A day after the Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT) chose Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou as its new chairman, Chinese President Hu Jintao said he looked forward to his Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Nationalists promoting links between the island and the mainland.

The KMT favours closer relations across the Taiwan Strait, in contrast to the pro-independence stance of President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party.

The KMT once ruled all of China before losing a civil war to Mao Zedong's Communists and fleeing to Taiwan in 1949.

Strong ties

Ma himself has closer connections with the mainland than many Taiwan people. His father is a native of China's southern province of Hunan.

Ma will replace Lien Chan (above)
as leader of the KMT

"I sincerely hope that the KMT and the CCP, together with compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, will continue to promote the peaceful and steady development of cross-strait relations, and join hands to create a bright future for the Chinese nation," Hu said in a message to Ma and the KMT.

Ma is expected to run in the next presidential election, in 2008. He will replace current KMT leader Lien Chan, who ended decades of hostility between his party and the communist government in China with a historic trip to Beijing in April.

China says the self-ruled island is part of its territory. Ma, like Lien, has ruled out independence.