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Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou to Visit China

Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou to Visit China

Asia Pacific|Beijing Deplores Taiwan’s Next President, but Welcomes an Old One

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/31/world/asia/taiwan-china-ma-ying-jeou.html

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A rare visit to mainland China by Ma Ying-jeou, who’s now in the opposition, is a chance for political messaging on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Ma Ying-jeou, who was Taiwan’s president from 2008 to 2016, favors closer ties with China. Credit…Tyrone Siu/Reuters

As tensions fester between China and Taiwan, one elder politician from the island democracy is getting an effusive welcome on the mainland: Ma Ying-jeou, a former president.

Mr. Ma’s 11-day trip across China, which began on Monday, comes at a fraught time. Beijing and Taipei have been in dispute over two Chinese fishermen who died while trying to flee a Taiwanese coast guard vessel in February, and China has sent its own coast guard ships close to a Taiwanese-controlled island near where the men died.

Taiwanese officials expect China to intensify its military intimidation once the island’s next president, Lai Ching-te, takes office on May 20. His Democratic Progressive Party rejects Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China, and Chinese officials particularly dislike Mr. Lai, often citing his 2017 description of himself as a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan’s independence.”

On the other hand, China’s warm treatment of Mr. Ma, 73, Taiwan’s president from 2008 to 2016, seems a way to emphasize that Beijing will keep an open door for politicians who favor closer ties and accept its conditions for talks.

“Beijing’s policy toward Taiwan will definitely be using more of both a gentle touch but also a hard fist,” Chang Wu-yue, a professor at the Graduate Institute of China Studies of Tamkang University in Taiwan, said in an interview about Mr. Ma’s visit.

Image

Mr. Ma with China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, in Singapore in 2015.Credit…Fazry Ismail/EPA, via Shutterstock

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