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China Headlines: Go west: Mainland opportunities for young Taiwanese

By Yao Yuan,Wang Di (Xinhua)    10:35, June 16, 2015

XIAMEN, June 15 -- "I woke up this morning to find I can't see clearly. Shall I tell my mom about having myopia? Will she scold me?" A childish question, but Eric Loh sees money in childish questions.

A Taiwanese start-up entrepreneur in Shanghai, Loh designed an app for initiating yes-no votes on personal issues from "Shall I get a tattoo?" to "Should I talk to my teacher who I suspect is having an affair with my father?" Posters can draw inspiration from the ballots and other users' comments.

Loh said the app helps solve some problems that are typical for young Chinese, such as the tendency of single children to be indecisive and their need for companionship during a lonely adolescence.

"Many of our users are not actually seeking a solution. What they want is for people to show care and chat with them," explained the 34-year-old, who has just won a prize for the app at the Straits Forum in Xiamen, on China's southeast coast.

Launched in late 2014, the app already has over 500,000 users and has attracted millions of U.S. dollars from mainland investors. Even before receiving his award at the forum, an event running Sunday-Tuesday promoting cultural exchange across the Strait, Loh was charged with passion when talking about business openings in the mainland.

"China is rich in capital and full of opportunities. As long as you have a good project, you get the investment," he told Xinhua.

Loh is not a typical "Taiwanese entrepreneur", a label that invokes images of those venturing into the impoverished mainland of the 1970s to build factories during the country's opening up. This new business-savvy generation is tapping into the ever-closer ties, but also a more contemporary trend -- the mainland's development of Internet services.

For them, the mainland's promise to give Taiwan a preferential share of its opportunities may bring a new round of opening up. Many of these twenty- and thirty-somethings have the computer skills China is crying out for and they share a language and culture with those across the water. Career success may be only a ferry ride away.


The economic boom in the mainland has been a magnet for young Taiwanese job seekers. A poll conducted by Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS earlier this year indicated about one third of Taiwan residents aged between 20 and 29 are interested in working in the mainland.

One attraction is higher incomes. Statistics from Taiwan authorities show the average monthly salary of new college graduates in 2014 stood at 27,000 New Taiwan dollars (NTD; 870 U.S. dollars), lower than the 29,800 NTD in 1998 and a sum that doesn't stretch far in a Taiwanese city.

The trend for more young Taiwanese to seek jobs in the mainland is irreversible, according to Chen Chang-feng, president of the Association of Chinese Elite, a Taiwan-based NGO engaged in youth exchanges across the Strait.

"Some are attracted to the mainland for better income, but often it's not just about money -- many realize they must come because this is where the market will be in future," he told Xinhua.

Chiang Chu-shiang, a member of a Taiwanese team establishing a bank to store healthy clients' stomach microbiota for future medical treatment, is in negotiation to build a lab in Xiamen.

"The mainland has two charms for new Taiwanese entrepreneurs: plentiful venture capital and powerful government support," Chiang said, adding that the Xiamen government has promised them a low rental fee.

Such ripe conditions for new businesses moving across the Strait come as the central government prioritizes development of tech start-ups. China's "Internet Plus" action plan, unveiled in the government work report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang in March, is widely expected to usher in a golden era for Internet-related industries.

The report promised more government support for tech whizzkids struggling to turn their innovative ideas into valid businesses.


Longer-standing cross-Strait policies have played a vital role in tearing down barriers for young Taiwanese wishing to come to the mainland.

The mainland and Taiwan broke off communications in 1949, after the Kuomintang (KMT) lost a civil war with the Communist Party of China and fled to the island.

Cross-Strait exchanges only became widely possible after 2008, when the KMT adopted mainland-friendly policies and the two sides opened direct mail, transport and trade links.

The mainland has issued a slew of policies to benefit ordinary Taiwanese in recent years, including increasing state purchases of Taiwanese agricultural produce, making the island more accessible to individual tourists, and creating exams with which Taiwanese jobs seekers can pass in order to apply for work in the mainland.

In May, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to prioritize Taiwan in the mainland's opening up. He spoke of the need to create "a community of shared destiny" and more opportunities for ordinary people.

The latest preferential policy came on Sunday, when top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng announced plans to remove the requirement for Taiwan residents to apply for permits before entering the mainland.

Such policies can only inspire more people like Eric Loh.

"Taiwan has experienced managers and the advanced technology the mainland needs, while the mainland's vast market is attractive to young Taiwanese," said Dai Zhouying, general manager of mainland venture capital firm Cyber Agent Ventures.

"Young Taiwanese are more innovative and their mainland peers are more enterprising," according to Wang Wei-chung, board chairman of Taiwan's Sunsino Venture Group. "They should work together."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Jin Chen,Huang Jin)

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