China-Taiwan Relations

Steven Goldstein

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online November 2011 | | DOI:
China-Taiwan Relations

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The complex relationship between the Republic of China (ROC) on the island of Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland is rooted in the Chinese civil war of 1946–1949, which ended when the defeated ROC government fled to Taiwan, where it remains. Initially the conflict concerned which side was the legitimate government of China. However, by the end of the 20th century Taiwan’s insistence on maintaining its sovereign status conflicted with the mainland’s insistence that the island was an inseparable part of China. Despite the steady growth of economic and cultural relations in the early 21st century, this central political dispute remains. Given the growing military power of the mainland as well as its refusal to abjure force to achieve its objectives, the dispute constitutes a potential flashpoint for armed conflict. However, there are other actors in this long-running drama. Since the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, the United States has supported the ROC. Official relations and a mutual defense treaty with the ROC were terminated after Washington established relations with the PRC in 1979. However, the Taiwan Relations Act passed in the same year provides the basis for a robust relationship with the island, arms sales, and the possibility of American intervention to resist coercive actions by the PRC. Finally, the people of Taiwan have played an important role. For most of the first half of the 20th century the ethnic Chinese population on Taiwan was not a part of the historic changes occurring on the mainland. They were a colonial people ruled by the Japanese, who sought—half-heartedly, to be sure—to assimilate them. The Chinese population was forced to take Japanese names and served in the Japanese army. They initially greeted the mainland forces that occupied the island after the Japanese surrender; but soon the distrust of what seemed to be a collaborationist population by the newly arrived Chinese mainlanders and the disgust of the local population with the corrupt, dictatorial control of the ruling Kuomintang (Nationalist Party or KMT) erupted in violence that was followed by institutionalized authoritarian rule by the Party and “White Terror” aimed at the native population. In the decades that followed, a movement and later a party (the Democratic Progressive Party or DPP) made up largely of native Taiwanese pressed for democratization as well as for the affirmation of an identity apart from the mainland and, eventually, independence. As democratization proceeded, their demands increasingly became an important consideration shaping the management of cross-strait relations.

Article.  4714 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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