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Taiwan Modern History

After Japan's defeat in World War II, Taiwan was returned to China in 1945. The Republic of China was then represented by General Chiang Kai-shek (with Pinyin Jiang Jieshi) and his nationalist party Kuomintang (KMT), who fought for power with Mao Zedong's communists. Dissatisfaction with KMT's corrupt rule led to a riot in Taiwan in 1947, but it was brutally beaten down with tens of thousands of deaths as a result. It laid the ground for deep mistrust among native Taiwanese towards mainland Chinese.

The Civil War ended in 1949 when the Communists took control of the mainland. The KMT government with military and up to two million Chinese mainlanders fled to Taiwan and in December set up the Republic of China with the provisional capital of Taipei. KMT saw itself as China's legitimate government and had set its sights on regaining the mainland.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Taiwan. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

KMT was investing in getting economic development started in Taiwan, which was fairly well organized after the Japanese occupation. With the help of massive aid from the United States and a successful land reform, an outstanding financial success story soon began. The land reform freed up capital that laid the foundation for rapid industrialization in the 1950s.

At the same time, Chiang Kai-shek's rule was dictatorial. The military laws of the war remained in force. No new political parties were allowed to establish themselves. KMT members dominated the legislative body of the country since the 1947 election, and since no new elections could be conducted on the mainland, Kuomintang simply extended the mandate of its sitting for life.

Contemporary History of TaiwanThe political dominance of the newly arrived mainland Chinese led to tensions with the Taiwanese demanding increased democratization. They wanted Taiwan to give up the idea of ​​a reunification with China and instead proclaim independence, a claim that was categorically rejected by the government.

In November 1971, the People's Republic of China was voted into the UN. As a result, Taiwan lost its representation in the World Organization and was isolated internationally (see Foreign Policy and Defense).

Democratization begins

When Chiang Kai-shek died in 1975, he was succeeded by his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, who began his rule in the father's authoritarian tradition. At the same time, claims to represent the whole of China were becoming increasingly foreign. In the mid-1980s, the first steps towards democratization were taken. Leading opposition Taiwanese formed the 1986 Democratic Progress Party (DPP) who was allowed to stand in the election to the country's legislative body that year. The party received a quarter of the votes.

The following year, in 1987, the military laws were abolished and the party ban was lifted. When Chiang Ching-kuo died in 1988, he was succeeded by Vice President Lee Teng-hui, who became the first Taiwan-born president.

Democratization followed a "Taiwanization" of society. More and more Taiwanese people were given prominent positions, the Taiwanese dialect was allowed alongside mandarin in government agencies and in teaching. The official demand to recapture China was abandoned in 1991.

Lee also initiated a more open policy towards China and embarked on extensive constitutional reforms. The lifetime mandate system was abolished and in 1992 the first election was held since 1947 (with the exception of filling elections). The electoral system was further democratized in 1996, when the Taiwanese first elected their president in direct elections. Lee won by far with over half the votes.

Shift of power

The March 2000 presidential election, however, meant the end of KMT's long holding of power, partly because of internal divisions in the party. Defeated did DPP's Chen Shui bian, who promised, among other things, to break the close cooperation between politicians and large companies. Chen also reassured voters by declaring that it was not appropriate to proclaim independence, which could lead to an attack from China. However, the leaders in Beijing saw Chen as a more dangerous enemy than the old opponents of KMT.

Chen continued with the Taiwanization of society and sought to create a personal identity for Taiwan in the international arena. However, government work was often slow, as the opposition retained its majority in parliament. Although the DPP became the largest single party in the 2001 and 2004 parliamentary elections, the nationalist camp remained larger.

In the March 2004 presidential election, Chen managed to stay in power with barely conceivable margins. An attempted assault on him and Vice President Annette Lu the day before the election may have contributed to the victory.

Chen ran a tough line against China, triggering threatening signals from Beijing and worried many Taiwanese. Corruption accusations with links to the president and the DPP did not make matters any better. In the fall of 2006, the opposition made several attempts to get a referendum on casting the president. At the end of December, Chen's son-in-law was sentenced to prison for corruption. At the same time, a lawsuit was pending against Chen's wife, who was accused of using state funds for private purposes. Chen himself was charged with the same crime but protected by his legal immunity as president. Prosecutions also threatened several other high-ranking DPP members, which was a severe burden for DPP ahead of the upcoming elections in 2008.

The opposition was also subject to corruption charges. KMT's presidential candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, was indicted for irregularities during his time as mayor of Taipei but was released in 2007 from the charges.

Kuomintang regains power

The January 2008 parliamentary elections were the first to be held in a parliament with only 113 seats (see Political system). The election became a major victory for KMT, which received 81 seats, while DPP received only 27 seats. The small parties became marginalized. The new electoral system was considered to have benefited KMT to some extent.

