108 Taiwanian Old
Warriors of KTM -- make Official Visit To Beijing
March 29, 2005 BEIJING -- A
delegation of Taiwan's opposition Nationalists arrived in
mainland China on Monday for the first official visit by the
party since it lost a civil war to the Communists more than
half a century ago.
The trip comes on the heels of a
massive weekend rally in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, by
several hundred thousand people to protest Beijing's passage
of an anti-secession law aimed at preventing the island from
The Nationalist Party -- also
known as the Kuomintang, or KMT -- was once the archenemy of
Beijing. Now it hopes to play the role of peacemaker.
"They are trying to send the message
that the KMT is for peaceful resolution of cross-strait
tensions, despite a long history of misunderstandings and
high emotions," said Andrew Yang, head of the Chinese
Council of Advanced Policy Studies, a Taipei think tank.
In some ways, the trip is a reminder
of how much the Nationalists and Communists have in common.
Both were founded on the mainland and believe that Taiwan is
part of China.
Ever since the Nationalist Party lost
its grip on power in China and fled to Taiwan in 1949,
returning to power on the mainland has been its ultimate
goal. Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party changed
cross-strait relations when it swept into power in 2000 and
began advocating for a more separate identity for the island
of 23 million people.
To the Communists, who have long
threatened to take Taiwan back by force if necessary, the
Nationalists may now appear to be the lesser of two
"We know the KMT may be
anti-Communist, but they are not anti-China," said Xu
Bodong, a Taiwan expert at Beijing Union University. "They
have always maintained that there is only one China and they
are against Taiwan independence."
Chiang Pin-kung, 73, the Nationalist
Party vice chairman who heads the 30-member delegation, said
the group's goal was to push for reconciliation by
showcasing the ties between the island and the mainland.
On the delegates' agenda is a visit
to the southern city of Guangzhou to pay their respects to
the graves of Nationalists who died during an uprising
against the Qing dynasty a century ago. They also plan to
stop in the capital of Jiangsu province, Nanjing, the
party's former seat of power, to honor the tomb of Sun
Yat-sen. He is recognized by both the Communists and
Nationalists as the founding father of modern China.
The trip is timed to coincide with a
festival devoted to maintaining gravesites, celebrated on
both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
"They are trying to show that
Taiwan's roots are in China and that we are all Chinese," Xu
The Nationalists also are expected to
meet with Taiwanese businesspeople working on the mainland
and push for closer economic ties. They plan to end their
five-day trip in Beijing, where they hope to meet with
high-level Chinese officials and pave the way for a mainland
visit this summer by Nationalist Party Chairman Lien
The last time the Nationalists and
Communists joined hands was during World War II, when they
battled Japan. It remains to be seen if this visit signals a
new partnership to end tensions that have plagued the two
sides for more than five decades.
This could prove to be the last
chance for an old generation of Nationalists to play a role
in cross-strait politics as a new breed of Taiwanese with
fewer links to the mainland begins to take their place.
"The older KMT members are all born
in China and grew up in China," said Arthur Ding, a research
fellow at the Institute of International Relations at
National Chengchi University in Taipei. "They consider
themselves Chinese. The new generation is more mixed. They
probably don't see unification as an ultimate goal."
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