The historic commercial district of Daxi in northern Taiwan’s Taoyuan City is renowned for its classical arcades and storefront facades. (Huang Chung-hsin)
- Dutch and Spanish settlers established bases in Taiwan in the early 17th century.
- Around 1.2 million people relocated from China to Taiwan along with the Republic of China (Taiwan) government in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The ROC was founded in 1912 in China. At that time, Taiwan
was under Japanese colonial rule as a result of the 1895 Treaty
of Shimonoseki, by which the Qing ceded Taiwan to Japan. The
ROC government began exercising jurisdiction over Taiwan in
1945 after Japan surrendered at the end of World War II.
The ROC government relocated to Taiwan in 1949 while fighting a civil war with the Chinese Communist Party. Since then, the ROC has continued to exercise effective jurisdiction over the main island of Taiwan and a number of outlying islands, leaving Taiwan and China each under the rule of a different government. The authorities in Beijing have never exercised sovereignty over Taiwan or other islands administered by the ROC.
The following timeline focuses on Taiwan’s recorded history dating from about 400 years ago, although it has been home to Malayo-Polynesian peoples for many millenniums.
It is commonly believed that European sailors passing Taiwan record the island’s name as Ilha Formosa, or beautiful island.
Taiwan continues to experience visits by small numbers of Chinese merchants, fishermen and pirates.
The Dutch East India Company establishes a base in
southwestern Taiwan, initiating a transformation in
aboriginal grain production practices and employing
Chinese laborers to work on its rice and sugar
Spanish adventurers establish bases in northern Taiwan,
but are ousted by the Dutch in 1642.
Fleeing the Manchurian conquest of the Ming dynasty
(1368-1644), Ming loyalists under Zheng Cheng-gong, or
Koxinga, drive out the Dutch from Taiwan and establish
authority over the island.
Qing dynasty (1644-1912) forces take control of Taiwan’s
western and northern coastal areas.
Taiwan is declared a province of the Qing Empire.
Following defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War
(1894-1895), the Qing government signs the Treaty of
Shimonoseki, by which it cedes sovereignty over Taiwan
to Japan, which rules the island until 1945.
Chinese revolutionaries overthrow the Qing Empire and
establish the ROC.
During World War II, ROC leader Chiang Kai-shek
meets with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British
Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Cairo. After the
conclusion of the conference, the Cairo Declaration
is released, stating that “…Formosa [Taiwan], and the
Pescadores [the Penghu Islands], shall be restored to the
Republic of China…”
The ROC, U.K. and U.S. jointly issue the Potsdam
Declaration, calling for Japan’s unconditional surrender
and the carrying-out of the Cairo Declaration.
After World War II, ROC government representatives
accept the surrender of Japanese forces in Taiwan. The
Chief Executive of Taiwan Province Chen Yi sends
a memorandum to the Japanese governor-general
of Taiwan, stating that “As the Chief Executive of
Taiwan Province of the ROC, …I restore all legal
territory, people, administration, political, economic,
and cultural facilities and assets of Taiwan [including
the Penghu Islands].”
The ROC Constitution is promulgated Jan. 1 and is
scheduled to take effect Dec. 25. In March and the
following months, ROC troops dispatched from China
suppress a large-scale uprising of Taiwan residents sparked
by the February 28 Incident.
As full-scale civil war rages in China between the
Kuomintang-led ROC government and CCP, the
Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of
National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist
Rebellion are enacted, overriding the ROC Constitution
and greatly expanding presidential powers.
The ROC government relocates to Taiwan, followed by
1.2 million people from China.
Oct. 25 sees the Battle of Kuningtou on Kinmen, in which
the ROC armed forces defeat the communists on the
northwestern coast of the island.
Martial law is declared in Taiwan and continues to be in
force until 1987.
The Treaty of Peace is signed between the ROC and
Japan at Taipei Guest House, formally ending the state
of war between the two parties. It is recognized that
under Article 2 of the 1951 San Francisco Treaty, Japan
has renounced all rights, titles and claims to Formosa
[Taiwan] and the Pescadores [the Penghu Islands] as well
as the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands. All treaties,
conventions and agreements concluded before Dec. 9,
1941, between China and Japan have become null and
void as a consequence of the war.
