Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Sunday promised "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan and decisive steps against Taiwanese independence, and Taipei responded that Beijing must respect the Taiwanese people's commitment to democracy and freedom, Reuters reported.
China claims democratic Taiwan as its territory and has increased military activity near the island over the past three years, arguing that it is responding to a "collusion" between Taipei and Washington, Taiwan's main international backer and arms supplier.
In August, China staged military exercises around Taiwan in response to a visit to Taipei by then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In his speech at the opening of the annual meeting of China's parliament, Li said Beijing adheres to the "one China" principle, according to which Taiwan is part of China, but did not directly threaten military action.
The government must implement our party's policy of "resolving the Taiwan issue" and "take decisive steps to oppose Taiwan independence and promote reunification," he told about 3,000 delegates in Beijing's vast Great Hall of the People.
"We must promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and advance China's peaceful unification process."
Most Taiwanese have no interest in being ruled by an autocratic China that has never shied away from using force to bring the island under its control.
In further comments on defense, Li said the armed forces must increase their combat readiness, but did not mention Taiwan in that context.
The National People's Congress (NPC), which has begun, is expected to confirm Xi Jinping's third term as president, as well as the appointments of his top team. It will also appoint a new prime minister, second in rank after Xi, as Li Keqiang leaves office, the BBC reports.
The two sessions, as the meetings are known, are held annually. But this year's is particularly important, as delegates are expected to change the makeup of several key institutions of the Communist Party and the state.
According to state media, they will also strengthen control over the bodies that oversee the financial sector and scientific and technical activity, will "strengthen the work of building the party" in private business.
These steps are likely to further blur the lines between the Chinese Communist Party and the government and strengthen the party's control over the private sector, the British media commented.
This is happening against the background of the ongoing fight against corruption, as a result of which a number of high-ranking businessmen have disappeared in recent years. The latest missing person is one of China's top tech dealmakers.