Lien Chan given red-carpet treatment on arrival
Lawrence Chung in Beijing
The former leader of Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang, Lien Chan, met mainland President Hu Jintao at a dinner party in Beijing on the first day of a two-week visit to seek further cross-strait economic co-operation.
The banquet, thrown by Mr Hu before an official get-together on Sunday, reflects the importance that Beijing attaches to the KMT honorary chairman's visit, especially when the government of the island's independence-leaning president, Chen Shui-bian, had heaped scorn on Mr Lien's trip.
A KMT official said no serious issues were discussed at the dinner, although Mr Lien did present Mr Hu with a gift - a bronze ornament in the shape of a Chinese sleeve.
Leading a 170-strong delegation made up of four KMT vice-chairmen, key party cadres, scholars, economists and business leaders, Mr Lien was given a red-carpet welcome when he and his wife, Fang Yu, arrived in Beijing yesterday.
Chen Yunlin, director of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, led four of his deputies and a group of other officials to greet Mr Lien at the airport.
Mr Lien and his delegation will take part in a high-profile two-day economic forum beginning today designed to find ways to bolster cross-strait economic co-operation, which he said would create a win-win situation for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
'Our two sides must continue our concerted effort to promote trade and economic co-operation as well as the happiness of the people across the Taiwan Strait,' Mr Lien said in a speech at the airport.
Mr Lien made history last year with a landmark visit to the mainland as head of the KMT, which had been locked in rivalry with the Communist Party since the end of the civil war in 1949.
During his April visit, he mended fences with Mr Hu and reached a five-point consensus to promote cross-strait peace and economic co-operation.
'Were it not for the [Taiwanese] government's disapproval, cross-strait trade would have developed further,' Mr Lien said.
The Chen government has refused to back the consensus reached by Mr Lien, saying he had no right and no power to represent the island's government.
It also barred an economic forum from being held in Taipei in December and warned that a series of economic sweeteners offered by Beijing are aimed at lulling the island into a false sense of security.