Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, arrived on Monday at China in the first cross-strait visit by an active or retired leader of the island in more than seven decadesa trip that the ruling party of Taipei described as “regrettable”. Ma embarked on the historic journey amid public outrage over the loss of Honduras as a diplomatic ally of Taipei in favor of Beijing, and coinciding with the high-level trip that Tsai Ing-wenthe current president, will make this week to the United States and Central America.
Its about first Taiwanese leader who visits mainland China since, defeated by the communists, the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan in 1949. The visit comes a day after Honduras, Taiwan’s diplomatic ally of 82 years, will switch its formal recognition to Beijing, pledging “that the government of the People’s Republic of China represents the nation as a whole,” or what the mainland calls the “one China principle.” .
Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province and opposes the self-ruled island establishing formal ties with any sovereign state. The move by the Central American country has left Taiwan with only 13 diplomatic allies.
Still, a handful of pro-independence protesters waved banners and chanted slogans as Ma prepared to board her flight. “When the world condemns China for once again robbing us of our allyHow is it possible for a former president like him to visit the autocratic regime and offer his allegiance? Is he a beggar?they shouted.
The minister was born in Hong Kong in 1950. During his administration, the economies of Taiwan and China became considerably closer. Ma succeeded Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (PDP). LChinese tourists flooded Taiwan and businesses flocked to the island, and it brokered a controversial trade deal with Beijing in 2014.
But the proposed trade pact sparked mass protests, known as Sunflower Movement, in which more than 200,000 protesters participated and Taiwan’s Parliament was occupied for 24 days. The protests marked a turning point in Taiwan’s history and paved the way for lTsai’s landslide election in 2016.
On this particular mission and an attempt to rewrite his political legacy. In addition to Shanghai, he will visit Nanjing, Wuhan, Chongqing and Changsha, his office reported last week.
The 12-day program does not include official meetings, according to his office, and will focus on paying tribute to his ancestors and promoting exchanges between young people. Notably, he has refrained from any political implications of his visit, stating that he will not visit Beijing or meet Xi Jinping. The last time he met Xi was in Singapore in 2015, shortly before the end of his second term as Taiwanese president.
“I hope to improve the atmosphere on both sides of the strait through the enthusiastic interactions of young peopleso that peace can reach us sooner and faster,” the 73-year-old president said at the airport before his departure.
In a statement issued Monday, President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (PDP) accused Ma of “supporting” Beijing’s policy towards Taiwan with his visit. “We should be more united… but it is unfortunate that the KMT is with the Chinese communists and former Chairman Ma is ignoring public disapproval to visit China at this time,” the party said.
In addition, the Taiwanese president plans to visit Guatemala and Belize and make a stopover in the United States. The Biden administration has reminded Beijing that Tsai’s stops in New York and California are not official, but merely technical stops. The trip will begin on March 29 and will last 10 days and nine nights, according to the Taiwanese government’s Central News Agency. It is a “Trip of the Democratic Association for Common Prosperity”, according to the organization.
Taiwan and China separated in 1949 after a civil war won by the Communist Party, and the defeated nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) party fled to the island. Ma is a senior KMT official, who currently sits in opposition in Taiwan and advocates warmer ties with China, but denies being pro-Beijing.
Taiwan will hold presidential elections next year, with the KMT and DPP leading the way.
Under Tsai, Ma’s successor, Beijing has intensified military, economic and diplomatic pressure on the territorystripping nine of its allies and leaving only 13 countries that diplomatically recognize the island.
In recent years, relations between China and Taiwan have deteriorated considerably. Tensions rose especially after the visit of then-Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, last year. China responded with missile tests and military exercises, simulating a naval and air blockade and the conquest of Taiwan. China also reacted angrily to the recent trip by German Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger to Taipei.