For many countries China is a key partner in international relations, whether in recovering from the financial crisis or tackling climate change. And this is no less true for Taiwan, whose government is sidelining long-term political disputes with the mainland for the sake of improving economic ties.

For some, the pragmatic pro-China policies of the new Nationalist government that came to power last year signal an overdue thawing of cross-strait relations, which could lead to greater international recognition. But others feel that the Nationalist-led administration is focusing on China at the expense of older friendships, for example with Japan.

Taiwan's government, led by President Ma Ying-jeou, will be negotiating with Beijing early next year on signing an economic cooperation framework agreement, or ECFA, a free-trade pact. The government hopes it will pave the way for similar deals with other Asian countries with whom Taiwan does not trade freely, mainly because of opposition from China, according to Chao Chien-min, deputy minister of the Mainland Affairs Council.