Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Most Important Visit since Richard Nixon

People's Daily Online -- KMT chairman arrives in Nanjing for mainland visit

Today, the Chairman of the Kuomintang party in Taiwan Lien Chan, heading a 70-person delegation, started an 8 day long visit to mainland China.

In my opinion, it's the most important visit here - I'm in Beijing at the moment - since Richard Nixon came here in 1972 and broke the ice in the relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

I have spent the last few days in Chongqing - then Chunking - where the last meeting between the leaders of the Communist Party and Kuomintang took place in 1945. When Lien Chan comes to Beijing to meet the today leaders of the Communist Party, it will be the first meeting since then.

The meeting in 1945 did not succeed in averting a civil war. That the Nationalist lost that war was - in retrospect - hardly surprising. They were seen as corrupt and had seriously mismanaged the economy. Hyperinflation destroyed them as much as the Soviet-armed peasant armies of Mao Tsetung did.

Chiang Kai-Shek and the Nationalist army had to flee to Taiwan in 1949, and since then the civil war was been continued, although with political and diplomatic means rather than military.

But both parties have changed profoundly. Since 1978, the Communist Party has lead China on a path that most would see as far more capitalist than communist, although it remains a solid one-party dictatorship.

And Kuomintang was the key force in taking Taiwan from a military-dominated dictatorship to what today is a vibrant Chinese democracy - in addition, of course, to the spectacular economic success of Taiwan.

Both parties agree strongly on one subject - there is only one China. They disagree, however, on who should run it, and how it should be run.

I have been surprised over the years by the discreet respect for the KMT that can be found around "Red China". They are the standard-bearers of the 1910 revolution that started the process of modernising China and of introducing Western ideas in a very old-fasioned society. Sun Yat-Sen, who's mausoleum Lien Chan vill visit tomorrow, is honored by Nationalist and Communsts alike.

If the Communist and Nationalist parties - the two dominating political forces in the past century of China - can now start talking it will be the true end of the civil war and the start of something profoundly new.

It will be most interesting to watch the amount and type of coverage the visit is given by the Chinese media during the coming 8 days. One can be certain that this is something that will be decided at the very top of the pyramid in Beijing. It will be an important signal for the future.

My belief is that we will be seeing eight days that will change the politics of this region in nearly the same way as Richard Nixons historic visit did.

On a different note I might just add that this comment of mine in all probability will have no readers at all in China. This blog belongs to the part of the Internet that is being blocked by the authorities in China. For some reason one way of posting messages to the blog had however not be blocked.

There are always ways around the restrictions on freedom.