Exploring Chinese History
East Asian Region
- Taiwan -

Taiwan or T’aiwan, island in East Asia. Taiwan is bordered on the west by the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China, on the north by the East China Sea, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, and on the south by the South China Sea. The government on Taiwan also administers the P’enghu Islands (Pescadores), the Chinmen Islands (Quemoy Islands) offshore from the mainland city of Xiamen, and the Matsu Islands offshore from Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province.

The government that administers Taiwan calls itself the Republic of China. Leaders of the government moved to the island from the Chinese mainland in 1949, when Communist armies gained control of the mainland and established the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The government on Taiwan recognizes the mainland city of Nanjing (spelled Nanking in Taiwan) as its official capital, and designates Taiwan’s largest city of T’aipei as its temporary capital. The PRC does not recognize the government on Taiwan and considers the island a renegade province. Taiwan recognizes that the Communist government rules the Chinese mainland while the republican government rules Taiwan.

The total area of the islands administered by the government on Taiwan is about 36,000 sq km (about 13,900 sq mi). Taiwan Island accounts for about 98 percent of this. The island is shaped like a tobacco leaf, extending about 390 km (about 240 mi) from its stem in the south to its northern tip. At its widest east-west point, the island extends about 140 km (about 90 mi). P’enghu, the largest of the P’enghu Islands, constitutes approximately half the group’s total area of about 130 sq km (about 50 sq mi). The 12 small Chinmen Islands cover a total area of about 150 sq km (about 60 sq mi). The Matsu Islands, situated northwest of Taiwan Island outside the mouth of the Min River, consist of a small main island and several smaller islands. The main island has a total area of about 12 sq km (about 5 sq mi). Although administered by the government on Taiwan, the Matsu and Chinmen islands are officially part of Fujian province.

Located about 1,800 km (about 1,100 mi) southwest of Taiwan in the South China Sea, the Spratly Islands are claimed by Taiwan, mainland China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines. A contingent of Taiwan’s Marine Corps is stationed on Itu Aba (called T’aip’ing Island in Taiwan) at the center of the group.

Taiwan Island’s most distinct land feature is its Chungyang Range, covering about half the total land area. The mountains extend over the island’s entire north-south length and reach a maximum elevation of 3,997 m (13,114 ft) at Yü Shan (Mount Jade). East of this central chain the land is rugged, terminating at precipitous cliffs that rise as high as 760 m (2,500 ft) from the Pacific Ocean. To the west, a broad, fertile plain and a series of connected basins slope gently to the shallow Taiwan Strait.

All of Taiwan’s rivers originate in the mountains and have short, rapid courses. The Tanshui is the only navigable stream. Taiwan’s longest river is the 186-km (116-mi) Choshui. It is also the most heavily tapped for hydroelectricity. Other rivers include the Taan, Tachia, Tatu, Kaop’ing, and Tsengwen. Among Taiwan’s lakes are Sun Moon Lake, a popular resort in the foothills of the Chungyang Range, and Coral Lake northeast of T’ainan.

Taiwan has about 3,800 plant species. Between sea level and 2,000 m (6,500 ft), tropical and subtropical forests abound. Deciduous and coniferous trees grow in the mountains between 2,000 and 3,000 m (6,500 and 10,000 ft). Above this level only coniferous forests are found, mainly cypress. Animal life includes deer, wild boars, bears, monkeys, wildcats, panthers, and snakes.

Taiwan’s most important natural resource is its land, one-quarter of which is suitable for cultivation. The Chungyang Range and the eastern coastal range contain deposits of gold and copper. Coal is mined in the north near the Tatu River. Petroleum and natural gas reserves are located in the northwest near the small city of Hsinchu and the town of Miaoli. The eastern side of the island has marble deposits near the town of Hualien. Taiwan’s many river beds provide sand, gravel, and rock for the construction industry.

Taiwan’s climate is described as tropical and subtropical, and rainfall is abundant. The average annual precipitation is about 4,000 mm (about 160 in). During winter, northern Taiwan experiences the northeast monsoon, which brings heavy rain from October to March. The north is somewhat less wet in summer, when southern Taiwan receives heavy precipitation from the southwest monsoon. Typhoons occur between June and October. Frost and snow appear only at high elevations in the Chungyang Range. Summers are hot and humid, with an average temperature of 28° C (82° F). Winter lasts from December until February and is mild, with an average January temperature of 18° C (64° F).

