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Expert: Ma's trip will help promote cross-Straits understanding

By ZHANG YI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-04-08 08:27
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Ma Ying-jeou, former chairman of the Chinese Kuomintang party, and his family visit the tomb of his grandfather in Xiangtan county, Hunan province, on Saturday, April 1, 2023, to honor the family's ancestors. CAI YANG / XINHUA

Ma Ying-jeou, former chairman of the Chinese Kuomintang party, concluded his visit to the Chinese mainland on Friday, which experts said has shed light on the common culture and history shared by the two sides of the Taiwan Straits, brought people from both sides closer and encouraged more from Taiwan to trace their origins on the mainland.

Ma returned to Taiwan from Shanghai on Friday after a 12-day tour on mainland. It was the first time Ma set foot on the mainland.

Ma expressed confidence in resuming exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits, when he landed at an airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan on Friday.

Ma told reporters that "young people are our future, and the earlier we communicate and get to know each other, the lower the chances of conflicts in the future".

Ma said his visit to the mainland was the first step and he will invite mainland students to visit Taiwan.

Ma said that he has demonstrated through practical actions that by adhering to the 1992 Consensus, seeking common ground while respecting differences, and respecting each other, the island can establish common political foundations with the mainland.

"Resuming exchanges and dialogue as soon as possible benefits the interests of Taiwan people the most," he said.

Ma also criticized the island's authorities for putting Taiwan at risk. "The future is the choice of peace or war. I will continue to work hard among the people to ensure a truly peaceful, prosperous and secure future for Taiwan," he said.

During the trip, he led a group of young people from Taiwan to visit many historic sites that embody common memories of the two sides, including the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum and the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

The 72-year-old also paid his respects to his ancestors in Xiangtan, Hunan province, where his family originates. Standing in front of his grandfather's tomb, Ma read a eulogy to the deceased in a sobbing voice, with tears welling up in his eyes, which moved people from both sides.

During a visit to the original site of the university his parents attended in Chongqing, he was surprised to see a wedding photo of his parents on display and took a picture with it. He was also gifted a memorial album with an assortment of old photos and letters from his parents.

Bao Chengke, assistant director at the Institute for East Asian Studies in Shanghai, said: "It is a weighty gift, and the mainland has carefully prepared for this trip. The trip has brought people on both sides of the Straits closer," adding that people-to-people exchanges could help resolve the psychological confrontation between those on both sides in recent years, and arouse their common historical and cultural memories.

By visiting the historic sites, young people in Taiwan can see clearly that people from both sides of the Straits have fought together in modern Chinese history, and share common historical memories and emotional pursuits, Bao said.

"I believe that anyone from Taiwan will be moved when they see the site of the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum that has been well preserved on the mainland under the leadership of the Communist Party of China," he added.

Bao said the common history between the two sides has been distorted or curtailed in textbooks in Taiwan, leading to ignorance of history among the younger generation, while the older generation tends to have a more blurred memory of history.

Historical memories could be aroused through this visit, and the experience also helped young people deepen their understanding of the mainland, he said, adding that the effect will leave a deep imprint in the hearts of those youth.

Bao said he believes Ma's trip will encourage more young Taiwan people to come to the mainland to explore their roots. "They will not only search for their ancestors, but also their sources of thought, history and emotion," he said.

During his meeting with mainland officials, Ma reaffirmed the 1992 Consensus and accurately stated that both sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to one China, a fact that many Taiwan politicians are unwilling to face or acknowledge, according to Bao.

"I really appreciated his political courage and foresight," Bao said about Ma, adding that though the trip was conducted as a personal one, Ma enjoys far-reaching political influence on the island.

The group also visited other cities including Wuhan, Hubei province, and Changsha, Hunan province.

Lee Wei-kuo, chairman of the Taipei-based Chinese Youth Trade Development Association, said the trip highlighted young people's important role in the future of both sides of the Straits. "Only by strengthening understanding can we further work together for the future. I believe that these students will share what they have seen and heard to more friends when they return to Taiwan," he said.

Lee said he believes Ma's visit to the mainland will encourage more Taiwan residents to visit the mainland, which will deepen connections between compatriots on both sides.

Lee, who came to the mainland in 2016 to seek employment opportunities and launched a company last year devoted to rural revitalization, said, "It is hoped that there will be more student exchange programs and robust cross-Straits economic and trade exchanges."

Ma's trip will mark a new beginning for all-around exchanges between the two sides, he said, adding that he is planning to organize students from Taiwan to visit and get internships in Guangdong province this summer.

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