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"The two governments have their political concerns, their sense of pride," Liou said. "But we regular people, we want to make friends, make money, we want to see each other."
"If China leaves Taiwan alone, if they are patient, sooner or later, it's going to be unified," he said.
Kunshan City, in Jiangsu province, a 20-minute ride on the bullet train from Shanghai, is now home to so many Taiwanese businesses that it has been nicknamed "Little Taipei," after Taiwan's capital. Its Yellow River Main Street is lined with Taiwanese restaurants and fast-food joints, offering dumplings, noodles, milk tea and fresh fruits from the island.
"I call myself a new immigrant," said Jenny Zhan Guifen, a former fashion designer and organic farmer who moved to China with her children five years ago after a divorce. She now runs the Dream Herb cafe, a Kunshan gathering spot for Taiwanese.
The influx has made Kunshan one of China's most prosperous cities, with the Taiwanese-owned factories turning out Dell laptops, digital cameras and iPods. But it wasn't always so.
When Huang Jian-zhong first came in 1999, moving his food-additive manufacturing company from Guangdong province in the south, Kunshan was a rural backwater to cosmopolitan Shanghai, he recalled. "When I came here, my neighbor was a pig farm," he said, looking out his office window at new high-rise apartments and sprawling factories.
But the Kunshan government courted mid-size Taiwanese businesses, offering incentives and cutting red tape when glitzier Shanghai was more interested in attracting big international firms. "Shanghai didn't attach enough importance to Taiwanese businesses," said Huang, 52, who is also deputy head of the local Taiwan Business Association.
Word spread among the Taiwanese business community, and today about 4,000 Taiwanese firms are based in Kunshan, constituting 70 percent of the local economy. An estimated 100,000 Taiwanese live in Kunshan.
Huang says he is a proud member of Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT), the party of Chiang Kai-shek, who fled with his forces to Taiwan in 1949. But as a prominent businessman, Huang now meets with Kunshan officials.
"I ask myself, as a KMT member, what am I doing here attending Communist Party meetings?" Huang joked.
While serving his mandatory tour in the Taiwanese army, Ting Chang-sing was based on Kinmen island, Taiwan's closest island outpost to the Chinese mainland. It was a time of tension across the strait, with China staging missile tests to intimidate the island.
"You could see the PLA soldiers smoking and napping," Ting, now 36, recalled. "When I saw the PLA soldiers on the mainland, my eyes were filled with anger."