Air pollution is severe in Taiwan’s major cities due to manufacturing activities and vehicle emissions, particularly exhaust from automobiles powered by leaded gasoline. Deforestation is a growing concern because mountain hillsides are being cleared for commercial crops. The hunting of wild animals for their organs, which are used to make traditional Chinese medicines, is threatening wildlife. The government has made efforts to curb Taiwan’s environmental problems by enforcing stricter wildlife and forest-resource protection laws. In addition, the government prohibits newly manufactured automobiles that run on leaded gasoline.

Taiwan’s estimated population in 1998 was 21,908,135, yielding an average population density of 609 persons per sq km (1,576 per sq mi). The population is unevenly distributed, however, as most people live on the plains and basins west of the Chungyang Range.

T’aipei, Kaohsiung, and T’aichung are the three largest cities. Metropolitan T’aipei is the political, economic, cultural, and transportation center of Taiwan. Kaohsiung is the major industrial center in the south and Taiwan’s largest commercial port. T’aichung is the major industrial center of central Taiwan.

In 1952 Taiwan’s birthrate was 46.6 births per 1,000 people. By 1998 the birthrate had fallen to 14.8 per 1,000. Since the 1950s the level of education has risen in Taiwan; people are now more affluent and they tend to have fewer children.

Most people in Taiwan are ethnic Han Chinese and were born on the mainland or have ancestors that were. They are divided into three groups based on their native Chinese dialect: Taiwanese (who speak Taiwanese, also called Min), Hakka (who speak Hakka, also called Kejia), and Mandarin. Min, Hakka, and Mandarin all belong to the Sino-Tibetan languages family. Taiwan also has a small population of aborigines who comprise about 2 percent of the total population. There are nine major aborigine tribes, each speaking a different form of Formosan, a member of the Austronesian languages family. Mandarin Chinese is Taiwan’s official language.

Taiwan has 12 officially recognized religions, including Buddhism, Daoism (Taoism), Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam. Slightly more than half the people in Taiwan profess a faith; Buddhism has the most adherents, followed by Daoism.

In 1952 less than 60 percent of people over the age of 15 could read and write. Educational reforms in 1968 extended compulsory education to 9 years: Taiwan’s literacy rate climbed to 94 percent by 1994. Education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15, when students complete junior high school. About 20 percent of junior high graduates pass the high school entrance exam and about two-thirds attend vocational schools. Taiwan has more than 100 colleges and universities, with a total attendance of more than 700,000 students. Major institutions of higher education include National Taiwan University, in T’aipei; National Central University, in Chungli; National Chunghsing University, in T’aichung; National Cheng Kung University, in T’ainan; and National Chung-shan University, in Kaohsiung.

Most people in Taiwan have traditional values based on Confucian ethics, which include the principles of good conduct, practical wisdom, and proper social relationships. Confucianism, however, developed in a largely rural society and people now confront the challenge of maintaining these values in Taiwan’s modern, industrialized society. Still, some traditional values are strong, including piety towards parents, ancestor worship, a strong emphasis on education and work, and the importance of "face," or maintaining one’s dignity in public. Other values are changing, especially in urban areas. Since industrialization, women enjoy greater freedom and a higher social status, individual creativity is regarded as equally important as social conformity, and acquiring material goods and fame is increasingly important.

Housing is mostly urban, with the majority of people living in modern apartment buildings. People in Taiwan wear Western clothing. Traditional Chinese or aboriginal clothing is now worn only for certain festivals. Food choices vary greatly, with restaurants offering everything from American fast food and European cuisine to regional Chinese specialties. In their homes, most people serve traditional Chinese foods. Popular pastimes include singing with family or friends, watching television, mountain climbing, and world travel. In the mornings, many city residents perform t'ai chi ch'aun or other exercises in the parks. At night, young urbanites enjoy going to discos, bars, and restaurants.

