Taiwan - History

Although Taiwan can be seen on a clear day from the China mainland, ancient Chinese accounts contain few references to the island. The earliest inhabitants were Malayo-Polynesian aborigines. Historians have surmised from the brief information available in the early dynastic histories that Chinese emigration to Taiwan began as early as the T'ang dynasty (618–907). During the reign of Kublai Khan (1263–94), the first civil administration was established in the neighboring Pescadores. Taiwan itself, however, remained outside the jurisdiction of the Mongol Empire. During the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Japanese pirates and Chinese outlaws and refugees wrested the coastal areas from the native aborigines. The Chinese settled in the southwest region, while the Japanese occupied the northern tip of the island. Significant Chinese settlement, by immigrants from Fujian and Guangdong, began in the 17th century.

In 1517, the Portuguese sighted the island and named it Ilha Formosa (Beautiful Island). The Dutch, who were disputing the monopoly of Far Eastern trade held by the Portuguese, captured the Pescadores in 1622 and used them as a base for harassing commerce between China, Japan, and the Philippines. Two years later, the Chinese offered the Dutch a treaty that gave them certain commercial privileges if they withdrew from the Pescadores and occupied instead a trading post on Taiwan. The Dutch complied by building Fort Zeelandia and Fort Providentia in the southwestern part of the island. The Spaniards, wishing to compete, seized the northern part of Chilung in 1626 and later extended their domain to nearby Tanshui. The Japanese, constrained by the policy of national seclusion adopted by the Tokugawa Shogunate, withdrew voluntarily in 1628. The Dutch captured the Spanish settlement in 1642 and, after putting down a Chinese uprising in 1656 with the aid of the aborigines, gained complete control of the island.

While the Dutch were consolidating their hold on Taiwan, the Ming dynasty on the China mainland was overthrown by the Manchus, who established the Qing (Ch'ing) dynasty (1644–1912). Remnants of the Ming forces, led by Zheng Chenggong (Cheng Ch'eng-kung Koxinga, 1624–62), son of a Chinese pirate and a Japanese mother, decided to establish an overseas base in Taiwan. They landed on the island in 1661 and ousted the Dutch in the following year. It was not until 1683 that the Manchus succeeded in wresting Taiwan from Zheng Chenggong's successors.

From 1683 to 1885, Taiwan was administered as a part of Fujian Province. During this period, Chinese colonization proceeded steadily, as the aborigines were either assimilated into the Chinese population or pushed back into the mountains. The imperial government, however, paid scant attention to the island administration. As a result, official corruption and inefficiency often provoked armed rebellions. In the latter part of the 19th century, the strategic importance of Taiwan for the defense of the South China coast was recognized by the authorities, particularly after the French bombardment and blockade of the island in 1884 during the Sino-French War over Annam. The local administration was reorganized, and the island was made into a separate province in 1885.

Upon the conclusion of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan. Refusing to submit to Japanese rule, the islanders declared their independence and established a republic, although organized resistance against the Japanese lasted only a few months. Ineffective armed resistance, chiefly by aborigines, continued. Under the Japanese, the island's agricultural resources were developed rapidly to supply the needs of the home islands and the transportation infrastructure experienced modernization. A policy of Japanization of the Taiwan population was adopted and, by 1944, 71% of children attended primary school. During World War II, Japanese administrators began to orchestrate the island's industrialization in support of Japanese expansionism in south Asia.

In accordance with the Cairo Declaration of 1943 and the Potsdam Proclamation of 1945, Taiwan was restored to China in September 1945. The carpetbagging malpractices of the mainland Chinese officials, however, aroused the resentment of the local population. In February 1947, a police incident touched off a popular revolt, which was suppressed with bloodshed. In May, more troops were brought from the mainland and the Taiwanese leadership was systematically killed. Estimates of the dead range from 5,000 to 50,000. On 8 December 1949, as the Chinese Communists were sweeping the Nationalist armies off the mainland, the government of the Republic of China (ROC), led by General Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), was officially transferred to Taiwan.

