Former Taiwan Leader Ma Embarks on Visit to China

Taiwan’s former president Ma Ying-jeou embarked on a 12-day private tour of China with a group of academics and students as well as family members on Monday. The tour highlights the relationship between China and Taiwan. Ma served as President from 2008 to 2016, during which Taiwan and Beijing reportedly enjoyed a close relationship.

Former president Ma clarified that the aim of his visit was to build bridges between Taiwanese and Chinese citizens, despite rising regional tensions. “I hope through the enthusiasm of the youth and their interactions to improve the cross-strait mood, so bring peace faster, and earlier,” Ma said to reporters on Monday ahead of his departure. Ma will be visiting Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, Changsha, and other cities in mainland China from March 27 until April 7. During his trip, Ma plans to bring college students from Taiwan to meet students from universities in Shanghai and Changsha.

Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, is also expected to embark on a 10-day diplomatic tour to visit Latin America and meet with Taiwan’s remaining allies there. The trip will include a stop in the US, Taiwan’s biggest unofficial partner and arms supplier.

Taiwan has lost another diplomatic ally to China, which poached Honduras on Sunday, leaving Taiwan with just 13 countries that recognize it as an independent state. China has consistently put pressure on Taiwan, including routinely flying military fighter jets toward the island. Though Ma’s private tour has not caused much controversy in Taiwan, there has been criticism from activists and some political opponents. Some individuals have called for Ma to cancel his trip, including Chinese dissident Wang Dan, who previously lived in Taiwan. Meanwhile, a small group of people from the pro-unification camp reportedly came to the airport to show their support.

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