Most Important Visit since Richard Nixon

People’s Daily Online — KMT chairman arrives in Nanjing for mainland visit

Today, the Chairman of the Kuomintang party in Taiwan Lien Chan, heading a 70-person delegation, started an 8 day long visit to mainland China.

In my opinion, it’s the most important visit here – I’m in Beijing at the moment – since Richard Nixon came here in 1972 and broke the ice in the relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

I have spent the last few days in Chongqing – then Chunking – where the last meeting between the leaders of the Communist Party and Kuomintang took place in 1945. When Lien Chan comes to Beijing to meet the today leaders of the Communist Party, it will be the first meeting since then.

The meeting in 1945 did not succeed in averting a civil war. That the Nationalist lost that war was – in retrospect – hardly surprising. They were seen as corrupt and had seriously mismanaged the economy. Hyperinflation destroyed them as much as the Soviet-armed peasant armies of Mao Tsetung did.

Chiang Kai-Shek and the Nationalist army had to flee to Taiwan in 1949, and since then the civil war was been continued, although with political and diplomatic means rather than military.

But both parties have changed profoundly. Since 1978, the Communist Party has lead China on a path that most would see as far more capitalist than communist, although it remains a solid one-party dictatorship.

And Kuomintang was the key force in taking Taiwan from a military-dominated dictatorship to what today is a vibrant Chinese democracy – in addition, of course, to the spectacular economic success of Taiwan.

Both parties agree strongly on one subject – there is only one China. They disagree, however, on who should run it, and how it should be run.

I have been surprised over the years by the discreet respect for the KMT that can be found around ”Red China”. They are the standard-bearers of the 1910 revolution that started the process of modernising China and of introducing Western ideas in a very old-fasioned society. Sun Yat-Sen, who’s mausoleum Lien Chan vill visit tomorrow, is honored by Nationalist and Communsts alike.

If the Communist and Nationalist parties – the two dominating political forces in the past century of China – can now start talking it will be the true end of the civil war and the start of something profoundly new.

It will be most interesting to watch the amount and type of coverage the visit is given by the Chinese media during the coming 8 days. One can be certain that this is something that will be decided at the very top of the pyramid in Beijing. It will be an important signal for the future.

My belief is that we will be seeing eight days that will change the politics of this region in nearly the same way as Richard Nixons historic visit did.

On a different note I might just add that this comment of mine in all probability will have no readers at all in China. This blog belongs to the part of the Internet that is being blocked by the authorities in China. For some reason one way of posting messages to the blog had however not be blocked.

There are always ways around the restrictions on freedom.

4 Responses to Most Important Visit since Richard Nixon

  1. Björn Hallberg skriver:

    Indeed, like you point out, this is a historic moment and something that could go a long way towards normalizing relations between Mainland China and Taiwan BUT … there always seems to be a but …

    As you hinted, Lien Chan is the Taiwan opposition leader of the Kuomintang (KMT). Some have dubbed this tactic by China ”divide and conquer” naturally. Lien could even be breaking national law by negotiating with Chinese leaders (even if that is highly unlikely in reality).

    I have no illusions regarding Taiwan. They may be democratic and one of three countries in the region that achieved democracy ”from below” (as late as 1991), BUT the heritage of Kai-shek, the rampant nationalism (not unlike in Mainland China), a high level of corruption and U.S. support for the KMT since the 1940s (and later for democratic Taiwan and the reigning Democratic Progressive Party which in turn supports a pro-independence platform) makes it a bit more complex unfortunately.
    It is virtually impossible to mention the issue of Taiwan without bringing up the U.S. and their strange mutual history. Certainly the U.S. has an agenda here (because of old times, old failures and a possible future conflict with Mainland China) that may or may not ”let” Taiwan return to Chinese rule, no matter how democratic or peaceful the process may be. Or what the population may wish in the future. Last time I checked, popular support for any sort of unification was still only around 10-20%.

    The irony here is that even the KMT now agrees that unification is the right course, only officially not as long as China is governed by the Communist party (even if ”communism” is more a slogan than actual policy these days, just as ”Democracy” in most cases).
    Obviously as the governing party has such an overt pro-independence agenda one has to consider political profiling, it makes sense for the KMT to debate unification. That is the doctrine of opposition, right? ;) (highlighting another well-known problem with ”democracy”)

    Despite recent progress … old hatred, prejudice, nationalistic propaganda and the continued influence of the United States still loom over the region.

  2. Clara skriver:

    Just like Richard Nixon, whos
    family once owned a lemon grove
    and ran an unsuccessful fruit stand for ten years, your visit in China
    will surely, in retrospect, prove to have been equally as historic as his.

  3. Tor skriver:

    The fruits from Nixon’s tree were peace as opposed to war and justice as opposed on inequity. During Nixon’s presidency, he withdrew all American troops from South Vietnam, ended the draft, opened relations with China, established détente with the Soviet Union via the SALT I accords, and he waged an aggressive war on drugs while America was entangled in a serious heroin epidemic. These were the fruits of his presidency. If we view Nixon as the tree, and his actions the fruit, then using Jesus’s logic, Nixon must have been a good man because a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Only a good tree can produce good fruit.

  4. Björn Hallberg skriver:

    I wasn’t going to comment on Nixon but since this nonsensical ”lemon tree metaphor” turned up and it is after all 30 years since the end of the war, I feel compelled to set history straight. Or at least one part of it, examining all fallacies would simply take too long.

    Nixon in Vietnam: Nixon DID end the war, at least so far as the US was concerned. But he sure took his time doing it and not before trying the ”Vietnamization” strategy. In reality it meant more ground work for the South Vietnamese army (the surrogate soldiers doctrine) and increased air warfare (Christmas bombings for instance). He also expanded the conflict to Laos and Cambodia. The results of the expansion could be discussed forever and ever.

    In the end, Nixon did pretty much what Johnson had tried to do in Paris, 1968. And the guarantee that they would not abandon South Vietnam was not upheld. As we know, the civil war raged on for two more years after the US pulled out and ended only with the fall of Saigon in 1975. The US still hails the ”domino theory” however and claims that the overall mission was a success.

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