TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen has registered as a candidate for the island's presidential primary in March, promising "a new beginning" amid a wave of popular discontent with the China-friendly ruling Kuomintang (KMT).
The ruling party says recent deals with largest trading partner China will help Taiwan's economy, but it took a drubbing in elections in November because of unease over the pace of rapprochement.
That followed a dramatic occupation of the legislature last spring by hundreds of students and activists opposing a bill to free up trade with the mainland.
Tsai, the leader of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), called for a new political environment in Taiwan, but avoided mention of the hot-button cross-Strait issue.
"I hope to let Taiwan have new politics, a new system and a new beginning," she wrote in a Facebook post after registering as a presidential candidate on Sunday.
Taiwan elects its next president in early 2016. Tsai is widely expected to run uncontested in the DPP primary.
Tsai ran in the 2012 presidential election and lost to incumbent Ma Ying-jeou, known for openness toward China and a slew of deals on everything from tourism to finance, signed since he took office in 2008.
The DPP has historically been much more wary over bargains with China, and formally maintains Taiwan's independence in its party platform.
Since fleeing to Taiwan after losing a war against China's communists in 1949, the KMT have only been out of power during one period, when Ma's predecessor Chen Shui-bian held the position from 2000 to 2008.
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has not ruled out the use of force to bring it under its control.
(Reporting by Michael Gold; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)