Taiwan has some of the same social problems as other places with large urban populations, including organized crime, teenage prostitution, drug abuse, and juvenile delinquency. In addition, some tensions exist between social groups. The majority of people in Taiwan came from or have ancestors who came from mainland China before 1949. They are known as Taiwanese and enjoy the highest standard of living in Taiwan. Because of their wealth and numbers, they also have the greatest influence on economic and political issues. Mainlanders are people who arrived in Taiwan after mainland China fell to the Communists in 1949. Many Mainlanders work for the government. Tensions between Taiwanese and Mainlanders have eased substantially. The aborigines, who live mainly in rural villages, are the least privileged social group in Taiwan.

Many ancient Chinese customs and holidays are still observed in Taiwan, including the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Chinese New Year, and the Feast of Lanterns. The birthday celebration of Chinese philosopher Confucius is held annually on September 28. It is known as National Teacher’s Day, and people observe it by performing traditional rituals at temples throughout Taiwan. Most people in big cities also celebrate Christmas, though not as a religious holiday.

The arts in Taiwan draw from a diverse heritage, encompassing aboriginal art, folk art, traditional fine arts, and modern art. Chinese calligraphy and traditional painting comprise the mainstream of traditional Chinese fine arts. Other art forms include sculpture, ceramics, cloisonné, jade carving, and flower arranging. Performing arts include Chinese opera, Taiwanese opera, and drama. Taiwan’s thriving film industry produces more than 100 movies annually; some receive international acclaim.

The island’s largest libraries, both in T’aipei, are the National Central Library and the Taiwan Branch Library. There are also more than 15 public libraries located throughout Taiwan. Important museums include the National Palace Museum in T’aipei, which houses collections of traditional Chinese art; the National Museum of History in T’aipei, which exhibits mainly historical artifacts; and the Taiwan Provincial Museum in T’aipei, which displays collections from local cultures.

After retreating from the mainland in 1949, the leaders of the government on Taiwan instituted land reforms that increased agricultural productivity. In the 1960s Taiwan adopted export-oriented policies, establishing export processing zones with incentives to attract direct foreign investment. Meanwhile, the government also pursued industrialization. A strong manufacturing sector developed, with most products consisting of labor-intensive goods. During the 1980s the focus of manufacturing shifted to capital- and technology-intensive commodities, such as personal computers and machinery. In an effort to join the World Trade Organization, an international body that promotes and enforces trade laws, Taiwan’s government began liberalizing the economy in the 1990s by deregulating banking, finance, the stock market, investment, and trade.

Taiwan’s economic policies have been extremely successful. In the mid-1990s per capita gross national product (GNP) was about $11,600, compared to $1,100 in the early 1950s (adjusted for inflation). Because its economy has achieved such rapid growth and it boasts one of the world’s highest standards of living, Taiwan is one of Asia’s "Four Tigers," along with Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea. Economists also classify Taiwan as a Newly Industrializing Economy (NIE), an imprecise term that sometimes includes the Four Tigers, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and China. In the early 1990s Taiwan had a gross domestic product (GDP) of $216.5 billion.

Taiwan had about 9 million people in the workforce in the early 1990s. About one-tenth of the people were employed in the primary sector, which includes agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining. The secondary economic sector, which involves processing or combining raw materials into new products, employed nearly two-fifths of the workforce. Tertiary activities, or service industries such as retail, banking, and government employment, employed nearly half of Taiwan’s working people.

Services account for about 60 percent of GDP. The most important services are finance, insurance, and business services. Next in importance are wholesale and retail trade, restaurants, and hotels followed by government services. Tourism is significant, with 2.4 million tourists visiting Taiwan in 1997. The majority of tourists are Japanese, although many Southeast Asians, North Americans, and Europeans also visit Taiwan. Among the major tourist attractions are the National Palace Museum, Yangmingshan National Park, Sun Moon Lake, Mount Ali, Cheng Ching Lake, and Kenting National Park.

Manufacturing accounts for 37 percent of GDP. Chief manufactured products include chemicals, petrochemicals, electrical and electronic machinery, basic metals, paper products, and nonmetallic mineral products. The importance of labor-intensive products, such as garments, leather, fur, and bamboo and wood products, is declining.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing account for less than 4 percent of GDP. Taiwan’s chief agricultural areas are located on the island’s fertile western plains and basins. Rice is the principal food crop. Other major crops include sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, sugarcane, watermelons, pineapples, bananas, peanuts, mushrooms, tea, asparagus, and soybeans. Pigs, chickens, ducks, cattle, and goats are among the livestock raised.

