This is not strictly about Shanghai, but closely related. The president of the main Taiwanese political party in power has come to visit China this week. In view of the relations between Taiwan and the mainland, this is incredible enough, but the most stunning is that his party is the Kuomintang, i.e. the very party that dominated China, before being chased out by the communists in 1949 and take refuge in Taiwan.
The Kuomintang was founded in Dr Sun Yat Sen in 1912 who is largely seen as the father of the nation on both sides of the straight. From its base in Guandong, the party took over the whole China lead by Chiang Kia Shek in 1927. From that point on the capital of the nation became Nanjing where Dr Sun Yat Sen was also buried.
The “Generalissmo” actually spent a lot of time in Shanghai, living in his villa in the French Concession (Dong Ping lu) with his wife Soong Meiling. He was highly interested in the development of Shanghai as a city, unifying the Chinese city around the foreign concessions and pressing for construction of the Shanghai civic Center in Jiangwan district. The Kuomintang logo used in decoration of buildings 70 years ago is still visible in today’s Shanghai (like this one in the former aviation society building) though you may have to search a little.
Since Nanjing had such an importance for the Kuomintang’s history, it is not surprising to see the most important visit of he Taiwanese leader in Mainland China to start there. As the Chinese press underlined, the Taiwanese leader came to the city to honor the tumb of the father of the nation, Sun Yat Sen, and because of the “great links between Jiangsu province and Taiwan province”. It is also highly charged in symbolism for the Taiwanese for this visit to start in Nanjing, that used to be the capital of China ruled by the Kuomintang.
Wu Poh-hsiung, the leader of the ruling Kuomintang in the “Republic of China” (i.e. Taiwan) then met the leader of the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China (Hu Jing Tao) in Nanjing. His visits finished in Shanghai, meeting with Taiwanese businessmen that are in high number in the city. Many Shanghainese families fled to Taiwan (as well as HongKong) after communist liberation in the late forties and many still have ties in the city. Many have come back, some trying to claim the family property confiscated by the government 40 years ago.
From an historical point of view, the visit is of prime importance. The rumors has it that direct flights from mainland to Taiwan are on the way, replacing the indirect flight through Hong Kong. With direct flights to Taipei, Shanghai would be even more of a modern city.