Taiwan Timeline

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Key events in Taiwanese history from World War II to the present

by John Gettings

Sept. 2

Japan formally surrenders on the deck of the U.S. battleship Missouri, ending World War II. Japan begins the process of returning to China all the territories it had colonized, including Taiwan (then called Formosa), which it had acquired in 1895 after the first Sino-Japanese war.


After the handover, life for Taiwan's citizens doesn't change much under the rule of China's Nationalist forces (called the Kuomingtang, or KMT). Their hopes that the end of Japan's rule would liberate Taiwan turned to frustration. The KMT and immigrating mainlanders prolong the country's problems. Inflation slows the economy and unemployment rises.

Feb. 28

Monopoly bureau officials in Taiwan beat up a woman they suspect of selling cigarettes on the black market and shoot a passerby who tries to intervene. The incident, which is known as the "2–28 Incident," ignites an island–wide revolt and thousands of angry citizens pours out into the streets. The protesters are met by KMT troops on March 8. Upwards of 20,000 people are brutally slaughtered in the confrontation.



After two decades of fighting a bloody civil war, Chinese Communists, led by People's Republic of China (PRC) founder Mao Tse-tung, capture the final pieces of mainland China, and drive Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist forces onto Taiwan.

Mao stresses the importance of eventual unification with Taiwan under a principle of "one China," which will be foundation for the Chinese government's policy on Taiwan for the next 50 years.

The United States stops military aid to Taiwan. Both the U.S. and the United Nations fail to give the PRC diplomatic recognition.


June 25

Korean War begins when Communist forces in North Korea cross into South Korea.

June 27

U.S. President Harry Truman agrees to protect Taiwan against a possible attack from mainland China and sends the Seventh Fleet to patrol the waters between Taiwan and China.


Economic and military aid from the United States resumes with the establishment of the Military Assistance and Advisory Group in Taiwan. From this time until the mid-1960s the U.S. offers $1.5 billion in aid to the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan with the hope of changing the island into an industrialized nation. Taiwan begins a giant land reform project that redistributes the country's farmland and helps turn the economy around.


Sept. 3

Mainland China punctuates its promise to "liberate" Taiwan. The first of several attacks are launched on Quemoy and Matsu, the two largest island groups along the mainland coast held by the ROC.

Dec. 2

Sensing the possibility of a conflict in the waters between China and Taiwan, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower signs a Mutual Defense Treaty with the ROC promising protection from the U.S. for Taiwan.


Taiwan experiences steady economic growth. During the 1960s the economy has an average growth rate of 10%, and dependence on economic and technical aid from the U.S wanes.



The U.S. formally announces its "two China" policy, supporting admission of the People's Republic of China into the U.N. while preserving Taiwan's membership in the General Assembly. This highlights America's shift towards improved relations with Communist China throughout the l960's early 1970's.

Sept. 15

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger secretly visits China.

Oct. 25

Taiwan is "expelled" from the United Nations. The seat is given to the People's Republic of China.



U.S. President Richard Nixon makes a historic visit to China and issues the Shanghai Communique, an official statement further severing the country's diplomatic ties with the ROC.

The actions of the U.S. and the U.N. cause a domino effect around the world with several major countries switching their diplomatic recognition from Taiwan's capital city, Taipei, to Bejing during the 1970s.


Dec. 15

The United States announces it will terminate its diplomatic relations with Taiwan on Jan. 1, 1979.



The U.S. outlines its new relationship with Taiwan in the Taiwan Relations Act. The U.S. hands over the responsibilities of its embassy in Taipei to a new non-governmental agency called the American Institute in Taiwan and allows the U.S. president and Congress to take appropriate action against aggression towards Taiwan.


July 15

The end of martial law is declared in Taiwan.


Jan. 13

President Chaing Ching-kuo, the eldest son of Chiang kai-shek and former defense minister and premier, dies and is succeeded by Lee Teng-hui, the country's first native-born president.



The ruling Kouomintang regime wins 71% of the vote in national elections and defeats the Democratic Progressive Party, which advocated Taiwan's independence, in the battle for seats in Taiwan's National Assembly.


June 7–11

Taiwan president Lee Ten-hui visits the United States as an alumnus of Cornell University.



China launches what it calls "military exercises" in the ocean near Taiwan on the eve of the country's first free presidential elections. Taiwan and the U.S. consider the exercises an act of intimidation by China and the U.S. responds by sending a fleet of naval reinforcements to the area in what would be the biggest U.S. envoy in Asia since the Vietnam War. Incumbent President Lee wins the election, garnering 54% of the vote.


July 1

Hong Kong, a former British colony, is reverted to Chinese rule.



U.S. President Bill Clinton visits mainland China. At a seminar to discuss China's future Clinton embraces the "three no's" policy: no "two Chinas", no independence for Taiwan, and no membership for Taiwan in international organizations that require statehood for membership.



Taiwan President Lee says in a German radio interview that China and Taiwan should deal with each other on a "state-to-state" basis, implying that Taiwan is moving towards a formal declaration of independence. Chinese officials responds to Lee's statement a day later, saying that it was "a monumental disaster."

Dec. 20

Macau, a former Portuguese territory on the Chinese coast is reverted to Chinese rule.


Feb. 2

China protests the passage of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill (approved 341 to 70) seeks more direct military communications between American and Taiwanese forces, expanded American training of Taiwan's officers and an annual report on Taiwan's security. Clinton Administration officials voice their disapproval of the bill as well, calling it dangerous to the security of the Taiwan Strait.

Feb. 21

China issues a White Paper warning more explicitly than before that Taiwan's further heel dragging on reunification—let alone any declaration of independence--could force China to take "drastic measures."

Mar. 18

Taiwan holds its second free presidential elections in history. Voters elect pro-independence candidate Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, ending more than 50 years of Nationalist rule of Taiwan. China states in response that it will be keeping a close eye on Chen and reiterates that "Taiwan independence, in whatever form will never be allowed.

June 20

During his first news conference since being innaugurated on May 20, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian invites Chinese President Jiang Zemin to join hands at a summit for peace. Chen says he was inspired by the historic agreement signed by North and South Korea on June 15 to work towards reunification. Chinese officals respond coldly to the invitation, re-iterating the country's long-standing policy that Taiwan accept the "one China" principle before any talks can begin.


April 24

President George W. Bush approves the largest package of arms sales to Taiwan in nearly a decade. China responds with a formal protest. White House officials stress that the sale is in response to recent Chinese military buildup in the area, and that it has nothing to do with a recent standoff over the detained crew of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane that collided with a Chinese fighter jet (Apr. 1). China's ambassador warns that U.S.-China relations are "at a crossroads."

Oct. 20—21

China chooses not to invite Taiwan to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Shanghai. A press conference before the event becomes a bickering match when a Chinese official prevents Taiwan's representative from speaking.

Nov. 7

Taiwan eases restrictions for business that wish to invest in companies on mainland China. Although many businesses had already found loopholes in these 50-year-old policies, economists hope that the rollback will boost Taiwan's slumping economy and speed up the integration of the economies of Taiwan and China, which are expected to join the World Trade Organization later this month.

Nov. 11

Representatives of the World Trade Organization make Taiwan an official member at a meeting in Doha, Qatar, one day after China is unanimously admitted.

Dec. 1

Parliamentary elections are held in Taiwan. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wins enough seats to replace the Kuomintang (KMT) as the largest party in Taiwan's legislature. KMT nationalists had controlled the legislature since it fled from mainland China to the island in 1949.


Nov. 27

Taiwan's parliament approves a bill allowing for national referendums.

Dec. 6

President Shui-bian announces plans for a March 20 referendum that would call on China to remove hundreds of missiles pointed at Taiwan and renounce intentions to use force against the island.

Dec. 8

China, alarmed that the referendum was a veiled call for Taiwan's independence, condemns it as dangerously provocative. It reaffirms its "one China" policy, viewing Taiwan as a breakaway province that can never become independent.

