China allowed to attend Computex for first time

Chinese companies will come to Computex for the first time next year.

Companies from mainland China will attend their first Computex Taipei trade show ever next year, highlighting efforts by the new government in Taiwan to improve relations with its neighbor.

Trade between Taiwan and China has grown significantly over the past decade, a time that has seen China replace the U.S. as Taiwan's largest trading partner. Despite the increased trade, it has been hard for Chinese companies or individuals to set foot in Taiwan due to laws left over from when the Nationalists retreated to the island after losing the Chinese civil war six decades ago.

But a new administration in Taipei led by President Ma Ying-jeou has torn down many old restrictions and further opened the island to Chinese visitors. The first regular direct flights between Taiwan and China since 1949 started shortly after Ma took office and restrictions on Taiwanese investment in China, particularly in the high-tech field, have been eased or lifted.

Now, Chinese companies will be able to participate in Computex, one of the largest computer hardware shows in the world.

Computex organizers have set aside 200 booths for Chinese companies at what they call the Cross Strait Pavilion, a reference to the nearly 180-kilometers (110 miles) of ocean that separate China and Taiwan known as the Taiwan Strait.

"Many of them are data communications companies," said Li Chang, deputy secretary general of the Taipei Computer Association, one of the organizers of Computex. Huawei Technologies is one example of the Chinese companies that will attend Computex Taipei 2009, which runs from June 2 to 6 next year.

Bringing Chinese companies to Taiwan isn't as easy as it may sound. China maintains batteries of missiles along its southern coast aimed at Taiwan to prevent the island from formally declaring independence, which is something some people in Taiwan yearn for. A visit to Taiwan last month by a high ranking Chinese trade official -- the first such visit in decades -- was met with protests that at times turned violent.

Still, most people in Taiwan support better business ties with China.

Technology companies from other nations may also grumble about the emphasis on China because Computex is already full.

"Even though we expanded from four exhibition halls to five, we still have a queue [for booth space]," said Walter Yeh, executive vice president of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), a Computex co-organizer.

Computex officials also said they will also welcome delegations of Chinese visitors and buyers to Computex next year.

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Dan Nystedt

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