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Cross–Strait relations
Map indicating locations of China and Taiwan


Cross-Strait relations
Traditional Chinese海峽兩岸關係
Simplified Chinese海峡两岸关系
Territories currently administered by the two governments that formally use the name China: the PRC (in purple) and the ROC (in orange). The size of minor islands is exaggerated in this map for ease of identification.

Cross-Strait relations (sometimes called Mainland–Taiwan relations,[1] China–Taiwan relations or Taiwan–China relations[2]) are the relations between China (officially the People's Republic of China, PRC) and Taiwan (officially the Republic of China, ROC).

The relationship has been complex and controversial due to the dispute regarding the political status of Taiwan after the administration of Taiwan was transferred from Japan to the Republic of China at the end of World War II in 1945, and the subsequent split between the PRC and ROC as a result of the Chinese Civil War. The essential questions are whether the two governments are still in a civil war over One China, each holding one of two "regions" or parts of the same country (e.g. "1992 Consensus"); whether they can be unified under a "one country, two systems" framework; or whether they are now separate countries (either as "Taiwan" and "China" or Two Chinas). The English expression "cross-strait relations" is considered to be a neutral term that avoids reference to the political status of either side.

At the end of World War II in 1945, the administration of Taiwan was transferred to the Republic of China (ROC) from the Empire of Japan, though legal questions remain regarding the language in the Treaty of San Francisco. In 1949, with the Chinese Civil War turning decisively in favor of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Republic of China government led by the Kuomintang (KMT) retreated to Taiwan and established a provisional capital in Taipei. The CCP proclaimed the establishment of the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China, declaring Beijing as its capital. No armistice or peace treaty has ever been signed, and debate continues as to whether the civil war has legally ended.[3]

Since then, the relations between the governments in Beijing and Taipei have been characterized by limited contact, tensions, and instability. In the early years, military conflicts continued, while diplomatically both governments competed to be the "legitimate government of China". Since the democratization of Taiwan, the question regarding the political and legal status of Taiwan has shifted focus to the choice between political unification with mainland China or de jure Taiwanese independence. The PRC remains hostile to any formal declaration of independence and maintains its claim over Taiwan.

At the same time, non-governmental and semi-governmental exchanges between the two sides have increased. In 2008, negotiations began to restore the Three Links (postal, transportation, trade) between the two sides, cut off since 1949. Diplomatic contact between the two sides has generally been limited to Kuomintang administrations on Taiwan.[clarification needed] However, during Democratic Progressive Party administrations, negotiations continue to occur on practical matters through informal channels.[4]




Leaders of the two governments

Chiang Kai-shekYen Chia-kanChiang Ching-kuoLee Teng-huiChen Shui-bianMa Ying-jeouTsai Ing-wenLai Ching-teMao ZedongHua GuofengDeng XiaopingJiang ZeminHu JintaoXi Jinping

Before 1949

A 1885 map of China, showing Taiwan, which was part of Fujian province
A 1912 map of the Japanese Empire, showing Taiwan, which was under Japanese rule from 1895 to 1945

Main article: History of Cross-Strait relations

The early history of cross-strait relations involved the exchange of cultures, people, and technology.[5][6][7] However, no Chinese dynasty formally incorporated Taiwan in ancient times.[8] In the 16th and 17th centuries, Taiwan first caught the attention of Portuguese, then Dutch and Spanish explorers. After establishing their first settlement in Taiwan in 1624, the Dutch were defeated in 1662 by Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong), a Ming dynasty loyalist, who took the island and established the first formally Han Chinese regime in Taiwan. Koxinga's heirs used Taiwan as a base for launching raids into mainland China against the Manchu Qing dynasty, before being defeated in 1683 by Qing forces. Taiwan was incorporated into Fujian Province in 1684.

With other powers increasingly eyeing Taiwan for its strategic location and resources in the 19th century, the administration began to implement a modernization drive.[9] In 1887, Fujian-Taiwan Province was declared by Imperial decree. However, the fall of the Qing outpaced the development of Taiwan, and in 1895, following its defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Imperial government ceded Taiwan to Japan in perpetuity. Qing loyalists briefly resisted Japanese rule under the banner of the "Republic of Formosa" but were quickly put down by Japanese authorities.[10]

From 1928 to 1942, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintained that Taiwan was a separate nation.[11] In a 1937 interview with Edgar Snow, Mao Zedong stated, "we will extend them (the Koreans) our enthusiastic help in their struggle for independence. The same thing applies for Taiwan."[12]

Japan ruled Taiwan until 1945. As part of the Japanese Empire, Taiwan was a foreign jurisdiction in relation to the Qing dynasty until 1912, and then to the Republic of China for the remainder of Japanese rule. In 1945, Japan was defeated in World War II and surrendered its forces in Taiwan to the Allies; the ROC, then ruled by the Kuomintang (KMT), took custody of the island. The period of post-war KMT rule over China (1945–1949) was marked by conflict in Taiwan between local residents and the new KMT authority. The Taiwanese rebelled on 28 February 1947, but the uprising was violently suppressed by the KMT. The seeds of the Taiwan independence movement were sown during this period.

China was soon engulfed in full-scale civil war. In 1949, the conflict turned decisively against the KMT in favor of the CCP. On 1 October 1949, CCP Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing. The ROC government retreated to Taiwan, eventually declaring Taipei its temporary capital in December 1949.[13]

Military stalemate to diplomatic war (1949–1979)

Kuomintang's retreat

In June 1949, the ROC declared a "closure" of all Chinese ports, and its navy attempted to intercept all foreign ships. The closure covered area from a point north of the mouth of Min river in Fujian Province to the mouth of the Liao River in Manchuria.[14] Since China's railroad network was underdeveloped, north–south trade depended heavily on sea lanes. ROC naval activity caused severe hardship for Chinese fishermen.

