China is waging a campaign of praise for the founder of republican China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, while at the same time making a peaceful gesture toward Taiwan in its longstanding attempt to assert Communist control over the Nationalist-held island. The campaign has included rallies and exhibitions in major Chinese cities to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Sun's birth as well as the release of at least three feature films about his life. The efforts have been organized by government groups and by the United Front Department of the Chinese Communist Party.
Sun (1866-1925), who founded the Kuomintang (now Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party), is the only modern Chinese leader revered on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. His picture appears in Peking's Tian An Men Square on National Day each year, along with those of Marx, Engels, Stalin, and Lenin.
Sun's birthday anniversary is also being commemorated in Taiwan, though reportedly the ceremonies are low-key, since they follow by less than two weeks the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, father of Taiwan's President Chiang Ching-kuo.
At a rally in Peking yesterday, a senior Chinese leader praised Sun's ``outstanding revolutionary achievements'' and asserted that the Communist Party was now carrying out his ideals, accomplishing ``much that is far beyond his expectations.''
A front-page commentary in the Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's Daily, described Sun as a ``great pioneer who revived Chinese civilization'' and cited his wishes for the unification of China. It said that after the 1917 Russian Revolution Sun studied Lenin and said that the Chinese Revolution should take Soviet Russia as its teacher.
One of the earliest activists against China's last imperial dynasty, the Ching, Sun was on a speaking tour in the United States in 1911 when he learned of a successful revolt that led to the overthrow of the Ching emperor. He returned to China and proclaimed the new republic, though he was quickly frustrated by power struggles among Chinese warlords and pulled back from a leading role in government. He died after advocating both an alliance with the Soviet Union and cooperation with the Communist Party.
At the Peking rally, Peng Zhen, chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress (China's national assembly), said that given ``many favorable factors,'' there was now a ``golden opportunity'' for Taiwan to rejoin the mainland.
Mr. Peng asserted that ``the future of the Kuomintang hinges on cooperation with the Communist Party.'' He reviewed the common viewpoints of the two parties - that ``there is only one China,'' that ``the movement for the independence of Taiwan must be opposed,'' and that ``China must be reunified.''
He also repeated Peking's invitation for Taiwan to send its representatives to meet with those from Peking ``in places they think appropriate'' to exchange views.
Peking's offer to hold talks has been repeatedly refused by the Kuomintang government. Taiwan has maintained a policy of no contact with the mainland, though earlier this year it did permit a meeting between representatives of the two countries' airlines to arrange the return of a hijacked airliner.
These latest appeals for unification by Peking come at a time when the political atmosphere on Taiwan is changing. Opposition leaders have announced a new political party that so far has not been blocked by the Kuomintang. Until two months ago, the Kuomintang permitted no new parties.
President Chiang has also said that martial law could be lifted next year for the first time since the Nationalists took over the island in 1949.
An election campaign for about 10 percent of the seats in the national legislature begins next week and has stirred political debate on the island. Some observers say that in Taiwan's Dec. 6 elections, the opposition could fare better than its usual 30 percent of the popular vote, though opposition groups remain fragmented and are unable to contest the remaining 90 percent of the seats.
Peking watches Taiwan's internal politics closely - it does not want to see the Kuomintang weakened. The opposition is dominated by native Taiwanese and has not repudiated the Taiwan independence movement.