Nearly 400,000 people from Taiwan currently live on the Chinese mainland as of the end of September 2007. This includes more than 18,000 people who have settled down permanently, according to the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.
There are currently about 270,000 "cross-Strait marriages" made between people from the mainland and Taiwan, said Dai Xiaofeng, director of the exchange bureau, part of the State Council office.
Up to the end of September, Taiwanese people have made more than 45.83 million visits to the mainland, and mainlanders have made more than 1.56 million visits to the island, said Dai.
"More than 46 million visits to the mainland, twice the number of the Taiwan population -- 23 million -- will be made by the Taiwanese people by the end of this year," Dai said, adding 1.6 million visits to Taiwan would be made by people from the mainland.
Dai made the statement on Thursday, slightly ahead of the 20th anniversary of Taiwanese authorities lifting the ban on mainland visits as of Nov. 2, 1987.
Over the past 20 years the cross-Strait exchange has followed an "extraordinary development path" involving more areas and expanding its scope, Dai said.
Dai said that the decades after 1949 witnessed a historic grief shared by people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait when "fathers and sons, and brothers who lived separately on either side of the Strait could not get together, couples could not meet each other and family reunions were out of the question."
But cross-Strait communication was an "irreversible trend of the era", Dai said. Taiwan authorities lifted the ban and allowed some residents to visit their mainland relatives in 1987 due to the strong wishes and demands from people on both sides of the strait.
Taiwan compatriots later broke various restrictions imposed by the Taiwan authorities to visit the mainland and came for both sightseeing and investment.
Statistics from the Ministry of Commerce indicate that the total investment on the mainland by Taiwanese companies has increased more than 140 times in 17 years, from 1989 to 2006, with the investment figures standing at US$45.04 billion as of September 2007. This makes the mainland the largest investment destination of Taiwan.
Xu Mang, director of the economic bureau of the Taiwan Affairs Office, told Xinhua that the mainland was Taiwan's largest export market, with the cross-Strait trade volume reaching US$693.3 billion in September 2007. Taiwan exports to the mainland reached US$573.7 billion that same month, boosting the island's trade surplus to more than US$454.1 billion.
Xu said that cross-Strait charter flights have operated during the Chinese Spring Festival holidays for four consecutive years and more sea routes have been opened between the mainland and Taiwan.
Statistics show more than 22,000 passenger voyages and 4,000 cargo direct-route shipments were made between mainland coastal cities in Fujian Province and Taiwan, carrying 2.37 million passengers and more than 4.83 million tons of goods.
The mainland has devised a policy package to boost cross-Strait exchanges, including 54 preferential measures for Taiwan compatriots promulgated since 2005 and 48 economic, trade and cultural exchange policies agreed upon at three forums jointly held by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese Kuomintang (KMT), or the Nationalist Party, since 2006, Dai said.
The policy package has helped Taiwanese people with more convenient residential, employment and medical conditions, and offered preferential measures to Taiwanese farmers and fishermen in their sale of fruits, vegetables and aquatic products to the mainland. This has boosted cross-Strait agricultural exchanges and alleviated some financial difficulties occurring in Taiwanese enterprises, he said.
"Up to now, the mainland has carried out all planned preferential policies for Taiwan, and is actively promoting the settlement of issues requiring consultation by both sides," Dai said.
The two sides have also witnessed more high-level exchanges in recent years, Dai noted, citing CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao's landmark meetings with Lien Chan, then KMT chairman, and James CY Soong, chairman of the People First Party based in Taiwan, in April and May of 2005.
However, Dai pointed out that the Taiwan authorities tended to limit these exchanges and that they were greatly affected by secessionist moves in Taiwan.
"Various facts show that only through strengthening exchange and cooperation can people from both sides gain mutual trust and thaw out a previous estrangement. This accords with the fundamental interests of all the Chinese people," Dai said.
(Xinhua News Agency November 2, 2007)