Prehistory and Early Settlement
Evidence of human settlement in Taiwan dates back 30,000 years, although the first inhabitants of Taiwan may have been genetically distinct from any groups currently on the island. About 4,000 years ago, ancestors of current Taiwanese aborigines settled Taiwan. These aborigines are genetically related to Malay and Polynesians, and linguists classify their language as Austronesian. In 1544, a Portuguese ship sighted the main island of Taiwan and dubbed it "Ilha Formosa", which means "Beautiful Island." The Portuguese made no attempt to colonize Taiwan. Japan had sought to claim sovereignty over Taiwan (known as Takayama Koku) since 1592, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi undertook a policy of overseas expansion and extending Japanese influence southward. Korea, to the west, was invaded and an attempt to invade Taiwan and subsequent invasion attempts were to be unsuccessful due mainly to disease and attacks by aborigines on the island. In 1609, the Tokugawa Shogunate sent Haruno Arima on an exploratory mission of the island. In 1616, Murayama Toan led an unsuccessful invasion of the island.
In 1624, the Dutch established a commercial base on Taiwan and began to import workers from Fujian 福建 and the Pescadores as laborers, many of whom settled. The Dutch made Taiwan a colony with its colonial capital at Tayoan City (present day Anping 安平, Tainan 台南). The name Taiwan derives from Tayoan, meaning "I" in Sirayan, one of the Formosan languages.
Koxinga and Imperial Chinese Rule
Ming 明 naval and troop forces defeated the Dutch in 1662, subsequently expelling the Dutch government and military from the island. They were led by Lord Koxinga 鄭成功, a pirate turned Ming navy commander. Following the fall of the Ming dynasty, Koxinga retreated to Taiwan as a self-styled Ming loyalist, and established the Kingdom of Tungning (1662–1683). Koxinga established his capital at Tainan and he and his heirs, Zheng Jing 鄭經 who ruled from 1662-1682 and his son Zheng Keshuang 鄭克塽, who served less than a year, continued to launch raids on the east coast of mainland China well into the Qing 清 dynasty in an attempt to recover the mainland. In 1683, the Qing dynasty defeated the Zheng holdout, and formally annexed Taiwan, placing it under the jurisdiction of Fujian province. Zheng's followers were expatriated to the farthest reaches of the Qing Empire, leaving approximately 7,000 Han on Taiwan. The Qing government wrestled with its Taiwan policy to reduce piracy and vagrancy in the area, which led to a series of edicts to manage immigration and respect aboriginal land rights. Illegal immigrants from Fujian continued to enter Taiwan as renters of the large plots of aboriginal lands under contracts that usually involved marriage, while the border between taxpaying lands and "savage" lands migrated east, with some aborigines 'Sinicizing' while others retreated into the mountains. The bulk of Taiwan's population today claim descent from these immigrants. During this time, there were a number of conflicts involving Han Chinese from different regions of China, and between Han Chinese and aborigines. In 1887, the Qing government upgraded Taiwan's status from that of being a prefecture of Fujian to one of province itself, the 20th in the country, with its capital at Taipei 台北. The move was accompanied by a modernization drive that included the building of the first railroad and the beginning of a postal service in Taiwan.
Following its defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), by signing the Treaty of Shimonoseki, Qing China ceded Taiwan and the Pescadores to Japan in perpetuity, on terms dictated by the latter. On May 25, 1895, the Republic of Formosa was formed with a dynastic name of "Forever Qing" and with capital at Tainan, to resist impending Japanese rule. Japanese forces entered the capital and quelled this resistance on October 21, 1895. Unlike elsewhere in Asia, most notably Korea, Japan never tried to fully assimilate Taiwan culturally. According to Japanese public relations, the Japanese attempted to use Taiwan as a model colony and were instrumental in the industrialization of the island. The Japanese extended the railroads and other transportation networks that had just sprung up during late Qing rule, built an extensive sanitation system and revised the public school system, among other things. The Japanese motivation for these new infrastructures on Taiwan were primarily to tap the natural resources of the island. Still, the ethnic Chinese and Taiwanese aborigines were classified as second- and third-class citizens. The signing of the Instrument of Surrender on August 15, 1945, signaled that Taiwan was to be returned to China, one of the Allied objectives from the wartime declarations. On October 25, 1945, ROC troops, representing the Allied Command, accepted the formal surrender of Japanese military forces in Taihoku (today, Taipei). However, due to the Chinese Civil War 國共内戰 between the Kuomintang (KMT) 中國國民黨 and the Chinese Communists, the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty between Japan and the Allies stipulated the United States as the main occupying power of Taiwan while not naming the recipient of Taiwan's sovereignty, which Chiang Kai-Shek 蔣中正, President of the ROC, refused to accept. The PRC was not invited to the treaty because of the Korean War. Supporters of Taiwanese independence claim that technically, documents and treaties left the legal sovereignty of Taiwan ambiguous, and the ruling KMT government of the ROC only exercised de facto control over the island. However, the validity of this stewardship is disputed by the ROC, as well as by the PRC.