The ROC-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty is signed
Aug. 23 sees the start of an artillery duel between the
ROC garrison on Kinmen and Chinese forces that lasts
more than 40 days.
The first Export Processing Zone is established in
Kaohsiung City, southern Taiwan. The creation of
such zones propels Taiwan toward becoming a
developed nation, setting a paradigm for other
countries to follow.
The nine-year compulsory education system is launched
at a time when fewer than nine countries globally have
compulsory education systems of this length or more.
The ROC withdraws from the U.N.
Democracy activists demonstrating in Kaohsiung are
arrested and imprisoned following what is known as
the Kaohsiung Incident, which eventually leads to the
formation and development of the Democratic Progressive
Party in 1986.
Martial law, in effect since 1949, ends and bans on
the formation of new political parties and news
publications are lifted. Democratization goes into
Cross-strait people-to-people exchanges begin.
The Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of
National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist
Rebellion are abolished. From this year through 2005, the
ROC Constitution undergoes seven rounds of revision.
Taiwan becomes a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic
Government-authorized representatives from across the
Taiwan Strait meet for the first time in Hong Kong, and
via subsequent communication and negotiations arrive at
various joint acknowledgements and understandings.
The National Health Insurance program begins.
The ROC holds its first-ever direct presidential election,
with the KMT’s Lee Teng-hui and running mate Lien
Chan garnering 54 percent of the vote.
Chen Shui-bian and Annette Hsiu-lien Lu of the DPP are
elected president and vice president, ending the KMT’s
more than 50-year rule and marking the first transfer of
ROC government executive power in Taiwan between
Taiwan becomes a member of the World Trade
The Legislative Yuan passes the Referendum Act,
providing a legal basis for citizens to vote directly on issues
of local or national importance.
The first national referendum is held in conjunction with
the third direct presidential election, in which Chen and
Lu are re-elected with a slight majority.
The Legislative Yuan passes a constitutional amendment
package, halving the number of its seats from 225 to 113
and introducing the single-district, two-votes system for
Ma Ying-jeou and Vincent C. Siew of the KMT are
elected president and vice president of the ROC,
garnering 58 percent of the vote and marking the second
transfer of ROC government executive power in Taiwan
between political parties.
Taiwan attends the World Health Assembly as an
observer, marking its first participation in an activity of
the U.N. since its withdrawal in 1971.
President Ma signs the instruments of ratification of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
The ROC inks the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation
Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China to
institutionalize economic and trade relations across the
The centennial of the ROC is celebrated in Taiwan.
Incumbent Ma Ying-jeou and his new running mate Wu
Den-yih, representing the KMT, win the election for
president and vice president with 51.6 percent of the vote.
Taiwan signs an agreement on economic cooperation with
New Zealand and an agreement on economic partnership
Taiwan attends the 38th session of the International
Civil Aviation Organization Assembly as the guest of the
Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi holds
a formal meeting with China’s Taiwan Affairs Office
director Zhang Zhijun in Nanjing in February, marking
the first official contact between the heads of the
respective government agencies responsible for cross-strait
A record 11,130 candidates are elected nationwide for
nine categories of local government representatives in
what are known as the “nine-in-one” local elections.
President Ma and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meet in
Singapore in November, marking the first top-level
meeting between the two sides in 66 years.
Taiwan signs the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement
and submits its instrument of acceptance to the
DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen and academic Chen Chien-jen are elected president and vice president of the ROC.
The DPP gains its first legislative majority after securing 68 of the 113 seats.
The Constitutional Court rules that provisions of the
Civil Code not allowing same-sex marriage violate the
Constitution, placing Taiwan on track to become the first
country in Asia to legalize same-sex unions.
The Indigenous Languages Development Act is enacted
to preserve and promote the native tongues of Taiwan’s 16
officially recognized indigenous tribes.
Taiwan hosts the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade.
Formosat-5, the nation’s first homegrown ultra-high
resolution Earth observation satellite, is launched.
The Taiwan Travel Act is passed by the U.S. Congress and
signed into law by U.S. President Donald J. Trump.