China touts economic gains for Taiwan in co-development plan with Fujian

BEIJING (Reuters) - China announced details of its plan to turn coastal Fujian province into a zone for integrated development with Taiwan, touting benefits from increased cross-strait cooperation including financial market initiatives.

China has in recent years boosted its military presence near democratically governed Taiwan, which China claims as its own. Taiwan strongly rejects China's sovereignty claims.

At the same time, Beijing envisions "reunification" at some point and persists in crafting long-term economic and social plans for Taiwan, promising gains from increased trade and investment.

Beijing will encourage Taiwanese firms in Fujian to list on Chinese stock exchanges, state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday, citing a statement jointly issued by the Communist Party of China's Central Committee and the State Council.

The statement said Beijing would support innovative ways of cross-strait capital cooperation and encourage the setting up of an integration development fund, without further details.

While seeking to enhance access for Taiwanese investors, China will also create a more "relaxed" environment for cross-strait travel, according to the statement.

On Wednesday, shares of some Fujian companies related to the cross-strait development plan rose after the announcement.

Strait Innovation Internet Co, a state-controlled firm in Pingtan, China's closest point to Taiwan island, saw its shares soar 20%, the daily upper limit.

Zhongfu Straits Pingtan Development Co and Fujian Cement Inc also jumped 10% each to hit their daily limit.

Details of the Taiwan-Fujian development plan were announced just months before Taiwan goes to the polls in January to elect a new president for the next four years.

Beijing has repeatedly denounced election front-runner William Lai as a "separatist" harmful to the stability of the Taiwan Strait.

"At the moment, cross-strait relations are at a critical moment and facing an important decision," China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesperson Chen Binhua said at a regular news conference on Wednesday.

Taiwan's China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council declined to immediately comment on Beijing's plan, but said it was waiting to see what other details China could release at a news conference in Beijing scheduled for Thursday.

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Louise Heavens, Susan Fenton, Lincoln Feast & Simon Cameron-Moore and Miral Fahmy)