Taiwan is an island off the coast of China.
Its original population spoke Malayo-Polynesian languages
related to those of Indonesians, Filipinos and Polynesians. 200,000 of them
remain in a total of 20 million. Chinese began to move there
in the 17th century. It became a province of China after Ming
refugees arrived there in 1661 (fleeing from the new Manchu Dynasty).
However, Taiwan Nationalists argue that in reality, although
ruled by the Manchus eventually, it was never part of China proper.
It was a colony of Japan from 1895 -1945. Although its native
population was somewhat different from the main Chinese cultures
it received a large influx of mainland Chinese at the end of
the Chinese civil war when in 1949 the government and armies
of Chiang Kai Shek, leader of the Kuomintang, arrived on Taiwan.
Since then their successors have claimed that they are the rightful
government of China. Shelling from offshore islands in both directions
continued into the 1970s. Taiwan was allied with the United States
from 1954 when a defense treaty was signed. It occupied China's
Security Council permanent seat until 1971 when it was awarded
to mainland China.
It has shared in the rapid economic growth of all the non-communist
Chinese communities (Singapore and Hong Kong).
If mainland China democratises it is quite likely that it
will reunite with China, but not otherwise. Taiwan represents
a similar situation to West Germany in relation to East Germany,
except that it is much smaller than mainland China. Until recently,
however, it has been much more prosperous. One possibility is
convergence and gradual reunification as China adopts a market
economy. By 2005 China is seen to be catching up fast.
Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations (it was expelled
when China regained its seat). Taiwan elected a president in
March 1996. Mainland China has threatened that if Taiwan claims
independence it will attack with missiles. Invasion is probably
impossible but much damage could be done. However, Taiwan's money
is fueling China's development and would cease if the war resumes.
The Taiwanese government has publicly refused to accept that
Taiwan could join China on the same terms as Hong Kong (July