China, Taiwan expand ties via trade
Beijing's envoy will also discuss financial links and present pandas in historic visit.
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Direct cargo flights will make it easier for Taiwan businesses to ship equipment and components to the mainland. Direct shipping links will remove the previously needed stop at Hong Kong or another intermediate port. "It's going to save a lot of transportation costs for Taiwan businesses," says Wu Chung-shu, dean of the college of management at Taiwan's National Dong Hwa University. "They're happy to see the government have a more open attitude."Skip to next paragraph
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Still, cross-strait links may not much blunt the global downturn's impact on Taiwan's export-dependent economy. "Improving cross-strait links will not totally insulate Taiwan from the current downside risks of a US recession," wrote Standard Chartered's Taiwan economist Tony Phoo in a report earlier this year. "Taiwan remains one of the most exposed in the region to a US-led global slowdown."
Chinese envoy: a lightning rod for grievances
Taiwan's government has ramped up security for Chen's visit, deploying thousands of police officers and tightening access to the airport and hotel where Chen is staying. Two weeks earlier protesters had roughed up a Chinese official, Zhang Mingqing, visiting the island. Independence supporters have slammed the security measures as excessive, even a throwback to Taiwan's authoritarian past.
Chen has become a lightning rod for a range of grievances, gossip, and political grandstanding in Taiwan's turbocharged media. Tibet independence supporters shadowed Chen's motorcade from the airport where he landed into Taipei, waving a Tibetan flag from their vehicle.
One hard-line Taiwan independence group has offered an NT$10,000 (US$300) reward to anyone who can hit Chen in the face with an egg.
And Taiwan's media have focused on Chen's "airplane head," or bouffant hairdo – with some hinting darkly that he deliberately gave it extra lift in order to tower over his Taiwanese counterpart.
Meanwhile, ex-President Chen Shui-bian has been whipping up anti-China and anti-Ma sentiment, though some observers say his efforts may be a cynical ploy to deflect attention from his legal woes. Mr. Chen is under investigation on suspicion of embezzling and laundering millions in public funds while president.
A Taiwanese official said Tuesday morning that the next round of cross-strait talks may be held next spring in Xiamen, China. As with the current round, the agenda will be strictly economic, possibly including deals on cross-strait banking and protection for Taiwan businesses in the mainland.
"The two sides still need some time to resolve differences in the economic field first," says Li Peng, assistant director of the Taiwan Research Institute at China's Xiamen University. "Then we can go to the political field."