Ma Ying-jeou will pay a visit to China this month amid increased tensions with Beijing, his office has reportedly confirmed
Ma Ying-jeou, the former Taiwanese president who made history by meeting with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in 2015, reportedly plans to break new diplomatic ground again by making an unprecedented trip to the mainland later this month.
Ma will travel to China from March 27 to April 7 and visit the cities of Nanjing, Wuhan, Changsha, Chongqing and Shanghai, his office confirmed to Reuters on Sunday. His representatives didn't disclose whether he intends to meet with Xi or any other Chinese government officials during the trip.
The visit will mark the first trip to the mainland by a current or former Taiwanese leader since Chiang Kai-shek's supporters fled to the island in 1949. Chiang held his last meeting with Mao Zedong, leader of the Chinese communist revolution, in 1945. Then-President Ma and Xi held their historic 2015 summit in Singapore, seeking to ease tensions and boost cooperation.
Since Ma's successor, Tsai Ing-wen, took office in 2016, relations between the self-governing island and Beijing have deteriorated. China, which considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province and still part of its sovereign territory, has vowed to reunify with the island. The US government recognizes, but doesn't endorse, China's claim to Taiwan under the so-called 'One China' policy.
However, tensions in the Taiwan Strait have escalated since last August, when then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defied warnings from Beijing and went through with a planned visit to Taipei. China responded by ramping up military drills around Taiwan and cutting off military and climate ties with Washington. The Taiwanese Defense Ministry warned earlier this month of a possible "total blockade" of the Taiwan Strait by Chinese forces.
Ma remains a senior member of Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT) opposition party. The KMT has traditionally opposed pushes for full Taiwanese independence and has sought peaceful relations with China. KMT deputy chairman Andrew Hsia visited Beijing last month and met with Wang Huning, a senior Chinese Communist Party leader.
Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which has accused the KMT of seeking to sell out Taiwan, condemned Hsia for going to "pay court to the communists." The current president also blocked Ma's planned trip to Hong Kong in 2016, citing security concerns, and he was forced to give his speech on cross-strait relations via teleconference.
Ma will visit sites connected to World War II and the 1911 revolution that ousted the last Chinese emperor and launched the Republic of China, his office said.