Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou delivers a speech at his headquarters after being elected Nationalist Party chairman
China's president has congratulated the newly elected leader of Taiwan's main opposition Nationalist Party, which favors closer ties with Beijing, in contrast to the independence-leaning ruling party.

On Saturday, Taiwan's Nationalist Party, known as the KMT, elected Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou as its new chairman. The party supports eventual reunification with the mainland.

Mr. Ma, who won by a landslide, immediately promised to lead the KMT back to power in the next presidential elections.

"When I become the chairman of the KMT, I will lay out a comprehensive plan of reform, which will enable the KMT to win back power in the year 2008," he announced.

In a congratulatory message to Mr. Ma, Chinese President Hu Jintao said he hopes the KMT and China's Communist Party, together with compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, will continue to promote peaceful and steady cross-Straits relations.

Beijing has been developing ties with the Taiwanese opposition, in a bid to isolate the island's independence-leaning president, Chen Shui-bian.

Beijing has hosted leaders from three of Taiwan's opposition parties this year, but refuses to open direct dialogue with the governing Democratic Progressive Party, until it recognizes Taiwan as part of "One China."

Political relations between China and Taiwan have been poor since the Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2000. Beijing considers the ruling party's attempts to hold referendums and introduce constitutional amendments as steps toward declaring formal independence.

China considers self-governing Taiwan a breakaway province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Mr. Ma will replace Lien Chan, who ended decades of hostility between the KMT and China's Communist Party when he visited the mainland in April. His trip was the highest-level contact between the two sides since 1949.