Key facts on Taiwan-China relations as new Taiwan president takes office


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Key facts on Taiwan-China relations as new Taiwan president takes office

Taiwan's new President Lai Ching-te takes his oath during the inauguration ceremony at the Presidential Office Building in Taipei, Taiwan in this handout image released May 20, 2024.

Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via REUTERS

Here are some important facts about the relations between Taiwan and China

Taiwan President Lai Ching-te took office on Monday, May 20, having won election in January.

Following are key facts on relations between Taiwan and China:


● China has claimed Taiwan through its “one China” policy since the Chinese civil war forced the defeated Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalists, to flee to the island with their Republic of China government in 1949, and has vowed to bring it under Beijing’s rule, by force if necessary.

● Taiwan’s government says they are already a sovereign country called the Republic of China, though more often styled these days as the Republic of China, Taiwan.

● Ties were badly strained when Chen Shui-bian from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was president of Taiwan from 2000-2008 because of his independence rhetoric, even as he tried to maintain positive relations with Beijing.

● Relations warmed considerably after Ma Ying-jeou, from the KMT, which favors closer ties to China, took office as president in 2008 and won re-election in 2012. Ma held a landmark meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in late 2015.

● In 2014, hundreds of students occupied Taiwan’s parliament for weeks in protests nicknamed the Sunflower Movement. They demanded more transparency in trade pacts with China, in the largest display of anti-China sentiment the island had seen in years.

● Since the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen became president in 2016 and won re-election in 2020, Taiwan-China ties have soured, with China cutting off a formal dialogue mechanism, flying fighter jets around Taiwan, forcing foreign firms to refer to Taiwan as part of China on their websites, and whittling away at Taiwan’s diplomatic allies.

● Beijing believes Lai, like Tsai, wants to push for Taiwan’s formal independence, a red line for China.

Lai has said he will uphold the status quo with China, which in practice means declaring neither Taiwan’s formal independence nor seeking to join with China.

● China has rebuffed repeated offers by Lai of talks.


● China is Taiwan’s top trading partner, with trade totalling $224 billion in 2023. Taiwan runs a large trade surplus with China.

● China, with its 1.3 billion people and much cheaper costs, is also Taiwan’s favorite investment destination, with Taiwan companies investing over $100 billion there, private estimates show.

● Taiwan has been encouraging Taiwanese businesses to shift investment to other countries such as Vietnam and India to reduce the reliance on China.


● China and Taiwan have nearly gone to war several times since 1949, and in August of 2022 and April of 2023 China staged large-scale war games around the island in protest at stepped up US engagement with Taiwan.

● Taiwanese officials say they are on alert for further Chinese military maneuvers around the presidential inauguration, or following it.

● Taiwan’s armed forces are dwarfed by those of China’s, but some consider them better trained. But China is developing sophisticated new weapons. On May 1, China launched sea trials for the Fujian, its third and most advanced aircraft carrier.

● The United States, which has no formal diplomatic relations with Taipei, is obliged to help Taiwan with the means to defend itself under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. China always reacts angrily to US arms sales to Taiwan and has demanded they stop. – Rappler.com

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