CHINA PLANS TO DEVELOP PORT COMPLEX SPECIFICALLY FOR TRADE WITH TAIWAN

CHINA PLANS TO DEVELOP PORT COMPLEX SPECIFICALLY FOR TRADE WITH TAIWAN

China is planning to build its first port specifically meant for trade with Taiwan.

The special port area in southeastern Fujian province is China's latest effort to strengthen its ties with Taiwan despite the misgivings of the Taiwanese government.The price tag for the dock complex is estimated at about US$5.5 million.

The complex would be located on the five-square-mile island of Meizhou, which lies just south of the provincial capital, Fuzhou, and above the special economic zone of Xiamen (Amoy). The latter is a powerful magnet for heavy indirect investment by Taiwanese business in Fujian.

Initially, the dock complex would be able to handle ships of between 3,000 and 5,000 deadweight tons, Chinese officials said Tuesday. Expansion eventually would bring that capability up to 10,000 dwt., they said.

The complex would be the first port expressly designed for Taiwan-China trade, said Huang Yusen, president of the Fujian provincial branch of the People's Construction Bank of China. The bank is responsible for all investment on Meizhou Island, which is less than 100 miles from the western Taiwanese port of Taichung.

Taiwan and China have had no official relations since the communists seized power on the mainland in 1949. Commerce, however, is booming as Taiwanese industry makes greater use of the cheap labor and land available across the narrow strait.

Two-way trade, conducted mainly through Hong Kong, totaled a record US$5.8 billion last year, up 43 percent from 1990. Taiwan's imports from the mainland grew 47 percent to US$1.1 billion; China-bound exports rose 42 percent to US$4.7 billion.

Chinese figures show nearly 200 commercial vessels from Taiwan called at Meizhou in 1991, bringing or collecting cargoes valued at US$4 million. Direct transport and investment remain illegal under Taiwan law, but that bar is being steadily undermined by businessmen.

Hong Kong-based Huayang Co., with additional funds from Taiwan and Singapore investors, signed a deal last year to develop a site on Meizhou. That project's cost is estimated at about US$130 million over eight years.

According to Huayang, the first stage will be a two-mile bridge linking Meizhou with the rest of Fujian province. Basic roads, water, electricity and telecommunications are included in stage one.

Between 1996 and the end of the decade, a "complete network of roads and infrastructure" will follow, the Hong Kong firm said. Tourist, commercial and service industries also are envisioned.

Chinese plans announced earlier for the waters around Meizhou Island include an oil refinery and berth and a 10,000-ton sundry goods berth. An export- oriented hub is projected, based on heavy industry and chemicals.

Ten berths are being added at Fuzhou's harbor and four at Xiamen's Dongdu port. The latter comprises a container wharf, two sundry goods wharves and a coal dock.

A new airport is planned for Fuzhou and improvements to the one at Xiamen are under way. Both are intended in part to cater to direct China-Taiwan flights, which authorities in Taipei are resisting but will probably allow in time.