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Friday, April 29, 2005

CNN.com - All eyes on Taiwan-China meet - Apr 28, 2005

CNN.com - All eyes on Taiwan-China meet - Apr 28, 2005: All eyes on Taiwan-China meet

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Taiwan's main opposition leader is in Beijing ahead of a highly-anticipated meeting with China's president, the first between the two rivals in half a century.

The Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party have been bitter enemies since China's civil war, when Mao Zedong's Communists defeated the Nationalists.

Friday will see the first meeting of Nationalist and Communist party leaders since Chiang Kai-shek and Mao met in 1945.

Lien Chan, who leads the Nationalist or KMT Party, said he hopes the meeting will end decades of hostilities between the two.

"I want to meet China's leaders and start a dialogue with them on the most important issues in cross-Straits relations ... peace, and economic and cultural exchanges," said Lien.

Before his meeting with Chinese president Hu Jintao, who is also chairman of the Chinese communist party, Lien is giving a speech at Peking University.

While Taiwan's opposition leader is being feted in Beijing during his eight-day trip, Taipei airport was turned into a battleground when he left as opponents and supporters of independence for the island scuffled with each other and police.

Critics set off firecrackers and fought with police, denouncing Lien for kowtowing to Beijing as political tensions within Taiwan remain high over how to deal with China.

Opponents fear Lien's visit will undermine Taiwan's hopes for remaining separate from the Communist mainland.

For their part, Lien's supporters have argued the trip will ease tensions between Taipei and Beijing -- tensions that have increased in recent months following China's passage of a law allowing it to use force to prevent Taiwan from becoming independent.

For Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian, Lien's visit is a major political embarrassment.

Chen, who been in office for five years, won reelection in a bitterly contested campaign battle against Lien last year.

On Thursday Chen registered his criticism of Beijing back home in Taipei.

Taiwan's president criticized China's "one country, two systems" policy in a speech before members of the Taiwanese association of Macau and Hong Kong.

Beijing introduced the plan as it negotiated the eventual handover of Hong Kong from British control.

Chen also dismissed Beijing's controversial anti-secession law that gives a legal basis for military action if Taiwan seeks independence from the mainland.

Beijing has refused to deal with Chen because of his pro-independence views and many observers believe China's invitation to Lien is part of an effort to isolate Chen and send a signal to the people of Taiwan that only politicians with a softer line on China can make progress with Beijing.

But whatever Lien achieves in his China visit he will have to sell it to Taiwan's people, who remain deeply divided over how the island should deal with its giant communist neighbor.

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