TAIPEI, Taiwan: In an effort to ease tensions between Taiwan and China, former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou will visit Beijing next week.
During Ma's presidency, Taiwan had warmer ties with Beijing, but he left office amid the island's largest protests since the 1990s, after a trade deal with the mainland failed to win approval.
Official communications between the two governments is currently non-existent, as China's People Liberation Army sends fighter jets to approach Taiwan on a near daily basis.
Despite Taiwan's governing Democratic Progressive Party's stressing that the island is already its own sovereign state, China's ruling government claims the island as part of its territory.
A member of the opposition Nationalist Party (Kuomingtang), Ma will head the visit of the delegation from from 27th March to 7th April, which will include academics and students, as well as his former presidential staffers, his office announced.
The office of President Tsai Ing-wen said Ma had notified her of his plans this week, adding that it "hoped Ma, in his role as the former head of state, can show the value of Taiwan's democracy and freedom and the position of equality and dignity in cross-strait exchanges."
Ma's trip was also confirmed by China's Taiwan Affairs Office.
Hoo Tiang Boon, a professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore who studies Chinese foreign policy, said that any outcomes of the visit are likely to be symbolic and will mostly benefit China.
"Then they can show they are not against Taiwan, they are not against the Taiwanese people," he said, adding that he did not think it was likely the trip would influence Taiwan's presidential elections next year.
Members of the Kuomingtang regularly have exchanges with China. Andrew Hsia, vice chairman of the Kuomingtang, went on a 10-day tour of China in February and met with the head of the Taiwan Affairs Office, while Taipei Mayor Chiang Wang-an hosted Shanghai city officials in February and discussed exchanges in culture, sports and tourism.