Even the most obscure politicians and officials from the European Union and the United States will get serious international news coverage when they visit Taiwan these days. And yet, when a mainland Chinese delegation went on an official visit to Taipei at the weekend – the first such visit in three years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – the Western news media mostly stayed mum. You really have to wonder what hidden agenda lies behind such editorial silence. The delegation was led by Li Xiaodong, deputy director of the Shanghai office of the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office. The host was the municipal government of Taipei city, whose mayor is Wayne Chiang Wan-an. The business and cultural exchange is especially significant, given the heightened tensions between both sides while Washington has been busy stirring the pot, with enthusiastic cheerleading from President Tsai Ing-wen and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Chiang is the great-grandson of Chiang Kai-shek. In last year’s mayoral election, he handily beat Chen Shih-chung of the Democratic Progressive Party by more than 10 percentage points in votes. A rising star of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the city’s youngest mayor in its history, he is serious presidential material for the next election in 2024. Just as his critics had claimed before the mayoral election that his surname would not confer advantage with name recognition, but rather old baggage with its association with a dictator, the same argument will no doubt be recycled in the lead-up to 2024. For all the incessant DPP propaganda, though, Taiwanese people don’t generally resent the Chiang family as it’s often claimed. If Chiang Kai-shek had established a ruthless dictatorship in Taiwan, his son Chiang Ching-kuo paved the way for the island’s democratic transition. Beijing sees window of opportunity in Taiwan with KMT visit: analyst Having such political lineage has been a plus in the recent history of Southeast Asia. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have shown moderation and pragmatism, though both have been shadowed by their fathers’ respective dictatorship and authoritarianism. Beijing is clearly building bridges with the KMT following the mainland’s reopening from the pandemic. The Shanghai officials’ visit is just the beginning. Imagine a KMT government led by someone like Chiang the younger in 2024, and you can be sure cross-strait relations will return to normality and trade to vibrancy. The whole region will be a safer and more stable place. But that’s not what Washington wants. For almost its entire history, the KMT had Washington support; not any more. Its delegates were treated like nobodies during an unofficial visit to the US last year. The KMT was acceptable when Sino-American relations were relatively stable. Now it’s being ignored. All that changed with the Tsai presidency, which came in 2016 at an extremely convenient time as she has been providing just the wedge the US needs to drive Taiwan against Beijing. Somehow, much of the Western mainstream media have chosen to report only the mainland’s antagonism, which is often deliberately provoked by Western governments, rather than attempts at rapprochement. It’s hard not to see a not-so-hidden editorial support for the island’s independence or secession. Taiwan to boost military ties with US to curb ‘authoritarian expansionism’ The resounding defeats of the DPP in last year’s local elections were a big disappointment and no doubt raised serious alarm bells in Washington. The KMT is building from that electoral momentum. But while Washington can provide open support to the DPP, the KMT and Beijing must keep a firm distance. As the opposition, the Nationalists must show they are for Taiwan, and not go too soft on the mainland. The island may buy billions worth of old weapons from the US every few months, and the mainland may stage intimidating military exercises by the People’s Liberation Army. But at the end of the day, there are many common interests and humanity shared between mainlanders and Taiwanese. How ironic that the key to regional, perhaps even world peace will rest on Taiwan’s voters. Only their collective wisdom can save us all.