Approximately 55 percent of the land is forested, but timber production is insufficient to meet domestic demand. The main timbers are oak, cedar, hemlock, bamboo, and rattan. Onshore and deep-sea fishing yield about 80 percent of the total catch; the remainder comes from along the coast and from cultivated ponds. Mackerel and tuna are the leading marine species caught.

More than 90 percent of Taiwan’s energy must be imported. Most energy is derived from thermal plants, though nuclear power is also significant. The only domestic source of energy is hydroelectricity. Among the major hydroelectric facilities are those tapping the Choshui, Shimen, and Tahan rivers.

Taiwan has a well-developed road and rail network. The majority of railroads and highways are concentrated along the western coast, plains, and basins of Taiwan Island, where the most people live. The principal ports are Hualien, Kaohsiung, Chilung, T’aichung, and Suao. Chiang Kai-shek International Airport near T’aipei is Taiwan’s largest airport, and southern Taiwan also has an international airport at Kaohsiung. China Airlines is the government-owned airline of Taiwan.

In the early 1990s Taiwan had more than 175 radio stations. The three major television networks are Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV), China Television Company (CTV), and Chinese Television System (CTS). Taiwan also has a noncommercial station, Chinese Public Television. Cable television offers additional programming.

There are more than 200 newspapers and more than 4,100 magazines published in Taiwan. The major newspapers are based in T’aipei and include the Chinese-language Central Daily News,China Times Express, and United Daily News. The two English dailies are China News and The China Post. Among the periodicals, the Chinese edition of the Reader’s Digest has the largest circulation. English or bilingual periodicals include Free China Review, Sinorama, Economic News, Taiwan International Trade, Trade Winds, and This Month in Taiwan.

In 1996 Taiwan’s exports totaled US$115.7 billion; imports cost US$101.3 billion. Exports consistently exceed imports, giving Taiwan one of the world’s largest trade surpluses. The major exports are machinery, electrical and electronic products, and textiles. Taiwan’s largest export trading partner is the United States, followed by Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Malaysia, and South Korea. More than 70 percent of imports are agricultural and industrial raw materials used by Taiwan’s manufacturing industry to create finished products. Japan supplies the majority of imports, followed closely by the United States. Taiwan’s trade with the Chinese mainland grew from about $78 million in 1979 to more than $9 billion in 1994, although Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs restricts trade with the mainland for the purpose of national security.

In 1990 Taiwan applied for admission to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now the World Trade Organization). Admission has been delayed, however, in part because mainland China opposes Taiwan receiving membership before the mainland is allowed to join. Although Taiwan is a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a trade organization of the Pacific Rim, Taiwan’s president was denied participation in APEC’s highest ranking meetings due to opposition from mainland China, which is also a member.

Taiwan’s basic unit of currency is the New Taiwan dollar (32.334 New Taiwan dollars equal U.S.$1; January 1999). The bank of issue is the Bank of Taiwan. While Taiwan has permitted private banking since the 1990s, most banks remain government owned or controlled.

The current constitution of the government on Taiwan was adopted during the Chinese civil war in 1947, two years before the leaders of the government retreated to the island from the mainland. A series of additional articles became effective in 1991, 1992, 1994, and 1997. Among the most significant changes was the 1994 adoption of presidential elections by popular vote. Voting is universal for all citizens age 20 or older.

The president is the head of state and represents Taiwan in its foreign relations and at state functions. Formerly, the president was elected by the National Assembly to a six-year term. Constitutional amendments reduced the presidential term to four years and called for direct elections by popular vote. The first popularly elected president took office in 1996.

The 316-member National Assembly has the power to impeach the president and vice president and amend the constitution. Members of the National Assembly serve four-year terms. They are elected under a mixed system of direct election and proportional representation.

In addition to the president and National Assembly, Taiwan’s government contains five yuan, or branches of government: the Executive Yuan, the Legislative Yuan, the Control Yuan, the Examination Yuan, and the Judicial Yuan.

The Executive Yuan, the government body responsible for making and implementing government policy, is the highest administrative branch. The president appoints a premier and other ministers and members of the Executive Yuan.

