CNA

TAIPEI — The chairman of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT), Eric Chu (���߭�), began on Saturday his first visit to mainland China since taking up his post early this year, and is scheduled to hold talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping for the first time.

Chu, who is also mayor of New Taipei City, departed for Shanghai in the morning at the head of a 100-strong delegation to an annual economic and cultural forum between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The highlight of Chu’s three-day visit will be his first meeting with Xi, who is CCP general secretary, in the latter’s capacity as the top leader of mainland China and its ruling party.

The meeting, which will take place in Beijing on Monday, takes on extra significance as Chu, 53, is widely considered to be the KMT’s best chance of winning the presidential election either in 2016 or four years later. Chu has ruled out standing in the upcoming election, saying he will complete his second four-year term as mayor that began in December 2014.

Even though the meeting is not without precedent, it is important as Beijing ponders the prospect of Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) possibly returning to power after Taiwan’s election next January.

During the eight years the DPP was in power from 2000 to 2008, relations between the two sides were tense as Chen Shui-bian, the first DPP president to rule Taiwan, tried to strengthen the R.O.C.’s status as a sovereign nation.

But in the past seven years of KMT rule, many people have been dissatisfied with economic and other domestic issues while some also worry that President Ma Ying-jeou, from the KMT, may be bringing Taiwan too close to the mainland.

After arriving in Shanghai, Chu will give a speech at Fudan University on the worsening income inequality caused by global capital flows.

His first day in China will also include a dinner hosted by Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Chu’s planned meeting with Xi will follow those between his predecessors Lien Chan and Wu Po-hsiung and then-CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao, respectively.

But it will be only the third time a KMT chief holds talks with his CCP counterpart when the KMT is in power in Taiwan. The two previous meetings took place in 2008 and 2009, when Wu was KMT chairman.