Photo shows last meeting of Nationalist, Communist leaders

BEIJING: The fading black and white photo showing China's Nationalist President Chiang Kai-shek and his Communist rival Mao Zedong standing awkwardly next to each other is a rare relic of their last meeting in 1945 before becoming leaders of rival governments.

Seventy years later, the presidents of those two sides — Taiwan and mainland China — are to hold their first meeting Saturday.

Following the end of World War II, the US made a determined push to bring the Nationalists and Communists together to forestall a renewed outbreak of the civil war of the 1920s and 1930s and ensure some measure of democracy. Talks in 1945 in the central city of Chongqing ran on for about two months and resulted in agreement on the need for a national assembly, civil liberties and local government elections.

Eventually, however, they broke over jockeying for military control of China's far-flung regions, and the civil war started again in earnest, leading later to Communist victory and the Nationalist retreat to Taiwan in 1949.

To some, the meeting in Singapore on Saturday represents the end of that era and the dawn of a new one of recognition and respect.

Pictured in the front row of the photo from the left are US Ambassador Patrick Hurley, Chiang, who ruled Taiwan until his death in 1975, and Mao, who ruled China until his death in 1976.