|October 25, 1945||Taiwan is returned to China.|
Upon its defeat in World War II, Japan is forced to cede Taiwan back to China.
Japan had governed the island since 1895 as a result of its victory in the
October 1, 1949||
People's Republic of China is founded.|
After nearly two decades of civil war, Chinese Communist Party leader Mao
Zedong declares victory over the U.S.-supported Nationalists (Kuomintang or
KMT), led by Chiang Kai-shek. Mao proclaims the establishment of the People's
Republic of China (PRC), and institutes a new communist system, modeled after
After his defeat by Mao, Chiang Kai-shek flees to the Chinese island of Taiwan,
then called Formosa, along with two million Nationalist refugees. It is 100
miles off China's coast. There he establishes a "provisional" Nationalist
capital in Taipei and declares martial law. The Nationalists claim to be the
sole legitimate government of all of China, and set up the same political
bodies on Taiwan which had ruled on the mainland.
Under Chiang's authoritarian leadership, the Nationalist government establishes
a successful land reform program during the 1950s, which helps transform the
country from an agricultural to a commercial, industrial economy.
U.S. sends troops to Taiwan.|
Taiwan gains strategic importance for the United States during the Cold War.
At the beginning of the Korean War (1950-1953), U.S. President Harry Truman
declares Taiwan neutral territory and sends the Seventh Fleet to the Taiwan
Strait. The U.S. also begins supplying economic aid to Taiwan during the
conflict. The U.S. naval blockade is withdrawn in 1953, after the inauguration
of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
U.S. and Taiwan sign mutual defense treaty.|
In 1954, fighting breaks out between China and Taiwan over the offshore islands
of Quemoy and Matsu in what becomes known as the "first Taiwan Strait crisis."
As a response to Chinese artillery attacks on the Nationalist-held territory,
the U.S. and Taiwan sign a mutual defense treaty. The document is seen as a U.S.
pledge to aid Taiwan if the island is attacked by China.
Second Taiwan Strait Crisis begins.|
On August 23, China again begins shelling the islands of Quemoy and Matsu.
President Eisenhower responds by sending U.S. forces, including a large naval
contingent, to the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. even explores the option of using
nuclear weapons against China. The crisis is diffused when China suspends its
bombing campaign after high-level talks with the U.S.
October 23, 1958||
Taiwan and U.S. issue joint communiqué.|
During his visit to Taiwan, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and
Chiang Kai-shek issue a joint communiqué, which reaffirms the solidarity
of the two nations. The document is significant because the Nationalists state
that they will focus their efforts on taking back China through political, not
"Ping Pong Diplomacy"|
While in Japan for the World Table Tennis Championship in Japan, the U.S. team
receives a surprise invitation to visit China. Their visit receives extensive
media coverage and is symbolic of thawing relations between the U.S. and China.
The Chinese team makes a reciprocal visit to the United States in April of the
China joins the United Nations.|
After a United Nations General Assembly vote, Taiwan is expelled from the
organization and China's seat is given to the People's Republic of China.
President Nixon visits China.|
In a historic visit, President Richard Nixon meets with Chinese Premier Zhou
Enlai in China in order to explore the establishment of diplomatic relations
between the two countries. On February 27, the two leaders sign what becomes
known as the Shanghai Communiqué.
Skirting the question of Taiwanese sovereignty, the document states that "The
United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait
maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. ... [The
U.S.] reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by
the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate
objective of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from
President Ford visits China.|
U.S. President Gerald Ford travels to China for a five-day visit with Chinese
leaders. Upon his return, he calls for the normalization of U.S. relations
January 1, 1979||
U.S. and China establish formal relations.|
In the release of their second joint communiqué, the U.S. and China announce the
establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries. They
agree to exchange ambassadors and establish embassies. The U.S. reaffirms the
one China principle, and recognizes the government of the People's Republic of
China as the sole legal government of China. However it also acknowledges that
"the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial, and other
unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan." As a result of the
normalization of U.S.-China relations, the U.S. terminates the 1954 mutual
defense treaty it had signed with Taiwan in December.
