Taiwan Recent History

From information handed down by explorers and historians, it seems that the name of Formosa, given to this island of the Pacific Ocean, facing the coast of China, is due to a completely random event that occurred in 1544.

A Portuguese galleon headed for Macau at the time of his sailing along the coasts of China was hit by a very strong hurricane. For half a day the sailors had to fight against very high waves and when, at a certain point, disheartened and tired, they were about to give up the thought of saving themselves, a dark mass appeared in the distance, but clearly visible. It was earth.
They headed somehow in turn and after an hour of sailing the ship, now very badly reduced, entered a leeward bay, whose waters were almost calm.

The sailors, facing the bulwarks, did not believe their eyes. In front of them there was a marvelous scenery, green wooded hills descending towards the sea, dotted with thousands of colorful flowers; Foamy waterfalls that precipitated from the rocks and, in the distance, very high against the sky, the tops of fairytale mountains stood out.

In the collected silence of that magical moment, the voice of a sailor rose and said: “E ‘uma ilha formosa” and that is: “It is a beautiful land”. And Formosa was. The Chinese probably never knew that this island was called by the Europeans, since the official name of the country has always been and still is Taiwan, which means “Terraces on the Bay”.

But more than an island, Taiwan is an archipelago of 78 islands divided into two groups: that of the Penghu, also known as Pescadores, which includes 64, and the other 14 in the other group called Formosa.

According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Taiwan, formosa is undoubtedly a Chinese island. The first civilian men came to us from Southern China in the years between 589 and 618 after Christ. Then, in 1206, it became a Chinese protectorate and remained so for centuries.

Between 1622 and 1624 it was occupied by the Dutch; two years later the Spaniards also arrived; so these two European ethnic groups began to fight each other to possess it. On August 26, 1641 the Dutch got the better of it, so they remained the only masters. But they too had a short life since in 1646 a famous Chinese warrior Cheng-Cheng-Kung, which the Dutch called Koxinga, landed in Formosa with a few thousand volunteers and began a long war that ended with his victory, but in 1659 i.e. after 13 years.

Taiwan Recent History

Formosa remained Chinese until 1895 when China had to sell it to Japan, along with others, for having lost the Sino-Japanese war, which began due to the dominance over Korea.

Despite 36 popular uprisings, Formosa remained until 1945 in Japan which had to return it to China at the end of the Second World War, which ended with the defeat of its empire.

In November 1949 the nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek took refuge in Formosa, during the advance of the Chinese red army commanded by Mao Tse Tung.

And together with the Penghu, Quemoy and Matsu islands it formed the Nationalist Republic of China. Chiang Kai-shek was its president from then until 1975, when he died. Until then, the Nationalist Party had a majority in all elections, within a multi-party system.

The rapid progress of the island was not only the consequence of the huge US economic aid, but also from the conditioned attitude of all world powers towards popular China.

In 1961, American President Kennedy declared that the United States would defend Taiwan’s sovereignty at all costs, but from that moment, and for several years, most of the world powers officially recognized popular China, resulting in the breakdown of relations with Taiwan, including Italy (in 1970).

In October 1971 Taiwan was expelled from the United Nations where popular China entered its place. And he also had to withdraw his representations from all international bodies.

Soon, without US aid and the support of many other countries, Taiwan’s economic situation was halted and the initial industrialization project was significantly slowed down. And even in politics there were problems due to independence movements that arose from some minorities. Again for the economic part, however, agriculture continued its growth providing not only the country’s needs, but also fueling exports. Important productions of rice, tea, potatoes, cassava, asparagus, citrus fruits, pineapple, bananas, sugar cane, tobacco, peanuts, flanked the products derived from the huge forest heritage, such as bamboo, camphor, and timber. Fishing was also prevalent, also for exports, but mineral resources were of little interest.

In May 1978, Chiang Kai-shek’s son Chiang Ching-kuo, who had been premier for 6 years, was appointed President of the Republic. The National Party, i.e. the Kuomintang, retained an absolute majority in the government, even after the 1983 elections.

Despite the reduced maintenance of diplomatic ties, almost all with the Latin American states, Taiwan from 1978 to 1990 managed to sign various agreements with the United States, not only commercial, but also relating to culture, transportation and technology.

In politics, the year 1987 saw the rise of the movement that was called “Nativist”, because the main objective was that of assigning state public offices to the “natives” of Taiwan, 80% of the population, while until then they had been a legacy of Chinese citizens who emigrated after the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

In 1988, after Chiang Ching-kuo’s death, Lee Teng-hui was elected, also an exponent of the Kuomintang, but “native” of Taiwan.

During the years 1991/92 the party-electoral system was reformed. Lifetime appointments of government representatives were abolished and a clear multi-party system was passed. Thus, in addition to the traditional Nationalist Party, some independent ones and the Democratic Progressive Party also developed. The latter was divided into two currents: one supported the separatist tendency of Taiwan, as a sovereign state, and the other, linked to the Kuomintang, proposed rapprochement with popular China according to the program that stated “one China and two political entities”,

In 1991 the Taiwanese government declared the use of force for the suppression of communism ended, but this declaration had no effect on Beijing.

The beginning of the nineties, however, was a harbinger of not only Taiwan’s economic and political progress and development. There was a clear climate of relaxation with popular China, with which commercial and editorial exchanges began. In the latter sector, there were even simultaneous releases of many publications in Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei. And to demonstrate this new situation, many tourists from Taiwan still choose to visit popular China.

In the 1992 political elections, the Nationalist Party achieved a majority and the same happened in the 1995 elections.
The first presidential elections in March 1996, by universal suffrage, reconfirmed President of the Republic Li Denghui.
In foreign policy Taiwan pursued the process of relaxation with Popular China by developing a commercial agreement with it. In 1993, to crown this policy, in Singapore there was the first official meeting, since 1949, between the delegates of the two countries.

A new political crisis occurred in March 1996 when, simultaneously with the presidential elections in Taiwan, Popular China carried out massive military exercises in the Formosa strait. The return of Hong Kong to Popular China in July 1997 also increased Taiwan’s concerns, given the hegemonic strengthening that this event brought to China itself. In October 1998, however, talks resumed between the delegations of the two countries.


The legislative elections of the following December confirmed the government already in office, rewarded for having been able to manage the negativities brought about by the economic crisis that had affected all of Southeast Asia.

Instead, the presidential elections of March 2000 decreed a change in the highest office of the state, since they attributed the victory to the independent Chen Shui-bian, removing the monopoly from the Kuomintang.

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