KMT also won the presidential election two months later. Ma Ying-jeou took home the victory with 58 percent of the vote, against 42 percent for DPP's candidate, former Prime Minister Frank Hsieh. Ma promised to work to improve relations with Beijing. This was not least about better investment opportunities, increased trade and tourism. At the same time, he assured that no immediate reunion was on the agenda.

With just over a two-thirds majority in parliament, the new president could run his politics without much political opposition. Negotiations were started immediately on increased economic exchange with the Communist regime in China and private trips across the Taiwan Strait. DPP's new chairman Tsai Ing-wen, the first woman at the party leader post, led mass demonstrations in protest of the rapid approach to Beijing.

Chen Shui-bian, who lost his prosecution immunity as soon as he left office, was investigated from May 2008 for corruption charges. Chen claimed that it was political revenge from KMT. Towards the end of the year he was arrested and prosecuted for money laundering, embezzlement and receiving bribes. Chen was detained most of the time until September 2009, when he and his wife were sentenced to life imprisonment. In June 2010, the Supreme Court reduced their sentence to 20 years in prison. Chen was sentenced in 2011 to another two years in prison for money laundering and forgery.

In August 2009, Taiwan was hit hard by typhoon Morakot. At least 600 people though. The rescue work was criticized for being slow, which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Liu Chao-shiuan and succeeded by Wu Den-yih. The criticism was also reflected in the local elections in December 2009, when DPP strengthened its position.

Cooperation is increasing with Beijing

The approach to Beijing continued. A hot political issue was a trade facilitation agreement signed in June 2010. The opposition warned of excessive dependence on China and the domestic industry's difficulty in surviving a flood of cheap Chinese goods. President Ma felt that the agreement was necessary to prevent economic isolation and rebuffed allegations if it was a first step towards reunification (see also Foreign Trade and Foreign Policy and Defense).

When the campaign for the presidential and parliamentary elections in January 2012 began in mid-2011, relations with China were, as usual, one of the main issues. President Ma Ying-jeou promised to improve relations with the mainland through continued cooperation. Tsai Ing-wen, DPP chairman and presidential candidate, made it clear that Taiwan must maintain its independence but at the same time stood for a less confrontational policy towards the mainland than the former DPP president Chen Shui-bian.

The result of the presidential election was that Ma Ying-jeou gained renewed confidence in leading the country with just over 51 percent of the vote, compared with just over 45 percent for Tsai. Kuomintang also won in the parliamentary elections: the blue alliance (see Political system) received 51 percent of the vote against 44 percent for the DPP's green alliance.

But during President Mas's second term in power, several factors worked to erode confidence among Taiwanese for the president and KMT.

The economic situation had deteriorated as a result of the euro crisis in Europe and several scandal scandals among senior KMT politicians with ties to the president were discovered. At the same time, the government failed to implement and anchor its legislative proposals among the people. Higher gasoline and electricity prices have spurred public dissatisfaction.

The sunflower movement is conducting protests

In addition, a controversial agreement on trade in services that the KMT government signed with China in mid-2013 led to disputes with the opposition and the trade union movement. This meant that the agreement, which would open up service sectors in China and Taiwan for investment on both sides of the strait, risked small businesses being knocked out of competition from China. The KMT leadership finally agreed to the opposition's demand that the service agreement be examined part by part in the legislative yuan. However, repeated delays from the DPP caused the investigation to drag on over time. In March 2014, KMT tired and pushed a vote in Parliament when the agreement was approved.

Shortly thereafter, the parliament building was occupied by several thousand activists, many of them students. A movement called the Sunflower Movement was formed. The occupiers said that President Ma and the KMT government had bypassed democratic procedures and darkened the negotiations with China, a criticism that even individual KMT members agreed with..

When the activists also broke into the government building, the police intervened. More than 170 people were injured in the clashes. Only when the President of Parliament succeeded in winning the students' confidence could the conflict be resolved. The Ma and the KMT government agreed to the requirement for a monitoring mechanism.

In the November 2014 local elections, KMT and President Ma suffered a stinging defeat. The party lost power in five of the six largest municipalities and retained only New Taipei. In the capital Taipei itself, an independent candidate won the mayor post. Assessors interpreted the election defeat as an expression of voters' dissatisfaction with the KMT board's policy vis--vis Beijing. The local elections were also seen as an important indication of how things would go in the upcoming national elections in 2016.

When the election was announced, Prime Minister Jiang Yi-huah announced that he and his government would resign. Shortly thereafter, President Ma also resigned as party leader for Kuomintang. A few days later, Mao Chi-kuo was named new prime minister and in early 2015 Eric Chu, popular mayor of New Taipei, was elected new chairman of KMT. In October of that year, he was also named KMT's presidential candidate for the January 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.

 
 

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