Authoritarian Rule Under the Kuomintang
The ROC administration, led by Chiang Kai-shek, announced October 25, 1945, as "Taiwan Retrocession Day" "臺灣光復節". At first, they were greeted as liberators by the people of Taiwan. However, the ROC military administration on Taiwan under Chen Yi 陳儀 was generally unstable and corrupt. These problems, compounded with hyperinflation, unrest due to the Chinese Civil War, and distrust due to political, cultural and linguistic differences between the Taiwanese and the Mainland Chinese, quickly led to the loss of popular support for the new administration. This culminated in a series of severe clashes between the ROC administration and Taiwanese, in turn leading to the bloody 228 incident and the reign of White Terror. In 1949, upon losing the Chinese Civil War to the CPC, the KMT retreated from Mainland China and moved the ROC government to Taipei, Taiwan's largest city, while continuing to claim sovereignty over all of China and Greater Mongolia. On the mainland, the Communists established the PRC, claiming to be the sole representative of China including Taiwan and portraying the ROC government on Taiwan as an illegitimate entity. Some 1.3 million refugees from Mainland China, consisting primarily of soldiers, KMT party members, and wealthy mainlanders, arrived in Taiwan around that time. From this period on, Taiwan was governed by a party-state dictatorship, with the KMT as the ruling party. Military rule continued and little to no distinction was made between the government and the party, with public property, government property, and party property being interchangeable. Government workers and party members were indistinguishable, with government workers, such as teachers, required to become KMT members, and party workers paid salaries and promised retirement benefits along the lines of government employees. In addition all other parties were outlawed, and political opponents were persecuted, incarcerated, and executed. Initially, the United States abandoned the KMT and expected that Taiwan would fall to the Communists. However, in 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, and in the context of the Cold War, US President Harry S. Truman intervened again and dispatched the 7th Fleet into the Taiwan Straits to "neutralize" the Straits. In the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which came into force on April 28, 1952, and the Treaty of Taipei, concluded hours before that date, Japan formally renounced all right, claim and title to Formosa (Taiwan) and the Pescadores (Peng-hu), and renounced all treaties signed with China before 1942. Both treaties remained silent about who would take control of the island, in part to avoid taking sides in the Chinese Civil War. Advocates of Taiwan independence have used this omission to call into question any legal claims on Taiwan, arguing that the future of Taiwan should be decided by self-determination. During the 1960s and 1970s, Taiwan began to develop into a prosperous and dynamic economy, becoming one of the East Asian Tigers while maintaining the authoritarian, single-party government. Because of the Cold War, most Western nations and the United Nations regarded the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China until the 1970s, when most nations began switching recognition to the PRC.
After Chiang Kai-shek's death in 1975, Vice President Yen Chia-kan 嚴家淦 briefly took over from 1975 to 1978 according to the Constitution, but actual power was in the hands of the Premier of the Executive Yuan 行政院, Chiang Ching-kuo 蔣經國, who was KMT chairman and a son of Chiang Kai-shek. During the presidency of Chiang Ching-kuo from 1978 to 1988, Taiwan's political system began to undergo gradual liberalization. Martial law, which had been in effect since 1948, was lifted in 1987, and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party 民主進步黨 was formed and allowed to participate overtly in politics. After Chiang Ching-kuo died in 1988, Vice President Lee Teng-hui 李登輝 succeeded him as the first Taiwan-born president of the ROC and chairman of the KMT. One-party rule lost its effective dominance with the continuation of peaceful social and political reforms. Lee became the first ROC president elected by popular vote in 1996. In 2000, Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁 of the Democratic Progressive Party won the Presidential election, marking the first ever peaceful democratic transition of power to an opposition party in Chinese history and a decisive end to the KMT's monopoly in administration of the central government. After surviving an assassination attempt the day before the 2004 election, Chen was re-elected to his second four-year term by thirty thousand votes. The KMT filed lawsuits to demand a recount of the votes, alleged voting fraud and staged huge rally to demand a new election. The courts decided the election was accurate and valid. KMT then moved to impeach the President in 2006 and failed.