Lien Chan is the first Chinese Kuomintang (KMT) leader to set foot on the Chinese mainland soil since the KMT government was defeated by Chinese Communist forces and fled to Taiwan in 1949. Lien's historic visit and meeting with CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao ended over half a century of antagonism. He came carrying a message of peace, and called for cross-strait cooperation. Dialogue is the key to healing old wounds and moving forward to benefit people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. An important step has been taken.
"If not us, who? And if not now, when?" - Chinese KMT Chairman Lien Chan quoted late U.S. President Ronald Reagan for the motivation behind his historic mainland visit, which he called a "journey of peace." Lien used the quotation to conclude his speech delivered on April 29 at China's prestigious Peking University, where his mother had once studied. The stop was one of the scheduled activities during his weeklong four-city visit to the mainland, which took him to Nanjing, Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai.
Invited by Hu Jintao, in his capacity as general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Lien led a large delegation of over 60 members, including three vice chairpersons and some high-ranking KMT party officials.
When they set foot in Nanjing, on April 26, it marked the first visit to the Chinese mainland for Lien Chan since he left Xi'an in 1946. In the process it was also the first visit by a KMT party chairman to the mainland since 1949, which according to the official Xinhua News Agency indicated that the relations between the KMT and CPC had entered a new phase.
"I am very happy we finally took this historic step," Lien said in an emotionally charged speech made in Nanjing's Lukou Airport. He said the KMT is ready to do its part in realizing the objective of establishing cross-strait peace and stability.
And before the KMT delegation left for the mainland, Lien had already stated in Taipei that his mainland visit could be mutually beneficial for both sides of the strait, and both sides can seize the opportunity to move toward a win-win solution, to ensure mutual benefit and help coexistence and common development.
About history and people
In his speech made at Peking University, Lien told the audience that it was a historical trend and common aspiration of the people that encouraged him to pursue the goals of peace and harmony.
Talking of the historical trend, Lien said that during the past years, the direction in which both sides of the Taiwan Strait had developed was reducing the gap between the two sides. He considered this trend of great importance.
Turning to the aspiration of the people, he believed giving priority to the interests and well-being of the people "is a trend supported by both the 23 million people in Taiwan and the 1.3 billion people on the mainland."
Lien's words were echoed by KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kung. In an interview with China Central Television, Chiang said that most of the Taiwanese people hope that both sides of the strait can maintain peace, and they hoped KMT's mainland visit can help promote cross-strait cooperation.
An article of Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao points out that over 70 percent of Taiwan residents support Lien Chan's mainland visit.
According to Peng Weixue, Vice Director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, this support by Taiwan residents is closely related to the series of achievements made by Chiang Pin-kung's cross-strait visit earlier in March this year. It points to people in Taiwan realizing that their economy and the mainland's are more and more dependent on each other and making cross-strait economic and trade cooperation is the key factor influencing the future development of Taiwan.
All indications are that Lien's mainland visit is not only supported by the majority of people living in Taiwan, but also lauded by people of the other side of the strait. This seemed evident when hundreds of citizens gathered at Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum in Nanjing to greet Lien there.
"I got up early this morning and came to welcome Lien to Nanjing," pensioner Xing Qi told Beijing Review. "I'm confident about Lien's visit and hope that this will be a good beginning," Xing added.
Duan Dagang, 64-year-old retired technician, was also among the crowd of well-wishers. He believed that the KMT delegation visit represented the common aspiration of all Chinese people. "We welcome you, Chairman Lien," he greeted heartedly.
I come in peace
Since this mainland visit was defined by Lien himself as a "journey of peace," the word "peace" was not only frequently mentioned in his speeches but also widely used by the media.
Lien said in his speech at Peking University that the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should work together for peace and stability by actively maintaining the status quo.
He quoted a famous Western saying "peace by pieces," saying that every Chinese should contribute his "piece" of effort to the promotion of peace across the Taiwan Strait, and every Chinese should be held accountable for the well-being of the rest of the Chinese on the globe.
Several newspapers picked up on Lien's peace slogan. Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao published an editorial noting that Lien's "journey of peace" has not only won the support of mainlanders, but also won the acclaims of countries that are concerned with the safety of the Taiwan Strait and it will be beneficial for the cross-strait peace.