Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Saturday, 20 December 2008

China offers Taiwan economic aid

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Shanghai

Investor at trading house in Taipei in October
Taiwan's fortunes could be linked to the US slump

A senior Chinese official has pledged that China will consider any request for assistance from Taiwan during the current global financial downturn.

Relations between China and the self-governing island it regards as part of its territory have improved since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan's president.

China and Taiwan are already closely linked economically.

China's economic growth has slowed in recent months, but its leaders still see an opportunity to be grasped.

China is not suffering as much as its neighbours, so it has offered help to South Korea and Hong Kong, and co-operation with Japan as they try to ride out the financial storm.

Tourism request

Now China is promising to support the Taiwanese, an important gesture which it no doubt hopes will win it more friends on the island.

Taiwanese firms have invested billions of dollars in China and the island's reliance on the mainland both as a market for its goods and as a supplier is likely to increase as the US, a key market for Taiwan, continues its economic slump.

The pledge to do more came at a meeting of politicians, academics and business leaders from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait called to discuss ways to co-operate in the financial and service industries.

The Taiwanese responded warmly to the Chinese offer, and urged Beijing to start by making it easier for Chinese tourists to visit the island.

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