Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is visiting the U.S. while former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou is in China—making him the island’s first current or former leader to cross the Taiwan strait since 1949.
Ma visited a COVID-19 exhibition in China’s central Wuhan city.
The city is the site of the world’s first COVID-19 outbreak, back in late 2019. Wuhan and its 11 million residents were later put under full lockdown to contain the infection with locals trapped inside their homes for months.
Before arriving in Wuhan, Ma paid a visit to the Sun Yat-sen mausoleum in Nanjing. He urged both sides of the Taiwan strait—mainland China and Taiwan—to pursue peace and avoid war. Saying “we are all Chinese.”
The former leader won’t visit Beijing during his stay. Meaning he won’t be shaking hands with Chinese leader Xi Jinping or other Communist Party officials.
Ma previously met Xi face-to-face in November 2015 in Singapore. Those talks signaled the first Beijing-Taiwan leaders meeting in around 60 years.
Ma’s current trip to China comes just ahead of Taiwan’s next presidential election. His policy of peace faces opposition from the island’s current ruling party, which raises concerns that the former leader may bend to Beijing.
The Chinese Communist Party views Taiwan as part of mainland China and has vowed to take over the island—by force if necessary. That’s despite never having ruled the island.
Taiwan fiercely opposes that claim—instead self-governing with its own constitution and leaders.