When former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou became the first sitting or ex-leader of the island to set foot on mainland China last week, he presented himself as a figure looking to help bridge the increasingly cavernous cross-strait divide.

But the Kuomintang (KMT) heavyweight’s landmark 12-day visit is likely to have only a limited impact on dialing back soaring tensions due to growing mistrust between the current Democratic Progressive Party administration in Taipei and the communist government in Beijing.

Although Ma was careful to put war and historical sites related to the establishment of Taiwan on his itinerary while also avoiding travel to Beijing for meetings with senior Chinese leaders, his presence on the mainland was flush with political symbolism.