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HISTORY

The stone sculptures of Sanxia Zushi Temple in New Taipei City highlight Taiwan’s rich artistic and religious traditions.
The stone sculptures of Sanxia Zushi Temple in New Taipei City highlight Taiwan’s rich artistic and religious traditions. (Huang Chung-hsin)
Fact Focus:

  • 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.
Historical Timeline
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.
1500s
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.
1624
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 plantations.
1626
Spanish adventurers establish bases in northern Taiwan, but are ousted by the Dutch in 1642.
1662
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.
1683
Qing dynasty (1644-1912) forces take control of Taiwan’s western and northern coastal areas.
1885
Taiwan is declared a province of the Qing Empire.
1895
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.
1911 1912
Chinese revolutionaries overthrow the Qing Empire and establish the ROC.
1943
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…”
1945
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].”
1947
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.
1948
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.
1949
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.
1952
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.
1954
The ROC-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty is signed in Washington.
1958
Aug. 23 sees the start of an artillery duel between the ROC garrison on Kinmen and Chinese forces that lasts more than 40 days.
1966
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.
1968
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.
1971
The ROC withdraws from the U.N.
1979
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.
1987
Martial law, in effect since 1949, ends and bans on the formation of new political parties and news publications are lifted. Democratization goes into high gear.
Cross-strait people-to-people exchanges begin.
1991
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 Cooperation.
1992
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.
1995
The National Health Insurance program begins.
1996
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.
2000
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 political parties.
2002
Taiwan becomes a member of the World Trade Organization.
2003
The Legislative Yuan passes the Referendum Act, providing a legal basis for citizens to vote directly on issues of local or national importance.
2004
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.
2005
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 legislative elections.
2008
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.
2009
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 Cultural Rights.
2010
The ROC inks the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China to institutionalize economic and trade relations across the Taiwan Strait.
2011
The centennial of the ROC is celebrated in Taiwan.
2012
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.
2013
Taiwan signs an agreement on economic cooperation with New Zealand and an agreement on economic partnership with Singapore.
Taiwan attends the 38th session of the International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly as the guest of the council’s president.
2014
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 relations.
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.
2015
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 organization.
2016
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.
President Tsai Ing-wen officially apologizes on behalf of the government to the nation’s indigenous peoples for the pain and mistreatment they endured for centuries.
2017
The Constitutional Court rules that provisions of the Civil Code forbidding 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.