The Legislative Yuan exercises legislative power on behalf of the people, examines the budget, and audits reports submitted by the Executive Yuan. The 225 members of the Legislative Yuan are elected under a mixed system of direct election and proportional representation. All members serve three-year terms.

The Control Yuan exercises powers of consent, impeachment, censure, and audit. It is responsible for finding and removing corrupt officials at all levels of government. The 29 members are appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly.

The 21-member Examination Yuan handles the examination, employment, and management of all Taiwan’s civil servants, including all elected and appointed government officials. Members of the Examination Yuan are appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly to six-year terms.

The Judicial Yuan runs Taiwan’s court system and is responsible for civil, criminal, and administrative cases, as well as cases concerning the disciplining of public officials. The Judicial Yuan consists of a president, a vice president, and a 15-member Council of Grand Justices. Below the Judicial Yuan are the Supreme Court, the high courts, the district courts, the Administrative Court, and the Committee on the Discipline of Public Functionaries.

Taiwan has three major political parties, the Kuomintang (KMT) party, the Democratic Progressive Party, and the New Party. The KMT is Taiwan’s ruling party and has a membership of 2.6 million. In the 1996 legislative elections the KMT received 55 percent of the vote. The KMT approach to government is based on Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People, which are nationalism, democracy, and social well being.

Until Taiwan lifted martial law in 1987, opposition parties had little political influence. Starting in the late 1970s an informal organization known as the Outsiders Party attempted to present unified platforms and nominated candidates for elections. In 1986 some members of the Outsiders Party established the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which became the first influential opposition party in Taiwan. Although originally founded as a pro-independence party, the DPP has since softened its stance on complete independence for Taiwan. In the 1996 elections, the DPP received 30 percent of the popular vote. The New Party received about 15 percent of the popular vote in the 1996 elections. Its leadership contains several young politicians and scholars who left the KMT.

In 1995 Taiwan launched a government-funded health insurance program. Medical resources increased and rural facilities were upgraded. Taiwan’s highest public health authority is the Department of Health under the Executive Yuan. The department determines health policies and coordinates health services at all levels. Among the major health programs are prenatal and postnatal care, prevention of cancer, and the control of communicable diseases.

The president serves as commander-in-chief. The Ministry of National Defense, headed by a civilian, is responsible for overseeing the administrative affairs of the military. Equipped with modern weapons, aircraft, and ships, Taiwan’s military includes an army, navy, air force, and logistical command called the Combined Services Force. In 1997 military personnel totaled 376,000. Beginning at the age of 18, all able men must serve two years in the armed forces, although they may delay conscription if attending school.

Archaeological evidence consisting of primitive utensils indicates Taiwan was inhabited by humans as far back as 10,000 years ago. Bands of Japanese are said to have conquered portions of the island in the 12th century, and from the 15th century onward Japan regarded the eastern half of Taiwan as its possession. In 1590 the Portuguese became the first known Europeans to visit the island, which they called Formosa (Portuguese for "beautiful"). Subsequently, the Spanish attempted to found permanent settlements, but were thwarted by the Dutch, who succeeded in taking possession of the P’enghu Islands in 1622. Three years later the Dutch established forts on the southeastern coast of Taiwan.

In 1644 the Manchus of northeastern China defeated the Ming dynasty and established the Qing dynasty. Meanwhile, a group of Ming followers led by Cheng Ch’eng-kung, known in the West as Koxinga, drove the Dutch from Taiwan and occupied the island’s southwestern portion. Cheng established a formal Chinese government, ruling Taiwan as a Ming enclave. It wasn’t until 1683 that the island finally fell to Qing rule. Thereafter, immigration to Taiwan from mainland China increased greatly. As a result of Britain’s victory against China in the Opium Wars and the ratification of the Treaty of Tientsin in 1860, two ports on Taiwan’s western coast opened to foreign ships. Roman Catholic and Protestant missions were established on the island soon after.

During the Sino-French War of 1884 and 1885 the French imposed a partial blockade against Taiwan. The Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895 terminated the first Sino-Japanese War and required that China cede Taiwan and the P’enghu Islands to Japan. However, the Chinese inhabitants of Taiwan refused to submit and instigated a rebellion that was put down by the Japanese. For the next 50 years a stringent occupation and colonization followed, including a rigorous effort at Japanization—the attempt to replace Chinese culture and tradition with that of the Japanese.

