CROSS-STRAIT tensions in southern China's special economic zones have been softened by booming economic activity, the chairman of the Hong Kong-based Taiwan Research Council, David Chan Yuk-cheung, said yesterday. Speaking after a four-day visit to Xiamen in Fujian province, Mr Chan, who is also a China-appointed district affairs adviser, said officials and businessmen in the special economic zones were looking forward to more trade activity with their Taiwan counterparts. The people in Xiamen were ready for more economic development once direct links in telecommunications and better transportation were available between China and Taiwan, Mr Chan said. Mr Chan's 11-member delegation participated in seminars with the chairman of Xiamen's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Cai Wanghuai, and other government officials. Quoting Chinese officials, Mr Chan said the political atmosphere and relationship between Beijing and Taipei would not affect economic links between cities in southern China and Taiwan. 'The atmosphere there is not so tense now compared with the period right after Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui's inauguration,' he said. 'I think the officials in Xiamen would rather put an emphasis on how to boost the economy instead of the political conflicts.' Mr Chan expected Beijing would remain tough towards Taiwan while local governments would take a softer approach. The southern regions and Hong Kong would play a vital role in cross-strait business, which would also help promote communication between Beijing and Taipei, he said. The delegates also visited Daideng, an outlying island only two kilometres from Jinmen. Mr Chan said business there was active and there was a plan to supply water to Jinmen from the island.