Taiwan’s history as a separate state begins in 1949 after the Chinese nationalist government Kuomintang, led by Chiang Kai-shek and his followers, fled China and took power in Taiwan when the Communists took power in China. The Nationalists continued the Republic of China, formed in 1911, in Taiwan, while the Communists formed the People’s Republic of China on the Chinese mainland.
However, Taiwan’s history goes far back. The island has been inhabited for more than 8,000 years and was previously controlled by both Europeans, China and Japan, before it became a separate state formed by Chinese nationalists in 1949. Officially, Taiwan is called the Republic of China.
The People’s Republic of China considers Taiwan a part of China and has for years been threatening the Taiwan regime. In Taiwan, Kuomintang considers Taiwan to be part of China, but not part of the People’s Republic of China. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Taiwan. Another Taiwanese party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), on the other hand, believes that Taiwan should be a separate state separate from China.
Austronesians began arriving in Taiwan more than 8,000 years ago. Chinese historians report on some expeditions to Taiwan between the 6th and 13th centuries, but only in the late 1400s did the settlement of Chinese from the mainland begin. The Portuguese visited the island in 1590 and named it Ilha Formosa (“the beautiful island”). Then the Dutch and Spaniards followed.
In 1646 the Dutch gained control of the whole island, but they were already expelled in 1661 by the Chinese naval warrior Koxinga, who founded a kingdom there. His son succumbed to the man-seers in 1683. Since then, Taiwan was Chinese.
In 1895 the island was surrendered to Japan.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Provides latest population data about Taiwan. Lists by Year from 1950 to 2020. Also includes major cities by population.
Under Chinese rule
During World War II, Taiwan was a major Japanese air and naval base. At the Cairo Conference in 1943, the Allies decided that after the war Japan should renounce Taiwan to China. By Japan’s capitulation, the Americans occupied the island; On October 25, 1945, it was surrendered to China and subsequently ruled by the nationalists of Kuomintang. This aroused dissatisfaction among “native” Taiwanese. On February 28, 1947, nationalist troops from the mainland initiated a massacre that lasted for weeks.
According to an official report from the Taiwan Government Investigation Commission, published in 1992, between 18,000 and 28,000 Taiwanese natives were killed, including many belonging to the island’s elite. When Chiang Kai-shek had to give up the Chinese mainland, the Kuomintang government set up its headquarters in Taiwan in December 1949, which from then on constituted the essential part of the territory of the Republic of China. Under Chiang’s rule, power was dominated by mainland Chinese while Taiwanese were kept out.
In September 1954, communist forces began to fire the nationalist defenses on the islands of Quemoy and Matsu with heavy artillery; at the same time, a propaganda offensive was carried out to “liberate” Taiwan, that is, get the island back under Chinese control. During the tense situation, the United States entered into a defense pact with the Taiwan government; The US 6th Fleet patrolled the Taiwan Strait. In April 1955, the bombing ceased, but the Beijing government maintained its claim on Taiwan. The question of Taiwan’s government representing China in the United Nations was on the agenda of the 1950 General Assembly. In 1971, the Beijing government decided to represent China.
Chiang Kai-shek’s son, Chiang Ching-kuo, became prime minister in 1972. Upon his father’s death in 1975, he took over as leader of Kuomintang and in 1978 was elected president. Until his death in 1988, he gradually changed the strictly authoritarian form of government, and the one-party system was broken in 1986. At the election that year, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) gained a quarter of the vote and established itself as the leading opposition party. DPP’s slogan has been “one China, one Taiwan”, ie an independent Taiwan and no to reunite with China.
Lee Teng-hui, who became the first Taiwanese-born president in 1988, continued the democratization process. His pragmatic policy, however, led to internal quarrels within Kuomintang. In 1992, Kuomintang outbreaks formed their own party, New Party. This has been critical of the president’s policy of increasing the inclusion of “native” Taiwanese in the administration, and other expressions of the so-called “Taiwanization of Taiwan”. Lee Teng-hui was re-elected with 54 percent of the vote in Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in 1996.
At the 2000 presidential election, opposition politician Chen Shui-bian of the DPP prevailed. From the Kuomintang government’s escape to Taiwan in 1949 and up to Chen’s victory, Taiwan had been ruled by the nationalist party Kuomintang, which until 1987 was the only allowed party. Following a series of nationwide free elections, a pattern has been formed with two political camps. The question that dominates both domestic and foreign policy is the relationship with the People’s Republic of China on the mainland. There is a bitter dividing line between the society of “more independent”, that is, supporters of Taiwan’s independence, and the “nationalists” who adhere to the “one China” principle.
Both camps have the same market liberal philosophy in economic matters and hardly differ from one another on the traditional right-left scale. The main part of the DPP, alongside democratization, has been Taiwan’s independence and no reunification with the mainland. In government, neither President Chen Shui-bian nor the DPP’s elected representatives would provoke Beijing with a unilateral declaration of independence. Practical steps have been taken to emphasize Taiwan as a separate entity in the international context.