The Republic of China

With the removal of the ROC government to Taiwan, two million mainland Chinese came to the island where they instituted an authoritarian rule under martial law. Initially Chiang Kai-shek remained myopically focused on retaking the mainland, but as the stalemate continued, the government gradually shifted its attention to industrializing Taiwan. Strong government policies contributed to steady economic progress, first in agriculture and then in industry. In the 1950s, with US aid and advice, the ROC undertook a successful program of land redistribution. Japan built an infrastructure; the Nationalists brought skills and capital; and the United States poured in excess of $2 billion in aid by 1968. Furthermore, Japanese investment and procurement boom during the Vietnam War in the 1960s further stimulated economic growth.

In 1951, Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty, thereby formally renouncing its claim to the island of Taiwan. In 1954, the ROC and the United States concluded a Mutual Defense Treaty and the United States and Western nations supported Taiwan possession of a UN Security Council seat, while the Eastern bloc nations supported the People's Republic of China (PRC). Support for Taiwan's representation gradually eroded over the years, and on 25 November 1971 the General Assembly voted 75–36 (with 17 abstentions) to remove recognition from the ROC and recognize the PRC. In a significant policy reversal, the United States voted with the majority to seat the mainland government. Although maintaining full diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the United States took the occasion of President Nixon's visit to China to acknowledge, in what became known as the Shanghai communiqué of February 1972, that "all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China. The United States government does not challenge that position."

By 1975, most nations shifted recognition from the ROC to the PRC. On 1 January 1979, the United States formally recognized the PRC as the sole legal government of China and severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It also announced the unilateral termination of the 1954 US-ROC Mutual Defense Treaty, effective 1 January 1980, and withdrew its remaining military personnel. Nonetheless, the United States continued to sell arms to Taiwan, and commercial and cultural contacts were unofficially maintained through the American Institute in Taiwan and the Coordination Council for North American Affairs. Taiwan successfully warded off worldwide political and economic isolation by maintaining a host of similar contacts with other countries.

When President Chiang Kai-shek died at age 87 on 5 April 1975, he was succeeded in office by former Vice-President Yen Chia-kan (Yan Jiagan). Leadership of the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, Guomindang) and, hence, of the government, passed to Chiang's elder son, Chiang Ching-kuo (Jiang Jingguo). The younger Chiang was elected to a six-year term as president in March 1978 and reelected in 1984. While control of the central government had remained in the hands of mainlanders in the first decades of the Nationalists' rule on Taiwan, Taiwanese Chinese increasingly won elections at local levels, and Chiang Ching-kuo instituted a policy of bringing more Taiwanese into the Nationalist Party. By the 1980s, economic development had produced a new middle class, and the passage of time, together with intermarriage between mainlanders and Taiwanese, had brought a new generation for which the distinction between mainlander and Taiwanese held diminished importance. These factors contributed to popular pressure for a more democratic government. In November 1986, 5,000–10,000 demonstrated in support of an exiled dissident, Hsu Hsin-liang (Xu Xinliang), when he was not allowed to return to Taiwan. Thousands protested the 38th anniversary of martial law in May 1987. And, in March 1990, more than 10,000 demonstrators demanded greater democracy and direct presidential elections. This was followed in the same month by a demonstration involving some 6,000 students.

In 1987 martial law was revoked and with that press restrictions were eased, citizens were allowed to visit relatives on the mainland, and opposition political parties formed. Then in January 1988, Chiang Ching-kuo died and was succeeded as president by the Vice-President, Lee Teng-hui (Li Denghui, b.1923). Lee, a protégé of Chiang Ching-kuo, was a native Taiwanese. In March 1990, the National Assembly reelected Lee as president for a six-year term. In July, he was also named Chairman of the Nationalist Party by the Party Congress.

In the early 1990s, as Taiwan increasingly opened its political system to greater democracy, the KMT's corrupt practices were revealed. However, after the 1992 legislative elections, the KMT emerged victorious as it still controlled most national media and opposition parties failed to mobilize voters. Vote-buying and other forms of fraud were also widespread. By the 1995 elections, however, the political environment changed because the KMT lost control of the media. Furthermore, the Control Yuan, the branch of government responsible for oversight, began to assert its independence by investigating KMT corruption. In local elections of 1994, for instance, state prosecutors convicted more than one third of 858 city and county representatives for vote-buying. Just prior to the 1995 national elections, it was revealed that the Minister of Justice had evidence of another extensive ring of vote-buying. The KMT took 54% of the vote (83 seats), its lowest majority ever and its major rival, the Democratic People's Party (DPP) obtained 54 seats and the Chinese New Party (CNP) captured 21 with 6 going to various independents. The constitution was also rewritten in 1995, calling for direct election of the president with the first election slated to be held in 1996.

