Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou to pay a historic visit to China

Ma Ying-jeou

Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party, will visit China from March 27 to April 7, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the Chinese Executive confirmed this Monday (03.20.2023), in the first visit of this type in more than 70 years. The former president’s spokesman clarified that Ma does not plan to travel to Beijing or meet with the Chinese authorities.

“Ma Ying-jeou is coming to pay respects to his ancestors before the celebration of the Qingming festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day. In addition, he will lead a group of Taiwanese exchange students,” said the spokesman for the Chinese office, Ma Xiaoguang. According to the spokesperson, paying respects to ancestors at this festival is “a tradition shared by both sides.”

He added that “if communication between the two parties improves, young people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait will be able to create new momentum for the peaceful development of relations,” and assured that he will offer “all necessary assistance” to the former president’s visit. Ma’s press office, for its part, said the politician hopes to help ease tensions between Taiwan and China.

Beijing was more comfortable with Ma

Both countries experienced a great moment of rapprochement with Ma’s presidency, between 2008 and 2016, to the point that he held a historic meeting in Singapore with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at the end of 2015, the first in more than 60 years of unilateral separation from the island. Relations waned under Ma’s successor, current President Tsai Ing-wen, with a stronger stance on Taiwan’s sovereignty.

China considers Taiwan a rogue province and has vowed to take it one day, even by force. Taiwan, for its part, which has a self-governing democratic government, is a close ally of the United States, which has vowed to ensure Taiwanese security. The two parties have been separated since the 1949 civil war, in which the Communist Party defeated the Kuomintang nationalists, who withdrew on the island.