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Trade Zone Proposed on Taiwan Straits Shore
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China will develop the region opposite Taiwan Province to create another economic hub which it's anticipated could compete with the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas.


Local officials from east China's Fujian Province said they've prepared a proposal for a 'free-trade zone' in Xiamen, for example, to realize central government's proposal of building the Western Shore Economic Zone of the Taiwan Straits.


The scheme was included in the draft of the nation's 11th Five-Year Guidelines (2006-10) which is currently under discussion by the National People's Congress (NPC) deputies.


"I believe it’s a wonderful gesture for our highest leadership to promote peaceful reunification," said Lu Zhangong, Head of Fujian Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China.


The move comes as Taiwan leader, Chen Shui-bian, has been pursuing a more radical secessionist path aimed at 'independence' after his decision to scrap the island's council responsible for dealing with ‘unification' issues with the mainland.


"We are making our best efforts to realize peace and stability across the Straits but we--and that  includes myself--are prepared to go to the front line if our goodwill and serious efforts fail," Lu told a group discussion on the 11th Five-Year Guidelines.


President Hu Jintao, in showing his support for the new economic zone, said China welcomed more Taiwanese business people doing deals with the mainland. He made these comments during his recent tour of Xiamen.


According to Lu the western shore plan is part of the country's regional development strategy for coastal China with the Pearl River Delta in the south, the Yangtze River Delta in the east and the economic zone around the Bohai Sea already becoming development engines.


Compared with these economic zones, the region in Fujian Province, immediately opposite the straits from Taiwan, has fallen behind in recent years. "I think building the Western Shore Economic Zone is just a start and reading between the lines it's clear there'll be an economic zone across the Straits to boost China's further development," Lu said.


An 'urban cluster' featuring Fuzhou, Xiamen and Quanzhou will be designed in the province to boost its urbanization, he said.


"But the western shore scheme is not just the business of Fujian," said Lu. He added that east China's Jiangxi Province, for example, would also be involved in the development plan.


Lu added that the entire province is prepared to become an 'investment destination' for Taiwan residents soon--even though only four cities in Fujian are currently open to Taiwan investors.


Zhang Changping, mayor of Xiamen, the most developed coastal city across Taiwan, said yesterday that he's trying hard to include Xiamen on the central government's list of free-trade ports.


The mayor said the central government had been preparing to turn Shenzhen, Shanghai and Tianjin into free-trade zones to facilitate economic activity with the rest of the world.


"I'm suggesting that Xiamen should become a free-trade zone with Taiwan," Zhang said, "and we are going to seek approval from the central government."


(China Daily March 8, 2006)


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