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China to support economic zone to boost mainland-Taiwan cooperation
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The State Council, China's cabinet, has recently passed a plan to support the development of the economic zone on the western side of the Taiwan Straits.

The plan adopted at an executive meeting of the State Council is aimed to boost development in a region led by Fujian Province and promote cooperation between the region and Taiwan.

Such a plan for the zone was "more forceful measures" that need to be taken under the new circumstance of positive changes in cross-Straits relations, according to the meeting presided by Premier Wen Jiabao.

The blueprint of an economic zone on the western side of the Taiwan Straits was included into the country's 11th five-year plan (2006-2010) in 2006.

The new economic zone faces the Taiwan Island across the Straits, and neighbors the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta, two economic powerhouses on the mainland.

Wang Kaiming, a researcher with the development research center under the Fujian Provincial Government, said the special location of the zone gave it an important role in country's efforts to bolster regional development.

The zone would become a frontier platform to boost industrial and cultural exchanges across the Straits, according to the plan.

Under the guidelines, the country would speed up infrastructure construction in the region to meet the needs after the realization of direct flights, postal and shipping services across the straits.

The Chinese mainland and Taiwan started historic direct flights, postal and shipping services On Dec. 15, 2008, ending a 59-year ban on such links.

The new economic zone would aim to foster development of industries of specific characteristics, the State Council said without elaboration.

Li Fei, vice director with the Taiwan research center of the Xiamen University, said the move showed the sincerity of the motherland to Taiwan, and it would create more opportunities of trade and investment for Taiwan enterprises.

Trade between Fujian and Taiwan rose 8.7 percent in 2008 to 7.5 billion U.S. dollars. Investment from Taiwan hit 2.27 billion U.S. dollars, up 25.1 percent year on year.

He Xihao, vice president of the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland, said enterprises from Taiwan had been expecting the support from the central government for a long time.

Taiwan enterprises had been keen to tap into the region for development, He said, adding no Taiwan enterprises in Zhangzhou (a coastal city in Fujian) were shut down or stopped operation amid the financial crisis, and some crisis-hit ones had gained profits during the first quarter.

The zone, also covering parts of the neighboring provinces of Jiangxi and Guangdong, is part of the country's regional development strategy for coastal China.

Regional coordination and cross-province cooperation would be stressed in the region to accelerate the regional development, both in urban and rural areas, according to the plan.

Li Fei said the economic zone would bring benefits to the neighboring Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces as well as the developing central and western regions.

In addition, the zone would be able to carry out tryouts of major reforms, as a system for innovation would be established.

The plan would go through some revisions before it is officially promulgated by the State Council.

(Xinhua News Agency May 4, 2009)

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