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Mao and Chiang heirs bridge gap

Chiang Kai-shek (L) and Mao Zedong in undated archive photograph
Chiang Kai-shek (L) and Mao Zedong had a complex relationship

The grandchildren of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong and his arch-rival for control of China, Chiang Kai-shek, have met for the first time.

Mao's granddaughter, Kong Dongmei, met John Chiang as she visited Taiwan as part of a delegation to promote cultural and educational ties.

Taiwan split from China as Chiang's Nationalist forces fled the victorious Communists in 1949.

The island has been self-governed since but China maintains its claim.

The civil war cost the lives of millions of people, and China continues to regard Taiwan as a renegade province.

Impressed

The meeting between John Chiang and Ms Kong is seen as an indication of improving ties between China and Taiwan.

She is believed to be the first of Mao's offspring to visit the island.

John Chiang is the vice chairman of the Kuomintang, or Nationalist party, which hosted the delegation.

The two shook hands, exchanged greetings, but played down the significance of their meeting.

Mao's granddaughter told reporters she was impressed with Taiwan's advanced culture, education and creative industry, but did not mention its democracy.

A spokesman for Mr Chiang's office told the BBC's Cindy Sui in Taipei he thought it was natural that as relations between Taiwan and China improved, he would meet his grandfather's former enemies or their offspring sooner or later.

But many see the meeting as a reflection that ties between the two sides have vastly improved recently, despite Beijing still claiming the island as its territory.

This year, the first direct flights between China and Taiwan took off and a free-trade agreement is expected to be signed next year.



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