Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), also a former chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), has said that he plans to travel to China from Monday next week to April 7 to pay his respects to his ancestors in Hunan Province.
The trip would mark the first cross-strait visit by a former president of the Republic of China (ROC) since its government’s retreat to Taiwan in 1949.
Ma’s trip comes amid China’s increasing air and naval incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, and at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) continues to seek to annex Taiwan.
Ma’s trip could be interpreted as a former leader of the ROC and KMT risking the nation’s legitimacy and being used as a propaganda tool by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in its desire to annihilate the ROC and Taiwan’s democracy.
The former president also plans to visit the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum and the Memorial Hall of the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, the Wuchang Uprising Memorial Hall, the Chongqing War Museum and the Sihang Warehouse Battle Memorial, Ma’s office said.
He also plans to lead a delegation of Taiwanese students to meet with Chinese students and universities.
Despite claims that the trip is “not political in nature,” Ma’s status as a former leader of the ROC inevitably gives the trip political overtones.
By visiting those commemorative spots, Ma seems to want to evoke memories of a time when both the ROC and the PRC fought against the Japanese invasion of China in World War II, but the trip also traces the history of the KMT’s retreat to Taiwan.
Chongqing, for example, was the location of the “Chongqing Negotiations” between then-KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東), which ultimately failed to end the CCP’s military actions and led to the KMT’s defeat in the Chinese Civil War.
Ma’s office says that the former president believes in allowing young people across Taiwan Strait to have exchanges that would help reduce tensions. Ma should perhaps remember that China has banned young Chinese from studying in Taiwan since 2020.
Just as Ma was unveiling his plans to visit China, Xi arrived in Russia to shake hands with his “dear friend” Russian President Vladimir Putin, the hegemonic invader of Ukraine.
Xi’s proposed peace plan does not require Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine, and only asks Ukraine to resume dialogue and accept the reality of Russia’s occupancy of more Ukrainian territory.
Taiwan and China, too, need to resume dialogue to ease tensions, but Taiwanese should not accept negotiations as unequal partners, with no respect for the sovereignty of the ROC. It is China that refuses to communicate with Taiwan’s elected government and insists on unifying with Taiwan under the “one China” principle, not even renouncing the use of military force.
Ma’s trip might not help to solve the major problems across the Taiwan Strait, but it could affect next year’s presidential election, giving China a chance to show its friendly face to certain Taiwanese and political parties, and influence voters.
There is also speculation that Ma’s trip has been planned to coincide with President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) transit in the US, leading to concerns in Ma’s party that the KMT would be perceived as anti-US and not standing with other democratic nations.
Ma’s trip has the potential to be a historic event, something that Ma would likely wallow in. If he is not embarking on this venture with the ROC’s sovereignty and Taiwan’s best interests in mind, it would be another backward step.
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