This line had been initiated by Kuomintang leader Lee Teng-hui, who carefully and pragmatically set the course for an independent Taiwan. When Lee resigned after two terms as president in 2000, however, he was ousted from the party by a hard core elderly refugee from the mainland. Lee founded a new party, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, which has had the misconception that the nation name should be formally changed from “Republic of China” to “Taiwan”. Another Kuomintang outbreaker, James Soong, founded the People First Party, which made significant inroads into Kuomintang’s electorate.
Chen Shui-bian was re-elected in 2004 with just under 50.1 percent of the vote compared to 49.9 percent for Kuomintang candidate Lien Chan. In a dramatic riot two days before the election, President and Vice President Anette Lu were wounded by gunfire during an alleged assault. The gunshot injuries were not serious, but set the sights on a boil. Chen suffered a setback when his DPP lost the December 2004 parliamentary election after asking voters for a mandate to continue the line of independence. In 2006, the president’s popularity seemed to be significantly weakened as a result of corruption allegations against family members. After a humiliating defeat of the DPP in the January 2008 parliamentary elections, Chen did not stand as a candidate in the presidential election that year.
Taiwan and Mainland China
The rivalry with the People’s Republic of China has, ever since the end of the civil war in 1949, determined Taiwan’s foreign policy situation. Formally, Taiwan’s own government does not even consider the island a separate state, but maintains that there is only one China, where Taiwan constitutes a province. The official definition states that “Taiwan is part of China, but not part of the People’s Republic of China”. In practice, however, Taiwan acts as an independent country with its own government, territory and voice internationally in many political and not least economic forums.
Taiwan’s government represented China in the UN in 1950–1971, but in 1971 the General Assembly passed a resolution for the People’s Republic of China to take over this place. Diplomatically, Taiwan became increasingly isolated. The hardest hit came in 1979, when the United States normalized relations with Beijing and broke official relations with Taiwan. However, Congress passed the so-called Taiwan Relations Act, which allows for “unofficial” relations and US arms sales to Taiwan.
Since 1992, the governments of Beijing and Taipei have occasionally had some contact with each other through semi-official bodies. Despite bitter political disagreements, a process of approximation took place at the practical level. From 1987, Taiwanese citizens have been allowed to visit the mainland, and in 1990 it was opened to mass tourism. Trade between Taiwan and China was for a long time officially banned, but could be open from 1991, and the People’s Republic became Taiwan’s third largest trading partner. In 2006, over one million Taiwanese Chinese lived and worked on mainland China, primarily business people and their families.
The cautious opening caused a temporary interruption in 1995-1996 when a severe crisis in the Taiwan Strait came as a reminder of the fundamental contradictions. China carried out a series of massive military exercises in the Taiwan-Mainland continent, while the United States marked its support for Taiwan by sending two aircraft carrier groups to the region. Beijing leaders then suspected President Lee Teng-hui of wanting to promote an independent Taiwan. Beijing made it clear that a declaration of independence would be labeled as “separatism” and open to military intervention.
In 1998, the semi-official contacts were resumed, but Beijing has repeatedly threatened to intervene militarily if Taiwan declares itself an independent nation, detached from China. The tense political situation was further sharpened in 2005: The Beijing People’s Congress passed a law allowing the People’s Republic to use military force against Taiwan to stop attempts at formal detachment. In 2006, President Chen dissolved the commission tasked with organizing a future reunion with the mainland. Despite political tensions, however, economic cooperation has been growing rapidly, especially since the turn of the millennium.
“Taiwanization” under Chen
Chen Shui-bian’s political downturn began with severe setbacks in the 2004 parliamentary elections and the 2005 local elections. In the spring of 2006, another corruption affair helped put the president in even more dubious terms: The president’s son-in-law was arrested as a suspect for illegal stock trading. During 2006, Chen averted three attempts to get him deposed or sued. After eight years in power, he suffered a devastating defeat in the 2008 parliamentary elections. Kuomintang now took power and switched to a more conciliatory and cooperative course in Beijing.
In spite of domestic political opposition, Chen, in his second presidential term, continued his challenging line vis-à-vis Beijing. “Taiwanization” became the slogan. The Chen government again applied for membership in the UN, and for the first time, the Taiwanese name was used instead of the official Republic of China. Beijing took this as a new sign that Chen would detach the island from its formal connection to the mainland.
Chen went on to propose a constitutional revision for Taiwan to appear as a “normal nation”. The ruling party now called for the general use of Taiwan as a nation name – without directly wanting to abolish the official “Republic of China”. It further argued that an institution that would officially seek reunification with the mainland should be shut down because of Beijing’s “military threats”. Beijing reacted vehemently: Any attempt at a declaration of independence on Taiwan’s side would be considered an act of war and met with military force.
