the island of Taiwan was incorporated into the Chinese
Empire during the Qing (Manchú) dynasty in 1683, and was
formally declared a Chinese province in 1887. During this
period, the mainland's administrative and political system
also applied to Taiwan, and many people emigrated from the
After China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War in 1895,
Taiwan became a Japanese colony. The island was returned to
China in 1945 following the Japanese defeat in World War II.
The people welcomed the end of Japanese colonialism, but it
soon found that life under Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT)
movement did not differ much from colonial times.
On February 28, 1947, a large demonstration was held
against the KMT authorities. This first reaction was to
raise the state of emergency and invite the opposition to
join a commission of politicians, union leaders and students
to discuss possible political changes. Meanwhile, the
government rushed to expand the army by an additional 13,000
soldiers, and when the opposition showed up to the first
meeting, KMT carried out a mass murder of the majority of
its leaders. The rest were sent to jail.
After losing the civil war against the Communists in
1949, the KMT fled the government, army survivors, family
members and supporters to Taiwan. With US support, KMT now
declared Taiwan as the provisional representative of the
Republic of China, leaving the mainland recapture open.
When the Korean War broke out and China supported North
Korea, the United States multiplied its commitments to
Taiwan as a frontline state in the "free world" struggle.
During the Cold War, Taiwan became a front fighter for
anti-communism and made close contacts with the
dictatorships of, among other things. Chile, Paraguay,
Uruguay and South Africa.
Democracy disappeared quickly. Violations of human rights
were common: demonstrations, strikes, political parties were
declared illegal and imposed martial law - all legitimized
by the need to fight for the reconquest of mainland China.
KMT created a government system it purported to represent
all of China, with MPs allegedly representing each of the
The comprehensive industrialization campaign began in the
1960s, when World Bank and US technocrats, in collaboration
with the government, introduced an export-oriented
development strategy. The United States made financial
resources and technicians available and opened its borders
to Taiwanese goods. In Taiwan, the new working class lacked
rights and political organization. An important prerequisite
for industrialization was that the United States had already
undergone land reform as early as the South Korea in the
1950s. Therefore, as in neighboring countries, there was no
reactionary bourgeoisie that could slow down
During the period 1953-85, the island's economy grew by
an average of 8.6% per year, drawing it into the category of
"new industrialized countries" - also known as the
"Southeast Asian Tigers". Growth was solely based on
exports, and after Japan the country had the largest trade
balance surplus according to the United States. Industrial
development has mainly been concentrated in plastics,
chemistry, shipbuilding, textile industry and electronics.
In 1971, the United States decided to establish closer
contacts with China, and from then on abandoned the veto of
China's accession to the UN. Until then, Taiwan had formally
represented China in the World Organization. Taiwan now lost
its place in the UN, and in 1979 the United States formally
broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
The country was economically at a crossroads. It was
largely dependent on specific export markets and industries
that required a lot of manpower, but at the same time the
importing countries wanted more balanced trade relations. At
the same time, the labor force in Taiwan was no longer as
cheap as in other countries in the region.