Former Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou will visit China

Former Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou will visit China

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou will visit China next week in what a spokesman called a bid to ease tensions between the self-ruled island and the mainland.

Ma presided over a period of warm ties with Beijing, but left office under a cloud after a trade deal with the mainland failed to win approval amid the island’s largest protests since the 1990s. Although the former president is visiting in a private capacity, his stature as a former leader gives the trip political overtones.

Ma’s proposed visit comes as China’s People Liberation Army sends fighter jets toward Taiwan on a near daily basis and as official communications between the two governments have broken off. China’s ruling government claims Taiwan is part of its territory, but Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party says it’s already a sovereign state that is not part of China.

President Tsai notified

Ma, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party (Kuomingtang), will lead a delegation of academics and students as well as his former presidential staffers from March 27 to April 7, 2023, his office said Sunday, March 19.

The office of President Tsai Ing-wen said Ma had notified her of his plans on Monday, March 20.

The president’s office said it “hoped Ma, in his role as the former head of state... can show the value of Taiwan’s democracy and freedom and the position of equality and dignity in cross-strait exchanges.”

Ma will visit Nanjing, Wuhan and Changsha, as well as other cities, Hsiao Hsu-tsen, the director of the Ma Ying-jeou Foundation on Monday, told a news conference in Taipei.

Increased contacts

During Ma’s terms in office, Taiwan and China increased contacts. Ma negotiated a trade pact with Beijing in 2010 and Chinese tourists flocked to Taiwan.

But as both sides opened their borders to each other, concerns grew that Taiwan was falling inescapably into Beijing’s orbit, eventually leading to protests over a proposed trade deal with Beijing in 2014. The protests, known as the Sunflower Movement, sparked a rally that drew more than 200,000 people and a 24-day occupation of Taiwan’s parliament by students.

Ma met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in 2015, while he was still in office. The meeting was the first between the leaders of the two sides since Taiwan split from mainland China in 1949 during the Chinese civil war, but was considered more symbolic than substantive.

In 2016, the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party won national elections and Beijing cut off contact with Taiwan’s government, citing Tsai’s refusal to endorse the idea that Taiwan and China are one country. (AP)


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