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Cross-strait trade swells to US$197.2 bil.

Trade volume between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan reached US$197.2 billion last year amid closer cross-Strait ties, a year-on-year increase of 16.7 percent, a mainland spokesman said on Wednesday.

Mainland authorities approved 1,804 projects for Taiwan investors in 2013, with US$1.89 billion in investment from the island, said Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

Fifty mainland companies invested US$117 million in Taiwan last year, Ma said at a news conference.

Taiwan's trade surplus with the mainland reached US$116 billion last year, Ma said, adding that the peaceful development of cross-strait ties has benefited the people of both sides.

Leaders of the mainland and Taiwan maintained frequent communication last year, which boosted mutual trust and resulted in the booming economic and trade exchange, he said.

The mainland has been the biggest source of tourists to Taiwan, with nearly 2.19 million mainland tourists going to the island last year, 11 percent more than in 2012, Ma said.

On Monday, the Taiwan tourism bureau announced that the island will lift its daily quota for individual tourists from the mainland to 4,000 in the first half of 2014, compared with the previous ceiling of 3,000.

The number of passenger flights across the strait rose from 616 to 670 last year and will soon increase to 828, Ma said.

To facilitate personnel exchanges, the mainland expanded its urban residents' health insurance to cover Taiwan students studying at mainland universities last year.

Ma said that mainland and Taiwan authorities are also discussing enhancing cooperation in meteorology and earthquake monitoring early this year.

Ma called on Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party to give up the idea of "Taiwan independence," saying that its stance of "one country on each side" is a critical obstacle to normal communication across the strait.

"The 'old shoes' of 'Taiwan independence' will not walk a new path in cross-strait relations," Ma said in response to a DPP report on its mainland policy and recent remarks by DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang.

Mainland and Taiwan authorities should work together to safeguard China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands, Ma said.

Relations between and Japan soured after Tokyo's unilateral "nationalization" of part of the islands in September 2012.

People across the Taiwan Strait, as well as the international community, are clearly aware of Japan's provocation, which intensified conflicts over the islands and threatened regional peace and stability, Ma added.

Leaders of both sides have laid a solid basis for mutual trust after the mainland's new leadership was elected in 2012, and peaceful development remains the keynote of cross-strait ties this year, said Chen Xiancai, a professor at the Taiwan Research Institute of Xiamen University.

Mainland authorities will pay more attention to the welfare of grassroots people in Taiwan when making cross-strait policies, he said.

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