April 10, 1979||
President Carter signs the Taiwan Relations Act.|
Fearing the normalization of U.S.-China relations may have alienated an
important ally, the U.S. Congress passes the Taiwan Relations Act, which declares U.S. commitment
to Taiwan's security. The act declares that U.S. policy is "to provide Taiwan
with arms of a defensive character; and to maintain the capacity of the United
States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would
jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on
[The web site of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York contains a
chronology of major U.S. arms sales to Taiwan between 1979 and 1998.]
August 17, 1982||
U.S. and China issue third joint communiqué.|
Partly due to rising Sino-U.S. tensions resulting from the Taiwan Relations
Act, the U.S. and China sign a third joint communiqué, in which the U.S. declares it
will limit arms sales to Taiwan to "the level of those supplied in recent years
since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and
China." The U.S. also states that it plans to gradually reduce arms sales to
Taiwan. The communiqué is sharply criticized both by members of
Congress and by the Nationalist Government in Taiwan, which declares the
statement "in contradiction of the letter and the spirit" of the Taiwan
Taiwan lifts martial law.|
Thirty-eight years after the founding of the Nationalist government
President Chiang Ching-Kuo
abolishes martial law in a step towards democratic reform in Taiwan. Under
martial law, the government banned the formation of political parties other
than the KMT, gave wide censorship powers to the military, and allowed for
military courts to try and convict thousands of civilians. Within months, the
Taiwanese government lifts the ban on visits to the mainland for family
reunions, allows for the publication of mainland books and begins talk of trade
and investment links to the mainland.
January 13, 1988||
Native Taiwanese assumes presidency.|
President Chiang Ching-Kuo, the son of Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek, dies
of a heart attack at a Taipei hospital. He is succeeded by Vice President Lee
Teng-hui, who becomes the first native Taiwanese to assume the country's
presidency. As president, Lee Tung-hui accelerates the pace of democratic
reform in Taiwan and lifts restrictions on visiting China. He is reelected in
1990 to a six-year term.
June 3-4, 1989||
Chinese army crackdown in Tiananmen Square.|
The student movement that results in the Chinese army's massacre of an
unknown number of people in Tiananmen Square begins as a commemoration of the
death of the reformist former party leader Hu Yaobang in April 1989. The
students are joined by intellectuals and workers in vast demonstrations for a
crackdown on political corruption, and a movement towards free press and
democracy that eventually spreads to cities beyond Beijing. The Chinese
leadership declares martial law May 20, but protests continue. On June 3rd and
4th, the Chinese military uses armed force to clear demonstrators from Tiananmen
Square. While there are no official estimates of casualties, many observers
number the victims in the hundreds. The incident strains U.S.-China relations and results in U.S.-imposed sanctions on trade and investment in China.
The harsh crackdown, coupled with the resurgence of the Chinese hard-liners,
leads to a surge of support in Taiwan's parliamentary elections for the
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which advocated independence from the
Read a day-by-day chronology of the events leading up to June 3rd and
Taiwan's president visits U.S.|
Members of Congress pressure the Clinton administration into issuing a visa
allowing Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui to make a four-day visit to Los
Angeles and Ithaca, New York, where he gives a speech at his alma mater,
Cornell University. Although President Lee's trip is billed as a "private"
visit, angry Chinese officials recall their ambassador from Washington in
In the months following President Lee's visit, the Chinese military begins
conducting exercises in the Taiwan Strait. They fire short-range missiles and
stage live-fire war games and air exercises between July and November.
Tensions mount in the Taiwan Strait.|
During the month of March, China conducts war games off the coast of Taiwan
that involve missile tests and live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait. The U.S.
responds by dispatching two carrier groups to the region.