With the defeat of Japan in 1945, Taiwan and the P’enghu Islands were returned to China, but corrupt Chinese government authorities caused widespread resentment on the island. The unrest resulted in an uprising in February 1947. It was quickly suppressed with serious loss of life, and two months later Taiwan was proclaimed a province of China.

Meanwhile, China was enmeshed in a civil war between Communist forces led by Mao Zedong and the Kuomintang (KMT) led by Chiang Kai-shek, who had assumed leadership of the party in the mid-1920s after the death of KMT founder Sun Yat-sen. With mainland China falling to the Communists, Chiang moved the KMT government from Nanjing to T’aipei on December 8, 1949. Communist plans to invade Taiwan were subsequently frustrated by the United States, which in 1950 sent naval forces to defend the island.

For the remainder of the 1950s, despite sporadic hostilities between Taiwan and the mainland, the United States Seventh Fleet shielded the KMT government from a Communist invasion. In March 1954 Chiang Kai-shek was reelected president of the Republic of China (as his Taiwan government continued to call itself). Later that year the KMT and the United States signed a mutual-defense treaty, by which the United States agreed conditionally to take punitive action against the Chinese mainland if the Communist regime attacked Taiwan.

During this time the United States also extended massive economic and military aid to Taiwan, enabling it to build its economy despite a great investment in military defense. By the mid-1960s, when such aid was ended, more than US$4 billion had flowed into Taiwan’s economy. In that time industrial production was estimated to have risen by 300 percent; in addition, exports tripled and imports doubled. Of greater significance, however, was that the island had become a showcase of modern economic development, with a growth rate far above that of most other Asian economies.

Throughout the 1960s Taiwan experienced few changes in its international status or internal government. The National Assembly reelected Chiang Kai-shek president in 1960 and 1966, broadening his powers in 1966. Taiwan still enjoyed wide diplomatic recognition throughout the world, and its foreign trade boomed. Gradually, however, countries began shifting their formal relations to the People’s Republic of China on the mainland. Diplomatic relations with France, for example, broke off in 1964.

In the early 1970s Taiwan’s international situation changed radically. The decision by the United States government to seek contact with the Communist government in Beijing, on the mainland, led to Taiwan's expulsion from the United Nations in 1971, and China's seat was given to the Communist government. Many nations transferred their diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing. In 1972 United States president Richard Nixon visited Beijing, and the United States opened a liaison office on mainland China. In the wake of these developments, many other nations transferred their diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the mainland Communist government. Then, in 1979, the United States formalized relations with mainland China and ended formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan, although trade relations and informal communications between Taiwan and the United States continued. In January 1980 the United States-Taiwan defense treaty of 1954 lapsed. By 1981 relatively few nations maintained formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but the island’s international trade suffered little damage.

Chiang Kai-shek was elected to his fifth term as president in 1972. Three years later, embittered by U.S. abandonment, he died and was succeeded by Vice President Yen Chia-kan. Chiang’s eldest son, Chiang Ching-kuo, who had been premier of Taiwan since 1972, continued in that office and assumed leadership of the KMT party. He was elected to the presidency in 1978 and reelected in 1984.

In the late 1970s and the 1980s Taiwan’s economy continued to expand. Trade contacts with Western Europe increased, and the government rejected offers of reconciliation that came from Beijing. Martial law, in effect since 1949, was finally lifted in July 1987. Chiang Ching-kuo died in January 1988 and was succeeded by Vice President Lee Teng-hui, who became the first native Taiwanese to assume the presidency. Lee was elected to a full six-year term in 1990 and reelected to a four-year term in 1996.

In 1991 Taiwan formulated a plan to restructure the government, and a long-term, three-phase plan for reunification with mainland China was introduced. In April 1993 representatives from Taiwan and China met in Singapore to discuss the relationship between China and Taiwan and establish a schedule for subsequent meetings between the two governments. The Singapore meeting was the first high-level contact between China and Taiwan since 1949. Relations between Taiwan and China deteriorated in 1995 and early 1996 as China performed military exercises near Taiwan. Observers believed the maneuvers were intended to intimidate supporters of pro-independence candidates in Taiwan’s presidential election.

Contributed By:
Chienping John Lee
Clifton W. Pannell

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