BEIJING - A top Taiwanese politician arrived in China yesterday for a six-day visit amid hope for warmer relations between the longtime foes.
The head of the island's ruling party will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao during a groundbreaking visit that follows the May 20 inauguration of a new Taiwanese president, Ma Ying-jeou, who is eager to fulfill a campaign pledge of improving ties. For China, the visit provides an opportunity ahead of the Olympic Games in August to project itself as a superpower committed to world peace.
Wu Poh-hsiung, who chairs Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party, said upon his arrival yesterday in the eastern city of Nanjing that the visit could "create a win-win situation."
The televised arrival ceremony was the first break in two weeks of nearly 24-hour coverage of China's May 12 earthquake. It opened with a minute of silence honoring the 60,000 who died in the magnitude-7.9 tremor. Chen Yunlin, director of the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, thanked Wu for his government's pledge of $26 million for quake relief.
"Currently, the mainland-Taiwan relations have entered a spring for peaceful development," said Chen, according to the official New China News Agency.
Although the Taiwanese business community has a huge presence on the mainland, protocol makes it difficult for government officials to visit because China views Taiwan as a renegade province rather than an independent country. In 2005, then-Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan broke the ice with a visit to China, but the event carried less weight because the party was out of office.
The Kuomintang, or Nationalist party, led a protracted civil war waged against Mao Tse-tung's communist guerrillas before fleeing to Taiwan in 1949. But in recent years, it has favored rapprochement with the mainland in opposition to the Democratic Progressive Party, which was booted out of power in March elections.
"Beijing is clearly feeling more relaxed and confident since the election," said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy. Chinese leaders "want to bring Taiwan closer to the motherland. They feel they have nothing to lose by expanding economic ties and making Taiwan more dependent."
Barbara Demick writes for the Los Angeles Times.