Amid these democratic reforms, Taiwan faced a major international crisis in 1995 when President Lee was given a US visa to visit Cornell University, his alma mater. China objected vociferously and threatened military action against Taiwan. In a show of support for Taiwan and in opposition to PR China's launching of missiles into Taiwan's territorial waters, the United States dispatched a naval force to the region, only to further irritate PR China.

Prior to the presidential elections of March 1996, the formerly united KMT began to splinter. Dissidents within the party and those who had previously left the KMT announced their intentions to run against Lee, who had been chosen by a party plenum in August 1995 as the official KMT candidate. Primary among these were Lin Yang-gang, a former Judicial Yuan president and current vice-chairman of the KMT, and Chien Lian, president of the Control Yuan and former Minister of National Defense. Campaigning was intense, with scandals being revealed on all sides, but Lee received a resounding 54% compared to 21% for his nearest competitor.

President Lee was criticized by political opponents in 1997 as an increased wave of crime swept the island. In May 1997, more than 50,000 protestors gathered in the capital protesting the government's lack of action on issues of crime. Multiple members of the Executive Yuan resigned and Lee reshuffled his cabinet. However, late in 1997, the KMT suffered severe losses in local and magistrate elections. The main opposition, the DPP, won 12 of the 23 constituency positions contested and led to the reorganization of the KMT following the resignation of the party's Secretary General. In 1998, the KMT recovered in the next set of elections but only to suffer a setback in summer elections that year. As the economy weakened from the Asian financial crisis, the government sought to deregulate the economy and decrease taxes. Relations with PR China again worsened as Taiwan prepared for presidential elections in 2000. On 18 March 2000, Chen Shui-bian, the DPP candidate and a former dissident leader imprisoned for his opposition to the KMT was elected president in a hotly contested race. He obtained 39.3% of the vote and Lien Chan (KMT) captured 23.1% while ex-KMT businessman James Soong ran as an independent and garnered 36.8%. Leading up to and following the election, the PRC warned the Taiwanese that the election of a pro-independence DPP candidate would lead to possible military action. In his inaugural addcress in May, Chen stated that he would not declare indpendence as long as China did not attack the island. He said he would not call for a referendum on independence, nor abolish Taiwan's plan for an eventual reunion with the PRC. China responded by saying that Chen had evaded the question as to whether he considered Taiwan to be part of China.

In April 2001, the Dalai Lama met with President Chen during a visit which drew strong opposition from China. That month, the United States announced it would sell submarines, warships, and anti-submarine aircraft to Taiwan, but not the Aegis naval combat radar system, as Taiwan had requested. China protested the sale, and US president George W. Bush pledged to come to Taiwan's aid in the event of a Chinese invasion. That November, Taiwan lifted a 50-year ban on direct trade and investment with China.

In parliamentary elections held 1 December 2001, the DPP won 87 out of 225 seats, compared with the KMT's 68. It was the first time the KMT lost its parliamentary majority since 1949. In January 2002, Prime Minister Chang Chun-hsiung led the cabinet to resign en masse, stating he had "accomplished his mission" during a time of political instability in the transfer of power from the KMT to the DPP, and during an economic downturn that was worse than the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98. President Chen nominated his chief-of-staff, Yu Shyi-ku, as prime minister.

As of April 2002, academics from Taiwan and China were discussing the possibility of building an underwater tunnel to join Taiwan and the mainland. The shortest possible route would be 78 miles. Currently there is no direct passenger access between the mainland and Taiwan by air or sea. All travel between the ROC and the PRC is required by both sides to go through another regional location. The ROC and the PRC declared that technical considerations for the tunnel posed no problems; the question to be resolved is the political one.

In August 2002, President Chen referred to Taiwan and China as two countries, and stated he supported legislation for a referendum to be held on independence, contrasting with his inaugural pledge not to hold a referendum. No timetable for a referendum was set.

Also read article about Taiwan from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Maria de Almeida
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 5, 2007 @ 11:23 pm
When were products manufactured in Japan begin to be marked "JAPAN E.S.K" "
Thank you

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: