Taipei wants to start with business-level talks with Beijing on a variety of practical, serious issues to improve the two nations’ strained relations, rather than political dialogue, as China again proposed earlier this week, a Taiwan spokesman said Thursday in Tokyo.Visiting The Japan Times head office, David Tawei Lee, director general of Taiwan’s Government Information Office, said such talks should be started as soon as possible on those issues, which include drug smuggling from China and ways to jointly fight Chinese criminal gangs. Other issues, including business relations, could then be discussed as mutual confidence is built up, he said.Political talks may then become possible in the future, said Lee, who assumed the Cabinet-level post of government spokesman last May. “Political negotiations … are the key to promoting further development of ties,” the People’s Daily said earlier this week in a front-page editorial, following a call from a top Chinese negotiator for talks to be resumed.Beijing suspended semiofficial talks with Taipei in mid-1995 after Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui made a private but high-profile visit to the United States to try to break the island nation out of its diplomatic isolation imposed by China. The two nations’ relations worsened further when China conducted war games in waters off Taiwan in the runup to the island’s first direct presidential elections, held in March 1996.Beijing considers its relations with Taipei to be zero-sum ones even since the end of the Cold War, Lee said. However, he believes that could be changed into a win-win situation if China gives up its hostile, confrontational attitude toward Taiwan and admits the political reality that two administrations have existed for half a century on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.Lee said Taipei is very concerned about the economic and financial situation in China, where Taiwan has invested heavily, despite President Lee’s call on Taiwanese firms to exercise restraint in investment in China and divert more to Southeast Asian nations. If China should be forced to devalue the yuan, despite pledges by Beijing’s leaders that they will not do so, the impact on Taiwan’s economy, as well as on that of Japan and the rest of the world, would be serious, he said.Taiwan, whose economic performance is robust despite the widespread economic and financial troubles elsewhere in Asia, should be able to sit down with Japan, China, Hong Kong and Singapore to see what they can do about the situation, Lee said. Taiwan’s economy grew 6.7 percent last year and this year it is expected to grow 6.6 percent, thanks to its solid fundamentals and trade and current account surpluses. Its small and medium-size firms, which account for 90 percent of Taiwan’s businesses, show great flexibility in coping with changes in conditions, he said.

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