Taiwan's Beijing-friendly leader Ma Ying-jeou secured a second four-year term as president Saturday, promising better ties with China after an election watched intently by the United States.
The vote was seen as a signal of cautious support for 61-year-old Ma's policies, which in his first term led to the most dramatic thaw in the island's ties with China since the two sides split more than six decades ago.
"We've won," a jubilant Ma told crowds of supporters gathered at his campaign headquarters in central Taipei.
"In the next four years, ties with China will be more harmonious and there will be more mutual trust and the chance of conflict is slimmer."
China's official Xinhua news agency said Ma's victory could offer a "new opportunity" to improve relations and showed the Taiwanese people had backed peaceful development of ties with the mainland.
The official final tally from the Central Election Commission showed Ma won 51.6 percent of the vote, with his main challenger Tsai Ing-wen on 45.6 percent.
Tsai, a 55-year-old China-sceptic, conceded defeat after her disappointing showing and announced she would step down as chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
"We accept the Taiwan people's decision and congratulate President Ma," she told her party faithful. "We want to give our deepest apology to our supporters for our defeat."
George Tsai, a political scientist at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei, said the result was a vote of confidence in Ma, who raised exchanges with China to unprecedented levels and introduced a sweeping trade pact.
"The outcome shows that voters generally approve of Ma's policies promoting ties and reducing tensions with China," he said.
"He has a new mandate although it's an open question how fast and how far he can go in his second term."
By contrast, a win for Tsai could have ushered in a period of uncertainty in ties with China, as her DPP has traditionally favoured distancing the island from the mainland.
Although China and Taiwan have been governed separately since 1949, Beijing still claims sovereignty over the island, and has vowed to get it back, even if that involves going to war.
"The winning of Ma Ying-jeou and Kuomintang in Saturday's elections may open new chances for the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations," Xinhua said, urging all Taiwanese to support closer relations with the mainland.
"Moreover, the victory of Ma and the KMT may represent a new opportunity for the development of the cross-Strait relations."
A spokesperson for Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office said the "facts" over the past four years showed the growth of peaceful relations was the right path, Xinhua reported separately.
"We are willing to join hands with Taiwan's all walks of life on the basis of continuing to oppose the 'Taiwan independence'... to break new ground for the peaceful development of the cross-Strait relations and make common efforts for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," the spokesperson said.
The United States also kept a close eye on the election, hoping the outcome would not upset the stability that the strategically vital Taiwan Straits area has experienced since Ma assumed power in 2008.
"We hope the impressive efforts that both sides have undertaken in recent years to build cross-Strait ties continue," the White House said in a statement congratulating Ma on his election win.
A third candidate, James Soong, a former heavyweight of Ma's Kuomintang (KMT) party, got 2.8(...)More.