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Beijing to Taipei: 'Bow to public opinion'
Updated: 2006-01-24 16:21

Beijing urged Taipei 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 leader of the island.

Asked to comment on Chen Shui-bian'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 the mainland.

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 the Chinese mainland and are clamouring for direct air and shipping links to cut costs and save time.

Taiwan posted a trade surplus of $58 billion with the mainland 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.

Trade, investment and tourism between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits have flourished since the late 1980s, albeit routed mostly through Hong Kong.

Li, the mainland 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 authorities have rejected the mainland's panda offer.

He said the mainland 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.

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