HONG KONG (AP) _ A Hong Kong magazine quoted China's Communist Party chairman Friday as saying he could not rule out the eventual use of force to reunite Taiwan with the mainland.

The independent magazine Pai Shing said Hu Yaobang made the remarks May 10 in an interview in Peking with its publisher, Lu Keng.

It quoted Hu as saying China does not have the military strength now to use force because ''military might depends on a strong economy.''

''For example, in seven or ten years' time when our economy becomes strong, our national defense is modernized and the majority of the (Taiwan) people want to return (to China), we may take some strong action,'' he was quoted as telling Lu.

When the publisher told him that most of Taiwan's people did not want reunification with China, Hu replied, ''It is reasonable to believe that the number (wanting unification) will increase gradually year by year. Of course to say day by day is an exaggeration,'' the report said.

Hu also told Lu he felt Chiang Ching-kuo, president of the Nationalist Chinese government on Taiwan, has softened his attitude, according to the magazine. ''Although he is still rejecting reunification offers, he has made less exaggerated statements than before,'' he said.

The publisher asked why China, which has repeatedly said it would solve the Taiwan problem by peaceful means, does not declare publicly that it will not use force. The reply quoted was: ''This I can not do. ... If I so promise, they (the Nationalist CHinese) will sleep well with nothing to worry about.''

The Nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949 after being defeated by the Communists in the civil war.