China to push investment in Taiwan: report

BEIJING: China said Sunday it would push mainland businesses to invest in Taiwan to help it weather the global economic crisis, state media reported.

China will also invite Taiwanese businesses to expand on the mainland and join in infrastructure and other key projects, the official Xinhua news agency quoted Wang Yi, head of China's State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, as saying.

"The global financial crisis is affecting both sides of the straits, and we are concerned about the Taiwan economy and the Taiwan compatriots' difficulties," Wang said. "We are ready to give all we can to help them out."

Wang was speaking on the second day of the Straits Forum on China-Taiwan relations in the southeast city of Xiamen.

The mainland will buy more Taiwanese products, encourage more mainland tourists to visit Taiwan, and wants to sign an economic cooperation agreement that would span the Taiwan Strait, Wang said, according to the report.

China will also allow Taiwanese law firms to open offices in the southeastern cities Fuzhou and Xiamen, and step up agricultural cooperation across the straits, Wang was quoted as saying.

The Xiamen forum was concluding Sunday on the same day Taiwan's pro-independence opposition was seeking to draw half a million people into the streets of Taipei to protest President Ma Ying-jeou's pro-China policies.

Relations between Taiwan and once bitter rival China, which split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, had hit rock bottom amid perceived provocative anti-China remarks by Ma's predecessor Chen Shui-bian.

But they improved dramatically after Ma was inaugurated a year ago.

The two sides have since held three rounds of meetings and signed a raft of agreements that led to regular direct flights across the strait, a steep rise in Chinese tourists, and greater cooperation between Taipei and Beijing.