Just one year after Taiwan authorities allowed Taiwanese to visit their relatives in the Chinese mainland in 1987, Foxconn Founder and Chairman Terry Gou answered the call of Chinese mainland to encourage Taiwanese to invest in its vast market by setting up the company's first factory in the coastal city of Shenzhen.
Nearly thirty years later, Foxconn has expanded from the Pearl River Delta region to the Yangtze River Delta, the Bohai Rim and the country's central and western regions, becoming the world's largest contract assembler of consumer electronics, including Apple iPhones and iPads.
"At the very beginning of our entry into the mainland market, it was just 'crossing the river by feeling for the stones.'" said Gou, who has become a representative for Taiwanese entrepreneurs investing in the mainland.
He divided the development of Taiwanese investment in the mainland into three phases, first making use of cheap labor and land costs to boost exports, then bringing in technology, and now wider and deeper integration along the whole industrial chain.
In the 1990s, Foxconn started to transfer its machinery processing, molding and electronics assembling technologies to the mainland. Its investment into the mainland market started to accelerate and diversify after cross-strait relations heated up with the implementation of direct flight, mail and trade policies in 2008.
Gou's latest mainland investment was a 50-billion-yuan (7.58 billion U.S. dollars) cooperation agreement, signed in early November with leading mainland commercial conglomerate Suning Holdings Group, which focuses on the knowledge sharing of big data analytics to promote smart retail.
"We should work together to tap the opportunities of the emerging industries in the new era," Gou said.
By the end of September this year, over 100,000 Taiwanese investment projects had been approved, with actual investment volume topping 66 billion U.S. dollars and bringing 10 million new jobs.
The mainland's appeal to Taiwanese investors is gaining traction this year thanks to stable economic growth and emerging business opportunities. Official data showed that Taiwanese investment in the mainland surged 45.9 percent in the first 10 months of this year, topping other overseas investors.
The two sides share complementary advantages, Gou pointed out, as the mainland has a large and innovative talent pool, sufficient capital and efficient governance while Taiwan boasts strengths in sectors like semiconductors, medical services and food security.
The Chinese mainland is expected to import goods worth 8 trillion U.S. dollars and attract overseas investment of 600 billion U.S. dollars in the next five years, offering a huge market and extensive cooperation opportunities for investors, according to Chiang Pin-kung, president of the Straits Economic and Cultural Interchange Association.
Meanwhile, new development initiatives launched Chinese mainland, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei coordinated development strategy, and the Yangtze River Economic Belt will lead cross-strait cooperation to fresh fields, Chiang added.
While veteran Taiwanese entrepreneurs like Gou continue digging for gold in the mainland market, young entrepreneurial Taiwanese are also attracted to setting up start-ups to tap the vast market's business opportunities.
The son of a Taiwanese businessman in Zhejiang Province, 32-year-old Mike Lee is now the general manager of HuaCan Dreamworks, an incubator in Zhonguancun, Beijing, known as "China's Silicon Valley," to nurture Taiwanese and mainland young entrepreneurs.
The maker space plans to help 100 Taiwanese teams set up businesses in the mainland and has already attracted 10 since its establishment in August 2016.
Over 50 cross-strait youth entrepreneurship demonstration zones have been set up across the mainland so far and 20-plus policies have been issued to encourage Taiwan youth to study and work in the mainland.
"The market is big and the opportunities are abundant. Young Taiwanese should come to the mainland and give their talent full play," Lee said.