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Taiwan poised to warm ties with China

Both presidential hopefuls in Saturday's election want to boost economic relations.

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For a glimpse of Taiwan's warming relations with China, come to this forested island just off the mainland coast.

Direct cross-strait travel is largely prohibited because of the decades-old standoff between Taiwan and China. But here in Kinmen, Chinese tourists visit freely and Taiwanese businessmen can ferry across the strait to the mainland.

The Kinmen model will be expanded to all of Taiwan if either of the two candidates in the Taiwan's presidential election Saturday has his way. Their only argument is over the speed and scale at which that should happen.

For behind all the boisterous rallies and China-bashing rhetoric across Taiwan in recent days, this election is not about the usual hot-button issue of unification with, or independence from, China – neither of which is in the cards anytime soon. Rather, it's about how economically close Taiwan should be with its giant neighbor. Will it be an uneasy handshake or a passionate embrace?

Either way, the candidates' willingness to engage rather than confront Beijing signals a pause in Taiwan's independence push and the likely cooling of a long-simmering Asian flash point.

"No matter who wins, we'll move closer to China," says Lin Wen-cheng, a China expert at National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung and a former adviser to two Taiwan presidents. "Cross-strait relations are going to improve."

From battlefront to tourist stop


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