|Beijing prepared to crush separatist activities|
With two months to go for Taiwan's "presidential" elections on March 20, Beijing has remained steadfast on its strategy to keep the island from drifting further towards independence.
While strongly warning against Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's pro-independence push, senior government officials yesterday tried hard to attract Taiwanese investors with vast market and abundant business opportunities.
Li Weiyi, spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, told a regular press conference that the mainland has "firm determination and necessary preparation" to crush splittist activities.
"We are fully confident to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the motherland," he said.
"We will not allow anybody to split Taiwan from China in any form."
The spokesman called Chen's proposed "defensive referendum" a great challenge to peace in cross-Straits relations.
Through such an islandwide election, Chen aims to pave the way for a future plebiscite on changing Taiwan's status to declare formal independence, Li said.
The Taiwan leader has insisted on holding the referendum on election day despite blunt warning from both Beijing and Washington.
The referendum plan has been widely seen as Taipei's unilateral move to upset the cross-Straits status quo, which threatens to trigger tension and could even armed conflict between Taiwan and the mainland.
Despite harsh political rhetoric, mainland officials softened their tone when addressing economic issues at the press briefing.
Ren Airong, deputy director of the Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office under the Ministry of Agriculture, pledged to strengthen cross-Straits agricultural co-operation and open wider to Taiwanese investors and farming products.
She said the mainland -- with its huge consumption market, plenty of plantation resources and a sound investment environment -- can provide myriad opportunities for Taiwanese agricultural enterprises.
"Both sides of the Straits can model on the closer economic partnership arrangement between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macao to facilitate bilateral agricultural trade," the official said.
She added that the mainland is ready to allow more imports of agricultural products from the island while offering convenient quarantine and logistics services.
Official statistics suggest the mainland had approved 4,609 Taiwanese-funded agricultural projects by the end of last year, with investment totalling up to US$3 billion.
As a whole, the number of Taiwanese-funded businesses on the mainland rose by 4,495 in 2003, with contract investment of US$8.56 billion.
Indirect trade volume across the Straits topped US$50 billion for the first time last year, hitting US$58.37 billion.