Taiwan ex-Vice President Lien Chan to meet new Chinese leader Xi Jinping

Feb. 24-27 trip will also include meeting with President Hu Jintao

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Former Vice President Lien Chan will meet new Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing February 25, providing a first glimpse at the latter’s ideas on cross-straits relations, reports said Thursday.
Lien will spend four days and three nights in the Chinese capital beginning next Sunday February 24 in his capacity as honorary chairman of the ruling Kuomintang. Xi will meet him in his capacity as general secretary of China’s Communist Party, while he is expected to take over as president of China next month.
Observers will be watching Lien’s trip, at the invitation of the Communist Party, to see if there are any signs of a new policy toward Taiwan from the incoming leadership class. Any comments by Xi could well set the tone for relations during the next few years, reports said.
The former vice president first visited China in 2005 in what was deemed a ground-breaking trip for a KMT leader. After his party, led by Ma Ying-jeou, won the 2008 presidential election, relations between Taiwan and China grew much closer, especially in the fields of trade and transportation.
Lien will also be meeting outgoing President Hu Jintao and Jia Qinglin, officially China’s fourth-ranking leader, next Tuesday before returning home on Wednesday, the Chinese-language United Evening News reported Thursday.
The latest China trip will further burnish Lien’s international credentials, considering he already represented Taiwan at five Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summits, the paper wrote. The fact that he was the first high-ranking guest from Taiwan to be invited to a public meeting with Xi underlined the importance China’s leaders attached to his role, the paper added.
Xi could eventually raise the importance of relations with Taiwan if he felt his own rule or his party control over China was threatened by the widening gap between rich and poor, the United Evening News wrote Thursday. Mounting domestic pressure might cause him to come up with an initiative for political talks on Taiwan, according to the paper.
If Xi discusses Taiwan at his meeting with Lien, his words will have been vetted by the entire new Chinese leadership, thus giving a strong hint at how Beijing sees the cross-straits relationship developing over the next decade, the United Evening News wrote.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the so-called Koo-Wang talks in Singapore, the historic meeting between Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman C.F. Koo and Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits Chairman Wang Daohan which paved the way for further rapprochement between the two sides.
Lien’s delegation will reportedly number up to 40 people and include business leaders as well as KMT vice chairmen Lin Feng-cheng and John Chiang, reports said. The former vice president was expected to visit President Ma before his trip, the Presidential Office said.
In a separate report, Taiwan newsweekly The Journalist wrote that a major exhibition by Taiwanese painters in Beijing in late March would provide the background for more meetings between Xi and politicians from the country. The magazine named Lien, former opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Frank Hsieh and former Taiwan Solidarity Union Chairman Su Chin-chiang as the most likely Taiwanese visitors to the arts show.
Hsieh, who also served as premier, became the highest ranking former DPP leader to visit China last October when he traveled to Fujian and Beijing, officially to attend an international cocktail competition.