International Asia Pacific Taiwan-China relations since 1949

Taiwan-China relations since 1949

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As tensions spike between mainland Taiwan-China, here are key dates in decades of fraught relations:

Taiwan-China relations – 1949 separation

Mao Zedong’s communists take power in Beijing in October 1949 after defeating Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) nationalists in a civil war.

The KMT flee to the island of Taiwan and form their own government in Taipei in December, cutting off contacts with mainland China.

In 1950, Taiwan becomes an ally of the United States, which is at war with Communist China in Korea. It deploys a fleet in the Taiwan Strait between the two to protect its ally from possible attack from the mainland.

Taiwan-China relations 1971: Beijing gets UN nod

In October 1971, Beijing takes over China’s seat at the United Nations, previously held by Taipei.

In 1979, the United States establishes diplomatic relations with China but also commits to assist the defence of Taiwan. It backs the policy of “one China”, with Beijing as the legitimate government, but establishes trade and military ties with Taipei.

Taiwan-China relations 1987-2016: fragile reconciliation

In late 1987, Taiwan residents are for the first time permitted to visit China, allowing families to reunite and leading to a boom in trade.

In 1991, Taiwan lifts emergency rule, unilaterally ending a state of war with China. The first direct talks between the two sides are held in Singapore two years later.

But in 1995, Beijing suspends talks in protest at a visit by Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui to the United States.

In 1996, China tests missiles off Taiwan to deter voters in the island’s first democratic presidential election.

In 2000 elections, the KMT loses power in Taiwan for the first time and over the next five years trade links between the two sides improve, first by sea and then via air.

In March 2005, Beijing adopts a law which makes secession by Taiwan illegal at the risk of military action. In April, there is the first meeting since 1949 of the leaders of the KMT and Communist Party of China.

In 2008, Taiwan and China resume high-level talks after the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou is elected president on a Beijing-friendly platform.

In 2010, they sign a sweeping Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement; in 2014 they hold the first government-to-government talks since separation.

In 2015, the leaders of both sides meet in Singapore, shaking hands and waving enthusiastically to a huge press throng but refraining from any joint statement.

Taiwan-China relations 2016: End of the honeymoon

In January 2016, opposition candidate Tsai Ing-wen, from the traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, wins presidential elections. The day of her inauguration in May, China cautions that peace would be “impossible” if she makes any moves to formally break away.

In June, China suspends all communications with Taiwan after the island’s new government fails to acknowledge the concept that there is only “one China”.

In December 2016, president-elect Donald Trump breaks with decades of US diplomatic policy by speaking directly, by telephone, with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. In 2017, Trump’s administration approves $1.3 billion worth of arms sales to Taiwan.

In March 2018, the United States adopts a law reinforcing ties with Taiwan, again infuriating China.

Taiwan-China relations 2021: New tensions

On January 2, 2019, Xi Jinping warns that the unification of China and Taiwan is “inevitable”, with the use of military force remaining an option.

On April 12, 2021, a record number of 25 Chinese military jets breach Taiwan’s defence zone.

On October 5, Tsai warns of “catastrophic consequences” if the island were to fall to China. More than 600 Chinese military jets have made incursions into Taiwan’s defence zone this year.

On October 7, the Pentagon says US special operations forces have been quietly training Taiwanese troops for months.

On the 9th, Xi Jinping says that “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan “will be and can be realised”.

On the 22nd, US President Joe Biden says the United States will defend Taiwan if China attacks it.

On October 27, Beijing says Taiwan has “no right to join the United Nations”.

On October 28, Tsai confirms, a first since 1979, that a small number of US troops are present in Taiwan to help with training.

On the same day, China says it opposes military ties between Washington and Taiwan.

© Agence France-Presse

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