Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) yesterday used the centennial of a revolution that ended imperial rule to make an appeal to further relations with Taiwan, saying they should move beyond the history that divides them and focus on common economic and cultural interests.
At a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Hu said China and Taiwan should end antagonisms, “heal wounds of the past and work together to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
“Achieving reunification by peaceful means best serves the fundamental interests of all Chinese, including our Taiwan compatriots,” Hu said, adding that the sides should increase economic competitiveness, promote Chinese culture and build on a sense of a common national identity.
“We must strengthen our opposition to Taiwanese independence ... and promote close exchanges and cooperation between compatriots on both sides,” he said.
Hu has sought to move beyond the threatening rhetoric that long characterized Beijing’s response to Taiwan’s refusal to unify with China. His government has talked of ending the state of hostility with Taiwan.
A large portrait of the founding father of modern China, Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), hung over the stage on which sat current and former top leaders of China.
The ceremony in Beijing marks the Oct. 10, 1911, armed uprising led by rebels associated with revolutionary leader Sun on a Qing Dynasty garrison. The attack set in motion events that led to the overthrow of imperial rule and raised hopes that China could emerge from a century-and-a-half of national humiliation it had endured at the hands of foreign powers.
The Republic of China was established two-and-a-half months later, but its government fled in disarray to Taiwan in 1949 following the victory of Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in the Chinese Civil War.
In his speech, Hu said Sun was “a great national hero, a great patriot and a great leader of the Chinese democratic revolution.”
He also characterized the CCP as the “core power” that drives China’s success.
“To achieve the great revival of the Chinese nation, we must certainly firmly uphold the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party,” Hu said.
However, the party’s version of the fall of the dynasty has been challenged by critics who say the chaotic chain of coups and insurrections that toppled the corrupt empire and subsequent violent faction conflicts and invasion by Japan are a reminder of the need for democratic reform in the present.
China again faces a dangerous confluence of official corruption, volatile public discontent and stalled reform, Zhou Ruijin (周瑞金), the former deputy editor-in-chief of the People’s Daily newspaper, said in a recent essay about the 1911 revolution.
“Grievances, distrust and rancor that have accumulated over many years have reached a period when they break out,” Zhou wrote in a Beijing magazine.
In past months, authorities have shown how sensitive they are about liberal intellectuals using the events of 1911 as a mirror to criticize or cajole the government. Some seminars and debates about the anniversary have been canceled.
“For us, China’s Xinhai Revolution is still not dead history, it still has a strong resonance with present-day realities,” said Lei Yi, a historian at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. “A key lesson of the revolution is that the country’s fate depends on whether the rulers make the right choices about advancing reforms. Above all, there’s still the issue that a modern China needs a modern form of government — constitutional government.”
Hu is due to leave office from late next year, when a CCP congress will install a new leadership.