05/27/2008, 00.00
CHINA - TAIWAN
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Visit of nationalist leader begins, new era of relations with Beijing

Wu Poh-hsiung, head of the Kuomintang, has landed in Nanjing to pay homage to the last nationalist government and to Sun Yat-sen, embodiment of political union with Beijing. Great expectations for tomorrow's meeting with Hu Jintao.

Nanjing (AsiaNews) - After a 60-year diplomatic freeze, the chairman of the nationalist Chinese party of Taiwan has arrived in China, for what has been described as "the visit that opens a new era of relations between the two nations". Wu Poh-hsiung landed in Nanjing yesterday evening for a six-day visit, during which he will meet with Chinese president Hu Jintao.  The new president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, had pushed hard for the initiative.

As soon as he touched Chinese soil, Wu stated: "I hope our two sides can set aside disputes and create a win-win situation". He was met at the airport by more than 50 officials of the Chinese government, including the director of the office for Taiwanese affairs, Chen Yunlin.

During the visit, the delegation composed of 16 nationalist leaders will visit Nanjing, Beijing, and Shanghai.  The decision to land in the old Chinese capital was interpreted as a gesture of homage to the last nationalist government of China, which had its capital in Nanjing.  That government - headed by Generalissimo Chang Kai-shek - was defeated and exiled by the Red Army of Mao Zedong in 1949.

Moreover, Wu emphasised, "the founder of the Chinese Republic and of the Kuomintang, Sun Yat-sen, is buried in Nanjing.  I am here to pay homage to our leader".  The choice was no accident: Sun is honoured by both governments, and represents the real political common ground between the Taiwanese and Chinese.  This afternoon, the communist leaders of the southern city will be part of the audience for the speech in front of the mausoleum of the revolutionary.  In the prepared text, Wu "will report to Sun Yat-sen" that the nationalists have returned to power on the island after eight years.

The visit of the KMT leader is not an absolute first: former chairman Lien Chan paid an historic visit to China in 2005, but at the time the party was in the opposition and Taiwanese politics was dominated by the pro-independence Chen Shuibian.  With today's visit, many hope to see real improvement in relations between Taipei and Beijing.

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