Bush told visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that he opposed a Taiwan referendum which might lead the island towards independence.
(China Daily January 19, 2004)