It is believed that in the 12th-century groups of Japanese occupied parts of Taiwan, and they eventually claimed possession of the eastern portion of Taiwan from the 15th century on. The Portuguese went to Taiwan in 1590, thus becoming the first set of Europeans to arrive. They were so impressed with the island, they called it Formosa, which means beautiful. In 1692, the Dutch frustrated Spanish attempts at developing settlements by taking possession of the P’enghu Islands. Within three years, the Dutch were on Taiwan ‘s southeastern coast.
While the Manchus were defeating the Ming Dynasty in 1644, Cheng Ch’eng-kung (also known as Koxinga), led some Ming followers to Taiwan where they drove the Dutch out of the southwestern portion of the island. Taiwan was ruled by a formal Chinese government set up by Cheng until the Quing Dynasty took over in 1683. Mainland Chinese took advantage of the opportunity to leave the mainland by immigrating to Taiwan. By 1860, foreign ships were allowed to use two ports on the western side of Taiwan. Shortly thereafter, both Roman Catholic and Protestant missions were established.
Japan was to be given Taiwan and it’s surrounding islands as part of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, but it resulted in rebellion from Taiwan ‘s Chinese inhabitants. The rebellion was brought to an end by the Japanese, who ended up ruling Taiwan for the next 50 years. During that time, the Japanese endeavored to expel Chinese traditions and culture with that of their own.
Taiwan and it’s islands was given back to China with the Japanese defeat in 1945, but there was unrest due to corrupt authorities in the Chinese government. In February 1947, there was an uprising that resulted in many deaths due to suppression by the Chinese government. Taiwan became a Chinese province two months later.
On the mainland, Chiang Kai-shek and MaoZedong were involved in a civil war. The KMT (Kuomintang), led by Chiang Kai-shek, took their government to Tai’pei as the Communists, led by Mao Zedong, were taking over the mainland. The Communists attempted to take over the island as well but were thwarted by the United States who sent naval forces in 1950 to help defend Taiwan.
Until the mid-60’s, the US gave over $4 billion to Taiwan in economic and military aid which enabled Taiwan to continue to invest in the military while building its economy. Its foreign trade flourishing, Taiwan ‘s industries were booming and the country had worldwide diplomatic recognition.
Attention started shifting from Taiwan to the Chinese mainland, with countries going to China regarding foreign relations. The biggest blow to Taiwan came when the US government decided to make contact with China. The Communist government was given a seat in the United Nations after Taiwan was excluded in 1971. As a result, many other nations transferred their recognition to the Communist mainland as well. The final diplomatic blow to Taiwan was when the US started formal diplomatic relations with the Communist mainland and severed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Although the diplomatic ties were broken, economically Taiwan didn’t suffer as international trade remained strong. The economy continued to grow during the late 70s and 80’s, as did trade contacts, particularly with Western Europe.
*After almost 40 years of martial law, it was finally lifted in July of 1987.
*The first native Taiwanese president was elected to office in 1988, after Chiang Ching-kuo (Chiang Kai-shek’s son) died.
* Singapore was the meeting place for representatives from both sides to come together and talk, the first such meeting (contact) since 1949.
*In 1995 and early 1996, military maneuvers performed by China near Taiwan caused the tenuous relationship between the two to unravel.