A senior figure in Taiwan`s main opposition party began a landmark visit to the mainland Thursday, declaring "she was bringing a new voice".
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (left) delivers an invitation to Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong Thursday to the World Games 2009 in Kaohsiung. Her four-day trip will also take her to Shanghai. [China News
Chen Chu, mayor of Kaohsiung - the island`s second-biggest city - is the highest-ranking official from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to set foot on the mainland.
Chen`s much-heralded visit will see her visiting Beijing and Shanghai to promote the 2009 World Games scheduled for July in her hometown - the largest international sporting event to be hosted by the island.
During her meeting with Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong Thursday, Chen listened to the city`s experience in holding the widely-acclaimed 2008 Olympics, and said Kaohsiung would learn from it.
She invited Guo to attend the opening ceremony of the World Games, and the Beijing mayor later told reporters he would be "very happy" if he could make it. She will also meet Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng and Chinese Olympic Committee Chairman Liu Peng, and invite sports administrators, athletes and the public to the city.
Chen has downplayed the political implications of the trip, saying it was in her capacity as the mayor of the host city of the World Games, and follows conventional practice of promoting the event globally.
Responding to opposition to her mainland visit from some of her fellow DPP members and pro-independence activists, Chen was quoted by Taiwan media as saying "I work for the interest of all Kaohsiung citizens, which does not contradict my own political standing".
The Taiwan media described her visiting as ice-breaking, a notion that Chen accepted.
"I brought new voices from Taiwan to the mainland, which previously heard mostly from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT)," Chen told reporters in Beijing Thursday.
Cross-Straits relations began to blossom after KMT`s Ma Ying-jeou took office as the island`s leader last May, defeating the DPP and easing tensions with the mainland through trade, travel and tourism agreements.
Analysts said Chen`s visit is a milestone that may lead to more open communication between the mainland and Taiwan in the wake of warming ties.
Taiwan-based China Times said that the visit signals new momentum in cross-Straits communication.
"It proves that the cross-Straits relationship is now on a good track ... with political figures across the Straits now being able to find a suitable platform for communication," said the report.
Zhang Guanhua, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences` institute of Taiwan studies, said Chen`s visit is driven by pragmatism.
Although the DPP opposes the ruling KMT`s positive mainland policy which targets more exchanges and cooperation, more and more its members cannot ignore the practical benefits of warmer cross-Straits ties, Zhang said.
"Obviously, Chen`s mainland visit is aimed at stimulating her city`s economy," Zhang said.
In the first cross-Straits forum which ended Thursday in Fujian province, all Taiwan counties and cities ruled by the DPP had sent delegations, despite party chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen`s call for a boycott.
But, Zhang said: "Since the DPP is still preaching `Taiwan independence`, and as long as it does not give up secessionist moves, there is no possibility that the mainland will have political discussions with the party."
The island`s United Evening News carried a commentary Thursday, saying Chen`s visit would have a significant influence on the opposition party`s mainland policy. It signals Chen is highly aware of the impact that the mainland has on the island, and is apt to understand the huge opportunities that the mainland is offering, said the commentary.
"The move cannot be translated into a brand new mainland policy by the DPP, but it signals that the DPP is now ... more pragmatic."