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BEIJING – The chairwoman of Taiwan's main opposition Nationalist Party was due to meet with Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday as part of a continuing dialogue between the former bitter foes against the background of a new chill in China-Taiwan relations.
Hung Hsiu-chu's visit to Beijing on Tuesday comes after China cut off communication and exchanges with Taiwan's government earlier this year in response to independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen's refusal to endorse China's insistence that the two sides are part of a single Chinese nation.
The Nationalists formally advocate unification and began speaking directly to Beijing's Communist leaders more than a decade ago after losing the presidency to Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party.
In addition to suspending contacts since Tsai's May inauguration, Beijing has also moved to increase the island's international isolation by barring its representatives from international gatherings.
Hung's election as Nationalist boss was widely seen as recompense for her being dumped as the party's candidate to run against Tsai in the January election. She is seen as the standard bearer for the party's more conservative pro-unification wing made up largely of those who followed Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan after the Communist military victory on the Chinese mainland in 1949 and their descendants.
On Monday, Hung and her delegation paid their respects at the mausoleum of original Nationalist leader and Chinese president Sun Yat-sen in the former capital of Nanjing on Sunday. Sun, who is revered by both the Nationalists and the Communists, inspired the former enemies to "work together to fight for the national rejuvenation and improve people's livelihood," Hung said.
"We will create a prosperous future. (As long as) both sides of the Taiwan Strait cooperate and develop peacefully, our common wish will come true," she said in remarks carried by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
Despite the keen rivalry between the Nationalists and Tsai's DPP, on Monday her spokesman Alex Huang said the government sees "all normal people-to-people exchanges" with China in a positive light.
"The two sides should enhance mutual understanding and promote the peaceful development of bilateral relations through meaningful dialogue and exchanges without political preconditions," Huang was quoted as saying by Taiwan's official Central News Agency.
However, he added that all political parties should "stand by the people" and support the government's policy on cross-strait ties.