China has long had hundreds of rocket weapons aimed at targets in Taiwan, and in recent years focused on a comprehensive military armament. The DPP government, for its part, has sought to bring about new massive arms purchases in the United States. In addition, Taiwan has forced the construction of its own weapons industry so as not to rely on US weapons.
Both the DPP and the Kuomintang opposition have been plagued by corruption cases. Kuomintang leader Ma Ying-jeou was acquitted in 2007 by the Supreme Court for corruption charges. This allowed him to then stand as the party’s candidate and win the 2008 presidential election.
Approach to China under Kuomintang
The first parliamentary election under a new electoral scheme in January 2008 became a beating victory for Kuomintang, which took 81 of the 113 seats. With only 27 seats, the DPP embarked on a humiliating defeat following the party’s many moves to mark Taiwan’s de facto independence. For eight years in power, the goal was to build a national Taiwanese identity at the expense of the Chinese. However, voters seemed to regard the confrontation line as unnecessarily provocative. Beijing, for its part, alternated between threats of military power and conciliatory invitations to sweeten public opinion in Taiwan. In Beijing’s view, Chen was a dangerous separatist, far worse than the Chinese enemies of the Chinese Communist Party in Kuomintang.
After the election defeat, Chen resigned from the DPP leadership in favor of the party’s presidential candidate, Frank Hsieh. The 2008 presidential election was a triumph for Kuomintang’s Ma Ying-jeou with 58 percent of the vote. Ma, who is an educated lawyer at Harvard and former Justice Minister, had promised voters that financial cooperation with the mainland should be prioritized. The relationship with Beijing immediately improved, characterized by a pragmatic reconciliation atmosphere.
Both Taiwan and the People’s Republic have semi-official institutions that maintain relations over the Taiwan Strait. In June 2008, they had their first formal talks since 1999. The Beijing delegation was led by Chen Yunlin – the highest-ranking mainland official who had visited Taiwan in 60 years. The parties signed an agreement on 36 direct charter flights between the two territories each weekend. Previously, the parties had only accepted flights via Hong Kong or Macao.
On July 4, 2008, the first direct flight since 1949 took scheduled scheduled flights from the mainland to Taiwan, when a Chinese plane brought 250 Chinese tourists from Guangzhou city to Taipei. A Taiwan flight took the same number of Taiwanese tourists to Shanghai. In November, the number of weekly charter flights over the Taiwan Strait was raised to 108. The agreement further included 60 monthly charter flights with goods. In addition, 63 ports in the People’s Republic and eleven in Taiwan were now opened for direct connection across the strait. The vessels must not carry national flags. In 2009, the framework agreement was further extended.
President Ma made a public regret for Kuomintang’s authoritarian past on the anniversary of the revocation of the state of emergency in 1987. In particular, he apologized for what is known as “white terror” in the 1950s and 1960s. The KMT board then held approximately 140,000 opposition camps. Between 3,000 and 4,000 oppositionists are believed to have been liquidated by political killings during this period.
President Chen Shui-bian was arrested in November 2008 on suspicion of corruption and money laundering. He immediately began a hunger strike in protest, and was hospitalized before giving up the hunger strike after ten days. Chen described the charges as a political plot. After temporary release, he was again arrested and formally charged with various forms of corruption. During the trial, he was hospitalized in 2009 after a new hunger strike in prison. He denied criminal charges, but several close family members admitted various financial crimes during the lengthy process.
In September 2009, Chen was sentenced to life imprisonment and fines/withdrawal of approximately $ 36 million for misdemeanors, forgery and money laundering. His wife, Wu Shu-jen, also received a life sentence of $ 55 million in corruption and fines, but escaped jail for ill health. Chen’s daughter, son and daughter-in-law received prison sentences of between six and 30 months. Chen constantly lamented his innocence, claiming the trial was a “political witch hunt” set in the scene by political opponents as a revenge for his line of independence vis-à-vis Beijing.
A striking approach between Taiwan and the mainland took place after Ma Ying-jeou became president, and the games of “Taiwanization” and independence ceased. The parties have started negotiations on a form of free trade agreement. But China’s president and party leader, Hu Jintao, ruled that such an agreement can only be concluded if Taiwan explicitly accepts “one China” policy, which defines Taiwan as part of China. This has sparked heated debate in Taiwan. Major riots during the Chinese boss dealer’s Taiwan visit in November 2008 were an example of opposition to what many believe is an overly fast approach to old enemies on the mainland.
In 2009, Taiwan opened its financial market to mainland private and institutional investors. The first big deal was made on April 29, when China’s largest mobile company, China Mobile, secured a 12 percent stake in Taiwan’s FarEasTone Telecommunications for $ 544 million. Previously, investments have only gone one way. Taiwanese companies have invested between $ 100 and $ 150 billion on the mainland, according to estimates from Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. On the other hand, investments from the opposite side have been absent.