A senior Chinese official on Friday described ties with self-ruled Taiwan as “extremely sensitive and complex” and warned of uncertainties ahead, after Taiwan last month elected an independence-leaning opposition leader as its new president.

China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after the Chinese civil war.

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Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen waves to her supporters after her election victory at party headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan January 16, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Pichi Chuang.

Since January’s landslide win by Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary elections, China has warned against any moves towards independence and said it will defend the country’s sovereignty.

Tsai has said she will maintain peace with China, and Chinese state-run media have also noted her pledges to maintain the “status quo” with China.

Speaking via a newly installed hotline, Zhang Zhijun, director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told Andrew Hsia, head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, that the peaceful development of ties over the past eight years could only be maintained by recognising both sides belong to one China.

“At present, relations across the Taiwan Strait are extremely sensitive and complex, and uncertainly about the future has increased,” Zhang told Hsia, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

Both bodies should increase communication and improve their risk management and do more to benefit people on both sides of the strait, Zhang added.

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Photo: Stanley Leung.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, in a statement, said Hsia told Zhang that the peaceful development of relations was the “common factor” for all sides in Taiwan.

More interaction was good for mutual trust and understanding and the two needed to think of ways to reduce the risk of confrontation, it quoted Hsia as saying.

The past eight years have been marked by calm between China and Taiwan, after the election of the China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou as president in 2008, and his subsequent re-election.

Ma signed a series of key economic deals with Beijing and held a landmark meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November in neutral Singapore.

Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive political issues, and a core concern for the Communist Party, trumping even Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by J.R. Wu in Taipei; Editing by Nick Macfie.

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