March 23, 1996||
Taiwan holds first direct presidential election.|
In a strong vote of confidence for the Nationalist Party, Lee Teng-hui is
reelected to the Taiwanese presidency with 54 percent of the vote. He beats a
pro-independence candidate from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). China
claims the election proves Taiwanese voters reject the idea of
separation from the mainland.
July 1, 1997||
Hong Kong is returned to China.|
Ending 156 years of British colonial rule, Hong Kong is returned to Chinese
sovereignty at midnight on July 1st. China promises to allow Hong Kong to
maintain its capitalist system and high degree of autonomy under a principle
known as "one country, two systems."
In December 1999, the Portuguese colony of Macao is returned to China after 442
years of colonial rule. China again promises to guarantee a high degree of
autonomy for the territory under the "one country, two systems" principle. In
a speech at the hand-over ceremony, Chinese President Jiang Zemin urges an
"early settlement of the Taiwan question and the complete national
President Clinton outlines "three no's" policy on Taiwan.|
While visiting China for a summit meeting with President Jiang Zemin, President
Bill Clinton articulates his adminstration's three-pronged Taiwan policy, which
becomes known as the "three no's." The policy consists of: 1) no U.S. support
for independence for Taiwan, 2) no support for a two-China or "one China, one
Taiwan" policy, and 3) no support for Taiwan's admittance into any
international organization that requires statehood for membership.
Furor over allegations of Chinese espionage.|
In January 1999, a special House Committee on U.S. National Security Concerns
issues a classified report alleging China's acquisition of sensitive U.S.
military technology, including nuclear secrets. An unclassified version of
the report, which becomes known as the "Cox report," is released in May 1999. The report
concludes that "The People's Republic of China (PRC) has stolen classified
design information on the United States' most advanced thermonuclear weapons,"
and that "PRC penetration of our national weapons laboratories spans at least
the past several decades and almost certainly continues today."
May 7, 1999||
NATO bombs hit Chinese embassy in Belgrade.|
Three Chinese reporters are killed when NATO bombs strike the Chinese embassy
in Belgrade. U.S. officials call the incident an "intelligence failure" that
derived from the CIA's use of an outdated map. Chinese public opinion is
outraged at what it sees as American imperialism, and protestors respond by
throwing rocks and plastic bottles at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
November 15, 1999||
U.S. and China reach trade agreement.|
After six days of negotiations, the U.S. and China reach an agreement that
would open Chinese markets to foreign competitors and allow China to enter the
World Trade Organization. China agrees to reduce import tariffs on various
industrial and agricultural products. In September 2000, the U.S. Senate
overwhelmingly passes a bill granting China permanent normal trade relations
with the U.S. and ending yearly congressional debates over China's trade
March 18, 2000||
Opposition candidate wins Taiwan's presidency.|
Marking the Nationalist Party's first loss of power, Chen Shui-bien, a
candidate from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is elected president of
Taiwan with 39 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Chen had long been an
advocate for Taiwanese independence, but during the campaign he moderated his
views, claiming that no declaration of independence was necessary because
Taiwan is already sovereign. In his victory speech, President Chen makes
reconciliatory overtures to Chinese leader, but in his first public statements
after Chen's election, Chinese President Jiang Zemin reiterates demands that
Taiwan recognize the "one China" principle as a precursor to any talks.
Bush administration drops "three no's" policy on Taiwan.|
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher indicates that the Bush
administration intends to drop Clinton's "three no's" policy on Taiwan. During a
press briefing, he announces "We adhere to a one-China policy and we'll stick
with that." His statement leads to speculation that the Bush administration
will take a tougher stance with China and a more favorable view of Taiwan.
April 1, 2001||
U.S. Navy surveillance plane collides with Chinese fighter
While gathering intelligence off the coast of China, a U.S. Navy EP-3
electronic spy plane, piloted by Lt. Shane Osborn, collides in mid-air
with a Chinese F-8 and is forced to make an emergency landing at Hainan Island.
The Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, is killed in the incident. China charges that the
U.S. plane illegally entered Chinese airspace, and detains the 24 U.S. crew
members for 11 days. It demands that the U.S. take full responsibility for the
incident and issue a full apology. In the end, the United States offers a
letter in which it says it is "very sorry" for the loss of the Chinese pilot
and "very sorry" that the aircraft landed in China without permission. The damaged U.S. airplane is not returned for three months.
April 24, 2001||
Bush approves arms sales to Taiwan.|
U.S. President George W. Bush approves the sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan,
including submarines, spy planes, helicopters, torpedoes and anti-ship
missiles. However, he delays the decision to allow Taiwan to purchase
destroyers equipped with the Aegis radar system. This marks the first sale of
U.S. submarines to Taiwan since 1974; past U.S. presidents had declined to sell
submarines to Taiwan, fearing that China would consider them offensive
In a television interview the next day, Bush says that the U.S. will do "whatever it took" for Taiwan defend itself. Administration officials insist that his remarks should not be interpreted as a change in policy.
U.S. visits anger Chinese.|
The Bush administration grants Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian permission to
visit New York while en route to Latin America. China angrily accuses the U.S.
of violating agreements to maintain relations solely with Beijing. It expresses
fears that the U.S. is encouraging pro-independence sentiment in Taiwan by
allowing the visit. Although not on an official trip, Chen meets with
politicians including members of Congress, and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Chen had made a previous visit to the U.S. in 2000; however the Clinton
administration discouraged lawmakers from meeting with him and asked Chen to
remain in his hotel.
The same week as Chen's visit, President Bush holds a "private meeting" with
Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at the White House. Chinese
officials condemn the visit.
Chinese war games simulate attack on Taiwan.|
In the largest military exercises since it fired missiles off Taiwan's coast in
1996, China conducts joint military exercises with its navy, air force, army
and artillery units that simulate an assault on Taiwan. The simulations were
conducted in three stages: information warfare, followed by an
invasion of the island and then a counter-attack against
"an enemy fleet attempting to intervene in the war." Although representatives
in Washington, Taipei and Beijing call the drills routine, Beijing publications
imply that they are intended to send a warning to Taiwanese President Chen
Shui-bian not to push for independence.
China convicts scholars on espionage charges.|
A Chinese court convicts two Chinese citizens with permanent residency in the
United States on charges of spying for Taiwan and sentences them to ten years
in prison. The two scholars, Gao Zhan, a sociologist at American University in
Washington DC, and Qin Guangguang, who had been a visiting scholar at several
universities in the United States, are released on medical parole after an
appeal by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was preparing for an
official visit to Beijing.
July 13, 2001||
Beijing to host the 2008 Olympics.|
The International Olympic Committee's decision to award the 2008 Summer
Olympic Games lead to fireworks and celebrations in the streets of Beijing.
The celebrations mark the largest public gathering in the streets since the
1989 Tiananmen Square incident.
China and Taiwan cleared to join WTO.|
After 15 years of talks, the World Trade Organization (WTO) approves China's
entry into to the organization on September 17. Taiwan, which had completed the
terms for joining the organization 18 months earlier, is approved the following
day, because of a 1992 understanding which stipulated that China would join
first. China had originally objected to Taiwan's joining the organization;
however it relented because Taiwan has its own rules governing imports. Both
Hong Kong and Macao, which were returned to China in 1997 and 1999
respectively, are separate members of the WTO.
China and Taiwan are expected to be formally approved for membership at a WTO
meeting in November 2001 in Dota, Qatar. They will become full members once
their own governments ratify the decision.
Change in Chinese leadership.|
President Jiang Zemin, National People's Congress Chairman Li Peng, and Premier
Zhu Rongji all must retire from their posts in 2003. Jiang is expected to give
up the post of party secretary general in 2002. Jiang's designated successor
appears to be Vice President Hu Jintao, a member of the so-called "Fourth
Generation" of leaders who came of age during the Cultural Revolution. He is
not very well known outside of China, and it is unclear whether he will
encourage the country to move forward on a reformist track.