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Taiwan businesses have eye on Chinese mainland

Reporter: Xing Zheming 丨 CCTV.com

11-02-2016 06:07 BJT

Full coverage: Cross-Strait Peaceful Development Forum

The Chinese mainland has attracted a number of investors from Taiwan seeking opportunities here. But how exactly are they coping with the current situation as cross-strait ties face great challenges under the Tsai Ing-wen administration?

A Guanyin buddha statue in the Hui-ju Temple. Tributes for her are very rare in mainland temples - not apples or grapes, but different kinds of Taiwan-brand snacks.

The temple also contains eastern China’s largest hall for the goddess of Mazu, who is said to protect fishermen and sailors. Mazu is widely worshiped by people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Many companies from Taiwan send their own Mazu statues to the hall to bless their businesses.

The temple, funded by the Taiwan community in Kunshan and locals, is a spiritual place and a special bridge that bonds people together.

It's in Kunshan city, in eastern China’s Jiangsu province. Kunshan is one of the key hubs for Taiwan businesses on the Chinese mainland. Over 4,000 companies and factories from Taiwan are registered here, with over 100,000 people from Taiwan living and working here.

Like Zheng Baotang, President of one of the world’s leading bicycle manufacturers, Giant China. He came to Kunshan in 1993, and built up the Taiwan bike maker’s mainland business from nothing to what it is today. From an annual output capacity of just over 100,000 bicycles, they now produce 4 million.

"I witnessed the development of mainland China and especially Kunshan. I think the mainland’s reform and opening up policy has provided great opportunities for businesses from Taiwan," said Zheng Baotang.

Taiwan businesses here are thriving fast, especially between 2008 and 2016, when cross-strait relations reached a historic high. With more clients here on the mainland, a banking giant from Taiwan has followed them here as well.

Chang Hwa Bank, a large-scale Taipei-listed commercial bank, is the first Taiwan bank that opened a branch on the Chinese mainland. Here in Kunshan, the bank does not only provide financial services to Taiwan-investors, but also to the local businesses, becoming an integral part of the local community.

But the market landscape is changing fast. Taiwan businesses now face pressures like rising labor costs and other challenges from their mainland counterparts.

"In the past, many Taiwan companies were industry leaders on the Chinese mainland. But now, many of them have become industry followers," said Sheng Jiuyuan, research fellow of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

A bigger challenge, is the shut down of official communication and exchange channels between Beijing and Taipei, as Tsai Ing-wen’s administration refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus and advocates Taiwan Secession.

Many business expansion plans have been put on hold, especially those subject to government approval, support or coordination. Over the last 30 years, many platforms have been created to bring people and businesses from both sides of the strait together. But experts say the current situation is a set-back.

"The existing channels for dialogue are basically closed. There are great challenges facing many institutional economic connections, such as the follow up work of ECFA. Under such circumstances, Taiwan business feel it is more difficult to develop here," said Sheng Jiuyuan.

Over the last 30 years, many platforms have been created to bring people and businesses from both sides of the strait together. But experts say the current situation is a set-back.

"We hope the authorities can work together like they did in the past. Because only with constant contacts and communication, can we move forward towards the same goal," said Zheng Baotang.

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