Leaders-in-waiting begin to have say in cross-strait affairs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 January, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 January, 2002, 12:00am

The landmark meeting at which Beijing softened its policies on Taiwan indicated that the mainland's new leadership line-up had begun to have a say in Taiwan affairs, analysts said yesterday.

The fact that Beijing had adjusted its policy on Taiwan showed that 'Hu Jintao and Zeng Qinghong will play a pivotal role in the leadership when taking office from Jiang Zemin', said Kao Huei, director of the mainland affairs studies institute of the Chinese Culture University in Taipei.

At a meeting in Beijing on Thursday, Vice-Premier Qian Qichen delivered a keynote speech calling on members of the Democratic Progressive Party to visit the mainland 'under an appropriate capacity' while a system was established to boost cross-strait economic ties.

The meeting was attended by Vice-President Hu Jintao and chaired by President Jiang Zemin's top aide, the director of the Communist Party's Central Organisation Department Zeng Qinghong.

In a photograph released by Xinhua, Mr Hu was shown sitting in the centre of the panel, with Mr Qian, who delivered the speech, on his left, and Mr Zeng further left.

Analysts believe Mr Hu, who will be 60 in December, will play a leading role in the Communist Party's new line-up to be unveiled at the 16th Party Congress scheduled for the autumn.

Mr Zeng, who turns 63 in July, has also been tipped to play an important role.

According to Professor Kao, Mr Hu's appearance was possibly an indication that he would take up Mr Jiang's role as the leader of the working group on Taiwan affairs after the transition of power.

Hsu Sze-chien, a political science scholar with the Taipei-based National Chengchi University, believed the mainland had deliberately delivered the message at a time when there was increasing speculation about the personnel reshuffle later this year.

'Hu and Zeng's appearance has the symbolic meaning that the mainland's power transition is continuing smoothly,' said Professor Hsu.

Both Professor Kao and Professor Hsu said Beijing had deliberately calculated the timing of its announcement on Taiwan.

The mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office deputy director Zhou Mingwei visited the United States earlier this month and had already hinted of a policy adjustment.

This is at least the third time in two months Mr Hu and Mr Zeng have made public appearances together, amid speculation that they are competing for major positions in the new leadership.

Before the speech on Taiwan policies, the two men had already shown up together at a national conference on party organisation last month and a national conference on propaganda works on January 12.

'This is a positive message for Taiwan since a good continuity of mainland leadership will help stabilise cross-strait relations,' said Professor Hsu.