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China, Taiwan expand ties via trade

Beijing's envoy will also discuss financial links and present pandas in historic visit.

No to China: Taiwanese protesters waved flags at a sit-in against Chen Yunlin, China's top cross-strait negotiator, who is holding talks in Taiwan this week.

Nicky Loh/Reuters

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Longtime rivals Taiwan and China inked a new round of economic pacts Tuesday in Taipei, amid rising protests from the island's pro-independence camp.

The two sides closed deals on direct air, shipping, and postal links, further integrating Taiwan with China's booming economy, after on-and-off talks dating back to the early 1990s. But political negotiations have been put off until next year at the earliest.

The progress on trade, but not political, ties reflects the island's ambivalence toward China: Polls show that a majority of Taiwanese see China as "unfriendly" and oppose unification. But a majority also back closer commercial links.

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May on the promise of cross-strait detente, after a decade of defiant Taiwan nationalism. Mr. Ma had won with a convincing majority and soon initiated talks with Chinese representatives. By June, the two sides had signed an agreement on charter flights and tourism. But since then Ma's approval ratings have plunged along with Taiwan's stock market, a victim of the global financial crisis. His popularity has also dropped as some fear he's moving too quickly on China.

For its part, China sees self-ruled Taiwan as its territory and has threatened war to back up its claim. But since Ma took office, it has responded to efforts to build closer ties.

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