- LAST REVIEWED: 27 September 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0004
- LAST REVIEWED: 27 September 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0004
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.
There are very few books that provide a comprehensive view of the history of relations between Taiwan and the mainland. Most focus on more contemporary relations. However, Rubinstein 2007 provides reliable and extensive coverage by prominent scholars from a historical perspective. Bush 2005 provides a summary of the background to the relationship and has a strong policy orientation from the perspective of the United States, while Roy 2003 presents a somewhat standard, if dry, overview of Taiwan history and relations with the mainland. Rigger 2011 is a more informal and personal discussion of the island and its relationship with the mainland. Naturally, each side holds to its own version of history. For the mainland side, the most accessible statement Taiwan Affairs Office 2000. Historical background to the mainland view can be found in the documents published in Chiu 1973, while Clough 1999 traces the beginnings of the thawing of cross-strait relations at the end of the 20th century. Although the two major parties have somewhat different positions on the overall issue of relations with the mainland, a 1994 white paper, “Relations across the Taiwan Straits” (Republic of China, Mainland Affairs Council, 1994), outlines much of the historical perspective from Taiwan’s point of view. Su 2009 is a useful view from a KMT scholar who has been deeply involved in cross-strait relations. However, neither side’s positions have been static, and so it is important to consult Reference Resources for recent developments.
Bush, Richard C. Untying the Knot: Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2005.
An analysis of the fundamental issues in cross-strait relations during the administrations of Lee Teng-hui (1988–2000) and Chen Shui-bian (2000–2008) by a former US government official deeply involved in cross-strait relations.
Chiu, Hungdah. China and the Question of Taiwan; Documents and Analysis. New York: Praeger, 1973.
A useful compilation of documents reflecting mainland views of the Taiwan issue before the détente at the end of the 20th century.
Clough, Ralph N. Cooperation or Conflict in the Taiwan Strait? Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.
A longtime US government official traces the beginnings of cross-strait dealings in the 1980s and 1990s.
Rigger, Shelley. Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011.
A leading American academic specialist on Taiwan offers an informal and personal introduction to the island as well as its relations with the mainland.
Republic of China, Mainland Affairs Council. 1994. Relations Across the Taiwan Straits. Taipei: Mainland Affairs Council.
Although drafted by a KMT administration at an early stage in the 1990s cross-strait détente, this document contains the essence of Taipei’s view on the ROC’s origins and a current status on the island.
Roy, Denny. Taiwan: A Political History. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 2003.
A specialist on Asian security matters looks at the evolution of Taiwan’s relations with the mainland against the background of the island’s history.
Rubinstein, Murray A., ed. Taiwan: A New History. Expanded ed. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2007.
Prominent experts present a deep historical perspective on the intertwined themes of Taiwan’s domestic development and the history of its unique relationship with the mainland.
Su, Chi Taiwan’s Relations with Mainland China: A Tail Wagging Two Dogs. New York: Routledge, 2009.
A former Taiwan official provides his perspective on cross-strait developments since the 1990s.
Taiwan Affairs Office. The One-China Principle and the Taiwan Issue. Beijing: Taiwan Affairs Office and the Information Office of the State Council, People’s Republic of China, 2000.
This is a major statement made by Beijing regarding its position on cross-strait relations that was issued on the eve of the 2000 elections in Taiwan.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Advanced Democracies, Electoral System Reform in
- Advanced Democracies, Public Opinion and Public Policy in
- Advertising and Election Campaigns in the United States
- Africa, Comparative Politics of
- African Development, Politics of
- American Indian Politics
- Arab-Israel Conflict, The
- Arendt, Hannah
- Aristotle's Political Thought
- Arms Race Modeling
- Australia and New Zealand, Comparative Politics of
- Authoritarianism in Russia
- Authoritarianism in the Public
- Bicameralism in Stable Democracies
- Big Data in Political Science Research
- Biopolitics and State Regulation of Human Life
- Brazilian Political Development
- Business-State Relations in Europe
- Campaign Finance in the Era of Super-PACS
- Canadian Foreign Policy
- Candidate Emergence and Recruitment
- Channels of Electoral Representation in Advanced Industria...
- China's One-Child Policy
- China-Taiwan Relations
- Chinese Communist Party
- Chinese Economic Policy
- Chinese Nationalism
- Civil Society in South Asia
- Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Civil-Military Relations in Asia
- Civil-Military Relations in Latin America
- Class in American Politics
- Comparative Capitalism Theory
- Comparative Industrial Relations in Europe
- Comparative Politics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bis...
- Comparative Politics of Chile and Uruguay
- Comparative Politics of Federalism
- Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
- Congress, Defense, and Foreign Policy
- Congressional Reassertion of Authority
- Conservative Litigation Strategies and Groups in US Judici...
- Corruption in China
- Cosmopolitan Political Thought
- Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspective, ...
- Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School
- Cuban Political Development
- Cycles of Protest
- Democracy and Authoritarianism in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Democracy and Dictatorship in Central Asia
- Democracy in Latin America
- Democratic Citizenship
- Democratic Consolidation
- Democratic Peace Theory
- Democratic Theory
- Democratization in Africa
- Democratization in Central America
- Democratization in Mexico
- Development of Survey Research
- Direct Democracy in the United States
- East Africa, Politics of
- Economic Voting
- Election Forecasting
- Election Laws in Democracies
- Electoral and Party System Development in Sub-Saharan Afri...
- Electoral Change in Latin America
- Emotion and Racial Attitudes in Contemporary American Poli...
