China and Taiwan's relationship has been anything but smooth. Both sides have been wary of each other's motives. So it was historic that a meeting took place in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing last week.
Top leaders from both the governments agreed to establish a formal government-level dialog - the first in 65 years!
A Brief History Of Taiwan
Taiwan is an island nation located in the Pacific Ocean off the southeast coast of China between Japan and Philippines. They call themselves the Republic of China and have existed independently since 1949. However, Taiwan is not recognized as a separate country.
The island of Taiwan is thought to have been inhabited by the aboriginals, Malays and Polynesians for about 10,000 years. Over time, people from Mainland China began to settle on the island. Portuguese discovered the island in 1544 and named it Formosa or beautiful island. The Dutch later colonized the island, but it was taken over by the Chinese empire in 1683 and became a full province of the Empire. Don't miss the video in the notes.
After a war between China and Japan, Japan gained control of the island in 1895. However, Taiwan went back to Chinese rule after Japan was defeated in World War II. At about the same time, a civil war was brewing between the communists led by Mao Zedong and Nationalist party leader, Chiang Kai-shek. When the communists won the war, over 2 million refugees fled mainland China to Taiwan. Chiang Kai-shek established the People’s Republic of China on the island of Taiwan in 1949.
Chiang’s regime had the support of the United States for a while and it helped Taiwan withstand many attacks by the mainland. Rapid industrial development under the Nationalists helped Taiwan prosper. Meanwhile, tensions between locals and refugees from Mainland China increased and Chiang imposed martial law on the island nation - anyone who opposed the government was either killed or imprisoned.
However, in 1978, the United States recognized Communist China and broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The island nation got its first taste of democracy with elections in 1994.
Thawing Of Ice
Beijing has formally refused to acknowledge Taiwan. It is even rumored that the Chinese government keeps about 1,200 missiles pointed at Taiwan. Mainland China has threatened to attack Taiwan if it declares formal independence or delays unification.
However in the last decade, Beijing has encouraged closer economic and cultural ties. Regular flights between the island and mainland have brought Taiwan closer to China, and trade has doubled since 2008.
While previous negotiations between the two countries had been conducted by semi-official representatives, this is the first time that top government officials have been involved. Will the recent summit be the first steps towards reunification of Taiwan with China as Beijing hopes? Taiwan’s people meanwhile continue to oppose the idea of reverting to China.