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Ma Ying-jeou—China’s ‘friend’ in Taiwan is sailing against the wind, doing Xi’s work

In a recent rendezvous at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Ma Ying-jeou, former President of Taiwan and member of the Kuomintang (KMT), met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, stirring controversy and speculation about his allegiance and motives.

A Continued Prioritization of China

Ma’s affinity for China traces back to his tenure as Taiwan’s president from 2008 to 2016. His recent actions, including attempts to influence Taiwan’s politics and align with China, demonstrate his enduring commitment to fostering cross-Strait relations, often at odds with Taiwan’s evolving identity.

Fulfilling Xi’s Agenda

Ma’s meeting with Xi, though ostensibly personal, resonated with Xi’s agenda of promoting the “One China” framework and discouraging Taiwan’s independence. Despite Taiwan’s shifting sentiments towards its autonomy and identity, Ma’s stance appears rooted in the past, out of sync with Taiwan’s current trajectory.

Questionable Relevance in Taiwan

While Ma’s overtures towards China may find favor in Beijing, they fail to resonate with the majority of Taiwanese. The increasing assertion of Taiwanese identity and the desire for peaceful cross-Strait relations clash with Ma’s advocacy for the outdated 1992 consensus and closer ties with China.

Benefits to Xi, Uncertainties for Taiwan

Xi Jinping’s willingness to engage with Ma, albeit a former leader, serves his strategic interests. It allows Xi to project an image of openness to dialogue and peaceful reunification, providing a counter-narrative to his otherwise rigid stance on Taiwan.

Limited Impact on Cross-Strait Relations

Despite the optics of Ma’s meeting with Xi, its tangible impact on cross-Strait dialogue and China’s coercive tactics towards Taiwan remains uncertain. While Xi may have gained temporary leverage and bolstered Ma’s standing in China, the enduring stability of cross-Strait relations hinges on China’s willingness to engage constructively with Taiwan’s leadership.

Ma Ying-jeou’s alignment with China, exemplified by his recent meeting with Xi Jinping, underscores the complex dynamics of cross-Strait relations. While it may serve short-term political interests, its long-term implications for Taiwan’s autonomy and stability remain subject to Xi’s intentions and China’s evolving approach towards Taiwan.

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