China is warning of a serious disruption of ties with Taiwan as the island's voters appear set to elect a new president with a far more skeptical view of dealings with Beijing.

Director of the Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office Zhang Zhijun says in a New Year's greeting Thursday that "complex changes" are appearing and the two sides face "new challenges."

Zhang says the sides should treasure the peace and progress made in recent years and not wait until they're gone to realize their value.

Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen is favored to win the self-governing island's Jan. 16 presidential election and has been leading in polls the pro-China Nationalists, who have held the office since 2008.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory.