China to Taiwan's Chen: bow to public opinion

  • World
  • Tuesday, 24 Jan 2006

By Benjamin Kang Lim and Guo Shipeng

BEIJING (Reuters) - China urged Taiwan on Tuesday to "bow to public opinion" and develop relations with the mainland, an apparent reference to the tougher policy signalled towards Beijing by the president of the island it claims as its own. 

Asked to comment on Chen's new cabinet, Li Weiyi, spokesman for Beijing's policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office, warned Taipei against "adopting practices that run counter to the wishes and interests of numerous Taiwan compatriots". 

"We hope the Taiwan authorities will recognise the trend of the times, bow to public opinion ... and boost cross-Strait exchanges and cooperation, as well as ease and develop cross-Strait relations," Li told a news conference. 

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, struggling to avoid becoming a lame-duck president after his Democratic Progressive Party suffered a crushing defeat in local elections last month, appointed a former aide, Su Tseng-chang, as new premier. 

Chen has recently said that Taiwan's economy should not be too dependent on its giant neighbour. 

Li's comments echoed those of Frank Hsieh, who stepped down as Taiwan's premier on Monday with a warning to Chen that his policies were out of sync with the wishes of the island's people. 

Taiwan investors have poured up to $100 billion in China and are clamouring for direct air and shipping links -- banned due to security fears -- to cut costs and save time. 

Taiwan posted a trade surplus of $58 billion with China last year, Li said, adding that the island's accumulated trade surplus of $330 billion with the mainland eclipsed its foreign exchange reserves of $253.29 billion at the end of December. 

"This huge trade surplus has directly boosted the island's economy, resolved the employment problem of many and raised the incomes of many residents," Li said. 

Beijing and Taipei have been diplomatic and military rivals since their split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. But trade, investment and tourism have flourished since the late 1980s, albeit routed mostly through Hong Kong. 

Li, the Chinese spokesman, renewed an offer to give Taiwan a pair of pandas as a token of peace, and welcomed Taiwan businessmen to invest in Olympic projects ahead of the 2008 Beijing Games. Taiwan has rejected China's panda offer. 

He said China was also seriously considering allowing the Olympic torch relay to cross Taiwan. 

"The Beijing Olympic Committee ... will fully consider the desire of Taiwan compatriots and will satisfy the desire of Taiwan compatriots to share in the joy and glory the Olympic torch can bring," Li said. 

Beijing has refused to deal with President Chen whom it suspects of pushing for formal statehood for the island. Beijing has vowed to attack democratic Taiwan, still officially styled the Republic of China, if it formally declares independence. 

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