Taiwan is a small island located off the coast of China, with a long and complicated history that has often been intertwined with the history of mainland China. Taiwan’s role in Chinese history has been unique, as it has been both a colony of European powers and a territory of Japan at different times, while also maintaining a complicated relationship with mainland China.
From Dutch colony to Japanese territory: Taiwan’s colonial past
Taiwan was first colonized by the Dutch in the 17th century, but was later conquered by the Kingdom of Tungning, which was established by the Ming loyalist Koxinga. The Qing dynasty then took control of Taiwan in the 17th century, ruling it until the end of the dynasty in 1912. During the period of Japanese colonial rule from 1895 to 1945, the island underwent significant modernization and development.
Japan’s defeat in World War II led to Taiwan being returned to Chinese control, but the island’s complicated history and cultural differences led to a tense relationship between Taiwan and the mainland Chinese government led by the Chinese Communist Party.
Taiwan’s complicated relationship with mainland China: a timeline
- 6000 BCE – Taiwan’s aboriginal tribes begin to settle on the island.
- 239 BCE – China’s Han dynasty begins to extend their influence over the island.
- 1624 – The Dutch arrive in Taiwan and establish a colony.
- 1683 – The Chinese Qing dynasty takes control of Taiwan from the Dutch.
- 1895 – The Qing dynasty cedes Taiwan to Japan after losing the First Sino-Japanese War.
- 1945 – Taiwan is returned to Chinese control after Japan’s defeat in World War II.
- 1947 – The 228 Incident occurs, leading to decades of martial law and repression under the Kuomintang (KMT) government.
- 1971 – The United Nations recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China, and Taiwan loses its seat in the UN.
- 1987 – Martial law is lifted in Taiwan, marking the beginning of a democratic transition.
- 1996 – Taiwan holds its first direct presidential election, solidifying its status as a democratic nation.
- 2000 – The KMT loses power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), marking the first peaceful transfer of power between political parties in Taiwan’s history.
- 2016 – Tsai Ing-wen becomes the first woman to be elected president of Taiwan.
The relationship between Taiwan and mainland China has been marked by political tension, military conflict and economic cooperation over the years. Following the Chinese Civil War, the Nationalist government, led by Chiang Kai-shek, retreated to Taiwan, while the Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China on the mainland. This led to a long period of tension and diplomatic isolation for Taiwan, which was recognized by only a handful of countries.
The 1980s saw a thawing of relations between Taiwan and mainland China, with the two sides engaging in talks and economic cooperation. However, tensions have flared up again in recent years, with China increasing its military presence in the region and attempting to isolate Taiwan diplomatically.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen
Tsai Ing-wen is a Taiwanese politician and the current President of Taiwan, serving since May 20, 2016. She is the first woman to hold the office and the second president from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Tsai has a background in law and was a professor before entering politics. During her presidency, she has focused on promoting Taiwan’s democracy and international recognition, as well as strengthening the country’s economy and national defense. Tsai was re-elected for a second term in January 2020.
When Was Taiwan Part of China?
Taiwan has been part of China at various times throughout history. Taiwan was first incorporated into China during the Qing Dynasty in the 17th century. However, during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan from 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was separated from China. After Japan’s defeat in World War II, Taiwan was returned to Chinese control under the Republic of China government. In 1949, the Chinese Civil War ended with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on the mainland, while the Republic of China government retreated to Taiwan and continued to claim sovereignty over all of China, including the mainland. Since then, the political status of Taiwan has been a point of contention between the two governments.
China and Taiwan Tensions
There are ongoing tensions between China and Taiwan. These tensions stem from the fact that China claims Taiwan as its own territory and does not recognize it as an independent state. However, Taiwan operates as a separate democratic entity with its own government and military. The tension has been heightened in recent years due to China’s increasing military activity in the region, including naval exercises and the establishment of military bases on disputed islands. Taiwan has responded by increasing its own military defenses and seeking international support for its sovereignty. The situation remains highly sensitive and unpredictable, with the potential for conflict always present.
China and Taiwan have been in a state of political tension since the Chinese Civil War in the mid-1900s, which resulted in the formation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland and the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, while Taiwan considers itself an independent sovereign state. The tension has been further exacerbated in recent years, with China’s growing military and economic power and its assertiveness in asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea. China has also increased pressure on Taiwan by conducting military exercises near the island and limiting its diplomatic recognition. In response, Taiwan has sought to strengthen ties with other countries, including the United States, and has increased its defense spending. The United States, in turn, has expressed support for Taiwan and has sold weapons to the island. The situation remains tense, with the possibility of military conflict between China and Taiwan still a concern. Both sides have stated their commitment to a peaceful resolution of the issue, but tensions continue to simmer.