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Taiwan builds bridges with the mainland

New president Ma Ying-jeou is intent on improving relations with the People’s Republic of China, with likely benefits for business, especially in financial services. Chris Wright reports.

Revamping the stock market

Victor Kung, Fubon Financial

"We would like to see the same kind of banking services that we offer here in Taiwan offered in China as well"
Victor Kung, Fubon Financial

TAIWAN’S STOCK MARKET gives a good indication of the buoyant mood in the country. In 2008 up to May 16, with China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia down by double digits and Hong Kong and Singapore not far behind, Taiwan is a rare positive exception: amid the global credit crunch, its market has risen 7.7%. The reason for the uncommon optimism is chiefly political. On March 22, the Taiwanese voted in a new president, Ma Ying-jeou. But the reason the markets have responded so favourably to the victory has nothing to do with Ma’s vision for domestic policy: it’s all about China.

Ma’s predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, was not a popular figure with China, and the feeling was mutual. Chen was a pro-independence figure who wanted statehood for Taiwan, rather than the curious halfway house it occupies today: a strong and successful democracy but with no official standing as a world state, unable to participate under its own name anywhere from the Olympics to the UN.

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