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Economic zone facing Taiwan proposed
By Jiang Zhuqing, Zheng Lifei (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-07 07:56

A new economic zone on the west coast of the Taiwan Straits would not only be economically significant, but would also have political implications for the full reunification of the motherland, China's top advisers said.

But, they added, the zone's progress will to some extent hinge on the state of cross-Straits relations.

The idea of building the zone, which would mainly cover East China's Fujian Province and the neighbouring Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces, was broached several years ago and is gathering steam, advisers said.

"The central government should give its support to this project," said Taiwan-born CPPCC member Chen Zhengtong, who is attending the annual session of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

"The proposed economic zone would help Fujian catch up with Taiwan in its economic development," Chen said, citing the current yawning economic disparity between Fujian and Taiwan to make his case.

Statistics indicate that Fujian's gross domestic product last year was US$72.6 billion, about one-fifth of Taiwan's.

Fujian has already put the building of the economic zone high on its agenda.

It aims to turn it into one of China's major regional economic blocks such as the Pan-Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta economic areas.

The economic zone would "promote the better use of resources of the economic belt in East China and enhance its overall economic strength," Wang Xiaojing, the then executive vice-governor of Fujian said last year.

The construction of such an economic zone is significant because of its vicinity to Taiwan, which is opposite the province.

It is expected to boost economic integration between Taiwan and the mainland, advisers said.

"Both sides of the proposed economic zone would benefit enormously from the proposed economic zone," said Justin Yifu Lin, also a Taiwan-born CPPCC member.

"The west coast of the Straits will serve as a vast market for Taiwan enterprises, thus benefiting the two sides," said Lin, also the director of Peking University's China Centre for Economic Research.

Building such an economic zone, however, is hampered by the lack of direct links between Taiwan and the mainland.

"Political issues are clearly standing in the way of economic development," said Lin, the economist, lamenting the lack of direct transport, postal services and trade between the island and the mainland.

"Such an economic zone, if leading to closer economic ties with Taiwan, would serve as a base for suppressing Taiwan 'independence,'" said a CPPCC member who refused to be identified, adding that the authorities in Taiwan might use this as an excuse to delay restoring the three direct links.

Although separated by the narrow Taiwan Straits, people living in Fujian and Taiwan enjoy identical languages and local cultures.

"The ancestors of 80 per cent of today's Taiwan residents originated from Fujian Province," Chen noted. He said the construction of the new economic zone would push forward exchanges between the two sides, which would be conducive to the peaceful reunification of the motherland.

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