Top Taiwan official Lien Chan to meet Xi Jinping in Beijing

Lien Chan's four-day visit to Beijing is seen as a major initiative in which both sides will set the tone for cross-strait links over the next decade

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 5:43am

The honorary chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party, Lien Chan, arrived yesterday in Beijing for what analysts say is a hugely significant trip that may shed light on policy direction in cross-strait relations for the next decade under the new Communist Party leadership.

Lien meets new Communist Party leader Xi Jinping today in the highest-level cross-straits meeting since Xi took office in November. Xi is expected to touch on his policy points towards the island.

Speculation is rife in Taiwan media that Xi, who is poised to become president in March, might propose strengthening co-operation between Taipei and Beijing in exploiting maritime resources in the disputed waters of the East China Sea and South China Sea.

Lien, however, declined to go into detail about his scheduled meeting with Xi before leaving Taipei last night.

"The purpose of my visit is very simple - just to exchange views with friends from various sectors, reviewing the past and looking forward to the future," Lien said of his four-day visit.

Lien's delegation consists of more than 30 politicians and business leaders, including Terry Guo Tai-ming, founder of electronics manufacturer Foxconn, and Lien's son, Sean Lien, seen as a potential future Taipei mayor.

Delegation spokeswoman Kuo Su-chun said Lien - invited by Xi to visit the mainland - would meet Xi at the Great Hall of the People this morning. "The honorary chairman is expected to hold a news conference at around 11am about his meeting with CCP General Secretary Xi," she said.

She said Lien would also meet outgoing President Hu Jintao tomorrow and other "friends" in Beijing during his trip. Lien made history in 2005 for his fence-mending trip to Beijing, where he met Hu and reached consensus on peaceful development of relations between Taipei and Beijing, rivals since the end of the civil war in 1949.

Analysts said his meeting with Xi would not only consolidate his status as the key figure from Taiwan on developing cross-strait relations, but would also reflect the desire of the mainland's new leadership for a fresh vision in relations over the next decade.

"The fact that Lien has been invited by Xi to visit Beijing shortly before the mainland cabinet reshuffle in March indicates that the CCP leadership has absolute trust and respect for Lien," said political analyst George Tsai Wei, a professor at Chinese Culture University.

Tsai said Xi may use Lien to make breakthrough progress in cross-strait relations and may ask Lien to convey that message to Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who set the policy of engaging Beijing after taking office in 2008.

Su Chi, a former Taiwan National Security Council secretary-general, said cross-strait relations "have reached the deep water zone", and "the new mainland leadership is expected to touch on more sensitive issues like political dialogues with Taipei".