- Environmental Governance
- Environmental Politics among Advanced Industrial Democraci...
- Ethnic Diasporas and US Foreign Policy
- Ethnic Politics
- Eurasia, Comparative Politics of
- European Social Democracy
- European Union, Politics of the
- Failed and Weak States in Theory and Practice
- Far-Right Parties in Europe
- Federalism in the United States
- Feminist Political Thought
- Field Experiments
- Filibuster, The
- Gender and Electoral Politics in the United States
- Gender and International Relations
- Gender, Behavior, and Representation
- Global Inequality
- Globalization and the Welfare State
- Globalization, Health Crises, and Health Care
- Governance in Africa
- Governmental Responses to Political Corruption
- Gridlock and Divided Government in the U.S.
- Historiography of Twentieth-Century American Conservatism,...
- Hobbes’s Political Thought
- Hume's Political Thought
- Hybrid Regimes
- Identity and Political Behavior
- Ideological Reasoning in Politics
- Immigrant Incorporation in Canada
- Immigrant Incorporation in Western Europe
- Immigration and International Relations
- Immigration Politics and Policy in the United States
- Impact of Campaign Contributions on Congressional Behavior...
- Implicit Attitudes in Public Opinion
- Income Dynamics and Politics in North America and Europe
- Income Inequality and Advanced Democracies
- Income Inequality in the United States, The Politics of
- Indian Democracy
- Indigenous Rights and Governance in Canada, Australia, and...
- Informal Practices of Accountability in Urban Africa
- Institutional Change in Advanced Democracies
- Intellectual Property in International Relations
- Interest Groups and Inequality in the United States
- Interest Groups in American Politics
- Interethnic Contact and Impact on Attitudes
- International Conflict Management
- International Criminal Justice
- International Law
- International NGOs
- International Political Economy of Illegal Drugs
- Internet and Politics, The
- Iran, Political Development of
- Israeli Politics
- Judicial Supremacy and National Judicial Review
- Judiciaries and Politics in East Asia
- Kant's Political Thought
- Labor Politics in East Asia
- Land Reform in Latin America
- Latin America, Democratic Transitions in
- Latin America, Environmental Policy and Politics in
- Latin America, Guerrilla Insurgencies in
- Latin America, Social Movements in
- Legal Mobilization
- LGBT Politics in the United States
- Liberal Pluralism
- Local Governments in the United States
- Machiavelli’s Political Thought
- Marx's Political Thought
- Mass Incarceration and US Politics
- Mechanisms of Representation
- Media Effects in Politics
- Media Politics in South Asia
- Minority Political Engagement and Representation in the Un...
- Modern Dynastic Rule
- Modern Elections and Voting Behavior in Europe
- Motivated Reasoning
- National Interbranch Politics in the United States
- NATO, Politics of
- Negative Campaigning
- Neoclassical Realism
- New Institutionalism Revisited, The
- North America, Comparative Politics of
- Oil, Politics of
- Origins and Impact of Proportional Representation, The
- Outcomes of Social Movements and Protest Activities
- Partisan and Nonpartisan Theories of Organization in the U...
- Partisan Polarization in the US Congress
- Partisan Polarization in the US Electorate
- Party Networks
- Peace Operations
- Personality and Politics
- Plato's Political Thought
- Policy Feedback
- Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion
- Political Ambition
- Political Economy of Financial Regulation in Advanced Ind...
- Political Economy of India
- Political Economy of Taxation, The
- Political Geography in American Politics
- Political Obligation
- Political Parties and Electoral Politics of Japan
- Political Thought, Hegel's
- Political Thought of the American Founders, The
- Politics and Policy in Contemporary Argentina
- Politics of Anti-Americanism
- Politics of Class Formation
- Politics of Disaster Prevention and Management
- Politics of Financial Crises
- Politics of Foreign Direct Investment in South Asia
- Politics of Higher Education in the U.S.
- Politics of Internal Conquest in the United States and Can...
- Politics of Japan
- Politics of Natural Disasters, The
- Politics of North Korea
- Politics of Science and Technology
- Politics of South Africa
- Politics of Southern Africa
- Postcolonialism and International Relations
- Post-Communist Democratization
- Preferential Trade Agreements, Politics of
- Presidential Persuasion and Public Opinion
- Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
- Private Governance
- Public Opinion in Advanced Industrial Democracies
- Public Opinion in New Democracies and Developing Nations
- Public Presidency, US Elections, and the Permanent Campaig...
- Qualitative Methods, The Renewal of
- Race in American Political Thought
- Racial and Ethnic Descriptive Representation in the United...
- Regime Transitions and Variation in Post-Communist Europe
- Regional Integration in Latin America
- Regional Security
- Regulating Food Production
- Religion in American Political Thought
- Religion in Contemporary Political Thought
- Religion, Politics, and Civic Engagement in the United Sta...
- Rousseau's Political Thought
- Rule of Law
- Russia and the West
- Science and Democracy
- Social Policy and Immigrant Integration
- South Korea, Politics of
- Spectacle, The
- State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa
- State Formation
- State, The Nature of the
- Supreme Court of the United States, The
- Systemic Theories of International Politics
- Taiwan, Politics of
- Tea Party, The
- The New Right in American Political Thought
- Transitional Justice
- Transnational Private Regulation
- Turkey, Political Development of
- US Military Bases Abroad
- US Presidency, The
- Voter Turnout
- Welfare State Development
- Welfare State Development in Latin America
- Welfare State Development in Western Europe
- West Africa, Politics of
- Worker Politics in China
- Youth and Generational Differences in US Politics