TAIPEI, Taiwan. March 31st, 2023. Both the current and former presidents of Taiwan are traveling today—the first to the US as part of a mission to make up for the loss of support in Central America, the second to China to promote peace and cross-strait relations.
Even while the Ukraine war rages on, prompting the US to spend over $120 billion sending weapons and other aid to the regime in Kyiv, other Biden Administration officials have said a war between the US and China is ‘inevitable’ even in as little as 5 years.
Such comments make former President of Taiwan Ma Yingjeou’s visit to the mainland perhaps even more critical than it simply being the first time a current or former head of state has visited the mainland since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
Former President Ma sat down with the Director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Song Tao, in Wuhan, where he emphasized the importance of the “1992 consensus,” and credited it for his smooth entry into the country along with 30 Taiwanese university students he brought with him.
That consensus states that both Taipei and Beijing agree there is only one place and people called China, but that the two regimes disagree on what “China” means. He also told Mr. Song that “the two sides must maintain exchanges, cooperate together, and do everything possible to avoid war and conflict”.
Meanwhile, current Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen arrived in New York City yesterday as part of a 2-day stopover in the US en route to Central American allies Belize and Guatemala. In mid-March, Hondorus announced they were following Panama’s lead and severing all ties with Taiwan and switching diplomatic relations with China.
The United States Indo-Pacific Command has said it is preparing to operate under “a heightened state of vigilance” while Tsai visits the US. The last time such major figures crossed each other’s borders was former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last year, in retaliation for which the People’s Liberation Army of China war-gamed the annihilation of Taiwan in the seas around the island.
“There are also those who believe that Ma’s visit has helped to ease the tensions surrounding Tsai’s trip,” wrote Christopher Tou and Tuen Mun at the South China Morning Post.
“Given the recent spike in cross-strait tensions caused by Tsai’s visit to the US, Ma’s visit to mainland China is a considerable demonstration of his ability to uphold peace in the Taiwan Strait. It is a significant gesture to reassure the Taiwanese about the region’s stability”.