Dec. 9

President Bush, anxious to maintain good relations with China, issues a sharp rebuke of Taiwan, urging it to maintain the "status quo" and abandon the referendum. Historically, the U.S. has pledged to defend Taiwan should it be attacked by China, but Washington is now angered by what it saw as Shui-ban's needlessly provocative stance. One of Bush's aids comments, the President "isn't shopping around for another international crisis."

Dec. 10

Shui-bian stands firm, asserting that "referendum is a normal practice in democratic countries and is the basic right of the people which they cannot be deprived of." He insists that "Taiwan people have the right to say loudly that they oppose missiles and are for democracy."

Dec. 16

Taiwan's national legislature approved two resolutions of varying severity, one calling on China not to deploy any more missiles aimed at Taiwan and the gradual removal of its existing missiles, the other demanding the immediate removal of the missiles.


Jan. 16

Taiwan yields somewhat to U.S. pressure and tones down the scehduled referendum. Instead of demanding removal of the Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan, voters will be asked whether Taiwan should arm itself with additional defensive weapons against China if China does not withdraw its missiles. The second referendum will ask whether Taiwan should have open negotiations with China. China, which considers any type of referendum concerning Taiwan-China relations threatening, is not reassured by the changes.

March 19

President Chen Sui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu survive an assassination attempt the day before presidential elections and voting on two controversial referenda. The elections pit incumbent Chen, a strong advocate of a more independent relationship with mainland China, against Lien Chan, whose stance is far more conciliatory.

March 29

Chen very narrowly won the election over Lien Chan, who demanded a recount. The referendum failed due to low response—although 80% of eligible voters turned out for the presidential election, only 45% voted in the referendum and 50% were needed.

May 18

Election officials announce the recount has been completed, although almost 40,000 ballots remain in dispute. About 23,000 of the ballots were cast for Chen, while 16,000 went to Lien Chan. Chen will be inaugurated on May 20 as planned, but the High Court must still rule on the disputed votes.


Feb. 1

Frank Hsieh is sworn in as prime minister.


Tension between China and Taiwan intensifies, when China passes an anti-secession law that says the country can use force if Taiwan moves toward achieving independence. "The state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the legislation says. Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian calls the bill a "law of aggression."


Lien Chan, who heads the opposition Nationalist Party, traveled to China and met with President Hu Jintao. It was the first meeting between Nationalist and Communist Party leaders since 1949, when the defeated Nationalists retreated to Taiwan.



President Chen tested China in February 2006, when he announced that he was rescinding the National Unification Council, a group that was established in 1990 to deal with reunification issues with China. He stopped short of abolishing the council, saying, "Taiwan has no intention of changing the status quo."


Taiwan's legislature initiated proceedings to oust President Chen because of allegations of corruption involving his family and senior administration officials, but the motion failed later that month.



Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang resigns. President Chen Shui-bian appoints Chang Chun-hsiung as his successor.



In parliamentary elections, the opposition Kuomintang soundly defeats Chen's Democratic Progressive Party, taking 81 out of 113 seats. President Chen resigns as head of the party. The result of vote is considered a rejection of Chen's policy of edging toward independence from China.




Former President Chen Shui-bian stands trial and receives a life sentence for taking bribes, money laundering, and extortion.


President Ma Ying-jeou is elected head of the ruling party, the Kuomintang.




Taiwan and China sign the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement, a landmark free-trade agreement that lifted or reduced hundreds of tariffs for both sides. Officials from both Taiwan and China described the deal as the most important achievement since the 1949 civil war.




President Ma Ying-jeou is re-elected in a close race with Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's first female presidential candidate.




High-ranking officials from China and Taiwan meet in Nanking, China. It is the first time since the 1949 split that minister-level officials hold talks. While the meeting is largely symbolic, it signals that both sides want to maintain stability and develop warmer ties.


Hundreds of protesters, mostly students, occupy Parliament, demonstrating against implementation of a service trade agreement with China. The deal is part of the controversial Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement Taiwan signed with China in 2010. Protesters say the trade agreement would hurt Taiwan's small businesses and give China further influence over Taiwan.


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