Taiwan’s indigenous populations trace their history on the island back some 10,000 years, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
However, since the 17th century, the island has been colonized by a number of powers, including the Dutch and the Japanese, with indigenous groups now making up only around 2% of the population.
Dutch merchants maintained a colony on the island for a few decades, using it as a base for trade with both China and Japan, but were driven out in the 17th century when Taiwan became part of the Chinese empire. Imperial China then ceded the island to Japan in 1895 after losing the First Sino-Japanese War.
The island remained a Japanese colony for half a century until the end of World War II, when it was returned to Chinese hands following the Allied defeat of Japan. However, by this time, Imperial China had long since fallen and mainland China was being ruled by a nationalist government, led by the Kuomintang, or KMT, under the ROC banner.
The Chinese Civil War: Not long after, the Nationalists came under further attack from an insurgent Chinese Communist Party.
The two sides entered into a bloody civil war that resulted in the eventual defeat of the Nationalists, who fled to Taiwan, moving the seat of the Nationalist government from Nanjing to Taipei.
In mainland China, the Communist Party seized power and established the People’s Republic of China.
Both the Nationalists and the Communists proclaimed themselves the sole legitimate government of the entire Chinese territory, which encompassed both the mainland and Taiwan.
In Taipei, the nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek dreamed of one day retaking the mainland; In Beijing, Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong hailed Taiwan as the last piece of a united “new China.”
Taiwan today: In recent years, Taiwan has downplayed its territorial claims on mainland China and today is a vibrant democracy, with its own army, currency, constitution, and elected government.
But few governments in the world recognize it as an independent country, and Taipei has become increasingly isolated diplomatically.
Over the years, an increasing number of governments have switched their diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, leaving Taiwan with just 15 diplomatic allies by the end of 2021.