Nanjing (AsiaNews/Agencies) The president of Taiwan's Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT), Lien Chan, visited today the tomb of Sun Yat Sen, the party's founder. Sun led the 1911 Chinese revolution that toppled the Qing Empire and gave birth to the Republic of China. Both Beijing and Taipei honour him as the Father of the nation.
Mr Lien will meet on Friday Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao.
His visit is the first time a KMT President visits mainland China since 1949 when, defeated by Mao Tse-tung's Communist armies, Chang Kai-shek's nationalist forces found refuge on the island of Taiwan where the Republic of China maintained its claim to be the legitimate government-in-exile for the whole of China.
Since 1949 a long period of open hostilities followed that began to loosen up with the first trade links established in the early 1990s.
The KMT's new friendship for its erstwhile enemy in Beijing developed after 2000 when it was defeated at the polls in Taiwan.
For many analysts, the visit is also an attempt by Beijing to split Taiwanese politics in order to isolate current President Chen Shui-bian and his Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan which is close to the island's pro-independence movement.
However, Lien, who leads the current opposition, repeatedly said that "he does not represent the island's government" and his is "a journey of peace" to thaw Sino-Taiwanese relations.
The visit comes in the wake of an anti-secession law that was recently adopted by mainland China that authorises the use of force should Taiwan proclaim its independence.
Fear of China, which allegedly has 700 ballistic missiles deployed against Taiwan, is a permanent feature of life on the island. This is why many Taiwanese view Lien as "a traitor who is selling out Taiwan".
In a computer-simulated drill, Taiwan's Ministry of Defence conducted a war games test of a possible Chinese attack that was also monitored by US military officials. It confirmed the prevailing theory according to which the island's defences would resist for two weeks to a combined sea and air attack from the mainland.