BEIJING, April 28 -- Lien Chan's mainland trip is the focus of worldwide
What will the Kuomintang (KMT) chairman see on the mainland? What will he
talk about with Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of China (CPC)? What will he be able to take back to Taiwan?
What should we expect from Lien's visit? What appraisal is appropriate?
There are all sorts of answers to these questions. However, from talks
between the hosts and the guests, there seems to be a tacit understanding in
First, this is an event that looks to the future, not to the past. It has
been 60 years since leaders of the KMT and the CPC last met, in Chongqing. Now
that they are sitting down to have a face-to-face dialogue, the conversation
will not be about "settling old scores," but "planning for the future."
Some say that Chairman Lien's visit is "to end KMT-CPC hostilities" and "to
mark the end of the civil war between the KMT and the CPC." These assumptions
are quite natural and not completely off the mark. But in my opinion, the
so-called "historical hostilities" have been " settled for some time. Even if
there are still remnants of hostilities, they should not have too much gravitas
in present-day politics.
The two parties are restarting contact and communications because they both
agree on the one-China principle, recognize the "1992 Consensus," oppose "Taiwan
independence," see reunification as the ultimate goal and strive for
cross-Straits peace and stability. Previous political strife and the civil war
in the 1940s are issues for historians rather than the politicians of today.
As Lien himself has emphasized, "For this journey I expect to steer clear
of the complications of history and seek cross-Straits co-operation in the
spirit of mutual benefit, aid, co-existence and tolerance and in light of
Su Chi, Lien's adviser, has explained that the meeting of Hu and Lien will
"not touch upon the past and history," but will "face the future that
incorporates the two sides."
Some see Lien's visit as "one of nostalgia" because its itinerary includes
the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Lien's grandmother's tomb and his alma mater. But
these stops imply more than nostalgia. For the leader of the largest opposition
party in Taiwan to conduct these activities on the mainland, the significance
lies in the public manifestation of blood ties and family connections. It shows
how history and culture connect the two sides of the Taiwan Straits. This is
common ground, cherished by both sides, upon which can be built a bright future.
The second key area of understanding is that Lien's mainland visit will
focus on the big picture rather than small details. The "big picture" refers to
the big trends of globalization and the increasingly integrated economies of the
two sides as well as the eventual prospect of reconciliation and reunification
and the nation's destiny of prosperity. By "small details," we mean the power
structure and political wrangling in Taiwan.
Some say that the CPC-KMT contact is meant to "deliberately belittle the
official power of Taiwan," "bypass the government" and "help the pan-blue camp
in elections." These are typical interpretations of a narrowly focused mind.
The KMT has stated that it understands it does not have "official power" in
its grip, so Lien's role is not that of a "negotiator," but one of
"communicator." He is running the "first baton" of the relay race and is
creating the conditions for the "second baton" and "third baton."
Lien has repeatedly expressed his desire to retire. His mainland trip is to
promote cross-Straits relations. As for its impact on Taiwan's internal politics
or on the KMT, that is beyond his consideration, or at least is not his main
From the mainland's perspective, the decision to communicate with the KMT
depends on several factors. As General Secretary Hu Jintao said, "Whatever will
benefit our Taiwan compatriots, cross-Straits exchanges, the maintaining of
peace in the region, the development of relations and the peaceful reunification
of the two sides, we on the mainland will do our best to pursue." Beijing will
not be prejudiced in terms of who it will talk to, whether that person is in
power or not. There is no meddling by the mainland in Taiwan's internal
The more channels of communication there are across the Taiwan Straits, the
better. Given this line of thinking, Beijing will not only try hard to improve
relations with those political parties that accept the "1992 Consensus" and
oppose "Taiwan independence," but will also closely watch even the smallest
changes of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to pursue wider communication
No matter who they are, what party they belong to, or what they have said
or done in the past, as long as they consent to the "1992 Consensus" of the
one-China principle, the mainland will treat them equally, respond positively
and be willing to talk with.
It is worth noting that the DPP has made some subtle changes in its
reaction to Lien's mainland trip - from "vowing prosecution" to "giving its
blessing," from opposing Lien's acts of "uniting with the Communists and selling
out Taiwan" to putting on a smiling face for his "tentative steps." It seems
that political struggles inside Taiwan will not overturn the big trend of
cross-Straits relations. It is hoped that the DPP will give up its habitual
confrontation with the mainland and begin a new approach.
As Chen Yunlin, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council,
has pointed out, if the DPP can forfeit "its party principle of Taiwan
independence" and shake off its old shackles, we will no longer have barriers
preventing us from dealing with them. When such a new vista emerges,
cross-Straits relations will develop in a healthy direction.
The third key understanding is that Lien's trip has long-term ramifications
rather than short-term goals. Many people are speculating on what tangible
results will be seen after this visit. As a matter of fact, the recent journey
of Chiang Pin-kung to the mainland saw results in 12 agendas concerning economic
and trade exchanges and people-to-people exchanges.
Lien's trip, taking place shortly afterwards, is not intended to produce
similar concrete outcomes, but to give the possibility of contributing to
long-term peace and stability in cross-Straits relations.
Lien has stated that he is not in the mainland to negotiate or sign deals.
So, commentators focusing on the end result must adopt a long-term view and not
focus on trivialities and "compromises."
I believe that, for long-term benefits, both sides should move closer in
thinking about crucial and far-reaching issues such as the present difficulties
in cross-Straits relations, directions of future endeavours and ways to maintain
Furthermore, both sides should leave room for "separate interpretations"
and create an environment where differing views can share the same platform.
That should be manifest in "dialogue." During talks, each side should accept
that the other side may differ in opinion and sometimes it will be difficult to
reach an agreement.
Under the current circumstances, neither side can "clearly state" that it
is making compromises in principle. But it is hoped the two sides can find a
so-called "fuzzy way" to send signals of goodwill and sincerity and provide
latitude of imagination for the other side. As long as the dialogue of goodwill
continues, cross-Straits relations can benefit.
We have reason to hope that the historic journey of Lien and his delegation
will provide a fine example of how to create a high-level face-to-face dialogue
between political forces on the two sides. At the same time it can carve out
'"separate interpretations" and build an atmosphere conducive to inter-party
interaction and mutual benefit, aid, co-operation and peace. This will break the
stalemate and facilitate understanding, hopefully leading to a "major
As everyone is aware, the KMT and the CPC used to be arch rivals. But now
Lien Chan is being received with the best hospitality on the mainland. This is
because leaders of both parties are being open-minded, facing the future and
focusing on the long term. The three areas of implicit understanding are
accomplishments themselves, which will not only sustain the continuing
development of the relations between the two parties, but also provide points of
reference for future exchanges among political parties of the two sides of the
(Source: China Daily)