Page last updated at 21:22 GMT, Sunday, 26 July 2009 22:22 UK

Taiwan president wins party vote

By Cindy Sui
BBC News, Taipei

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou 26.7.09
President Ma Ying-jeou could now meet his Chinese counterpart

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has been elected head of the island's ruling party, the Kuomintang, in a vote by party members.

The move will make it easier for him to pass policies through parliament and to have more say in relations with China.

China considers Taiwan as one of its provinces, not a country, and does not recognise Mr Ma as Taiwan president.

But as chairman of the ruling party, Mr Ma will now be able to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Until now, negotiations between the two sides have been conducted largely between the Kuomintang (KMT) and China's Communist Party, rather than between the two governments.

The past year has seen relations between the two countries improve dramatically, but a summit between the two presidents still may not be likely in the near future.

Local media has anticipated a summit between the two men, which would be the first between Taiwan and China since they separated in 1949 following a civil war.

But analysts say Mr Ma doesn't want such a meeting to happen soon.

Sensitive issue

Meeting Mr Hu now would be too sensitive, as Mr Ma's plans to bring the two sides economically closer - including the signing of a type of free-trade agreement - face opposition from those who fear he will sell out to China.

Mr Ma has indicated he is in no hurry to visit China.

Analysts say the main reason he sought the party chairmanship is to exert control over his party, which controls the legislature, so he can get his bills and appointments approved.

Being party chairman, however, will also give him more say over dealings with China.

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