The two governments continued in a state of war until 1979. In October 1949, the PRC's attempt to take the ROC-controlled island of Kinmen was thwarted in the Battle of Kuningtou, halting the advance of the PRC's People's Liberation Army (PLA) towards Taiwan.[15] In the Battle of Dengbu Island on 3 November 1949, the ROC forces repulsed their PRC counterparts but were later forced to retreat after the PRC established air superiority.[16] The ROC government also launched a number of air bombing raids into key coastal cities of China such as Shanghai.[17] Other PRC amphibious operations conducted in 1950 were more successful. They led to the Communist conquest of Hainan Island in April 1950, along with the capture of Wanshan Islands off the Guangdong coast (May–August 1950) and of Zhoushan Island off Zhejiang (May 1950).[18] Additional PRC successes included the Battle of Dongshan Island on 11 May 1950, as well as the Battle of Nanpeng Island in September and October of the same year. However, the ROC won the Battle of Nanri Island in 1952 with United States support. In 1953 the communists won the Battle of Nanpeng Archipelago, the Battle of Dalushan Islands and the Dongshan Island Campaign.

After the ROC lost the mainland, a group of approximately 12,000 KMT soldiers escaped to Burma and continued launching guerrilla attacks into southern China during the early 1950s.[19] The ROC paid a salary to the guerrilla leader General Li Mi and issued him the nominal title "Governor of Yunnan". Initially the U.S. supported these remnants, and the Central Intelligence Agency provided aid. After the Burmese government appealed to the United Nations in 1953, the U.S. began pressuring the ROC to withdraw its loyalists. By the end of 1954, nearly 6,000 soldiers left Burma, and Li Mi declared his army disbanded. However, thousands of guerrilla fighters remained, and the ROC continued to supply and command them, even secretly supplying reinforcements. In northwestern China during the 1950's and 1960's, the Kuomintang Islamic insurgency led by Muslim Kuomintang army officers continued fighting, refusing to surrender to the PRC.[citation needed]

Korean War and Taiwan Strait Crises

The Taiwan Strait

Most observers expected Chiang's government to eventually fall in response to a Communist invasion of Taiwan, and the U.S. initially showed no interest in supporting Chiang's government in its final stand. Things changed radically with the onset of the Korean War in June 1950. At this point, it became politically impossible in the U.S. to allow a total Communist victory over Chiang, so President Harry S. Truman ordered the U.S. Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to prevent the ROC and PRC from attacking each other.[20] The U.S. fleet hindered the Communist invasion of Taiwan, and the PRC decided to send troops to Korea in October 1950.[21] The ROC proposed to participate in the Korean War, but was rejected.[22] During the Korean War, some captured Communist Chinese soldiers, many of whom were originally KMT soldiers, were repatriated to Taiwan rather than China.[23][24][25]

Though viewed as a military liability by the United States, the ROC viewed its remaining islands in Fujian as vital for any future campaign to defeat the PRC and retake China. On 3 September 1954, the First Taiwan Strait Crisis began when the PLA started shelling Kinmen and threatened to take the Dachen Islands.[14] On 20 January 1955, the PLA took nearby Yijiangshan Island, with the entire ROC garrison of 720 troops killed or wounded defending the island. On 24 January, the U.S. Congress passed the Formosa Resolution authorizing the President to defend the ROC's offshore islands.[14] The First Taiwan Strait Crisis ended in March 1955 when the PLA ceased its bombardment. The crisis was brought to a close during the Bandung conference.[14] At the conference, China articulated its Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and Premier Zhou Enlai publicly stated, "[T]he Chinese people do not want to have a war with the United States. The Chinese government is willing to sit down to discuss the question of relaxing tension in the Far East, and especially the question of relaxing tension in the Taiwan area."[26] Two years of negotiations with the U.S. followed, although no agreement was reached on the Taiwan issue.[26]

The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis began on 23 August 1958 with air and naval engagements between the PRC and the ROC military forces, leading to intense artillery bombardment of Kinmen (by the PRC) and Xiamen (by the ROC), and ended in November of the same year.[14] PLA patrol boats blockaded the islands from ROC supply ships. Though the U.S. rejected Chiang Kai-shek's proposal to bomb Chinese artillery batteries, it quickly moved to supply fighter jets and anti-aircraft missiles to the ROC. It also provided amphibious assault ships to land supply, as a sunken ROC naval vessel was blocking the harbor. On 7 September, the U.S. escorted a convoy of ROC supply ships and the PRC refrained from firing. On 25 October, the PRC announced an "even-day ceasefire" — the PLA would only shell Kinmen on odd-numbered days.

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, riding with President Chiang Kai-shek, waves to onlookers during his visit to Taipei, Taiwan in June 1960.
U.S. President Richard Nixon shakes hands with Premier Zhou Enlai during his visit to Beijing, China in February 1972.

After the 1950s, the "war" became more symbolic than real, represented by on again, off again artillery bombardment towards and from Kinmen. In later years, live shells were replaced with propaganda sheets.[27] The ROC once initiated Project National Glory, a plan to retake mainland China.[28] The project failed in the 1960s,[29] and the bombardment finally ceased after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the PRC and the United States.[27] The PRC and the ROC have never signed any agreement or treaty to officially end the war.[30] There were occasional defectors from both sides.[31][32]

Diplomatically during this period, until around 1971, the ROC government continued to be recognized as the legitimate government of China and Taiwan by most NATO governments. The PRC government was recognized by Soviet Bloc countries, members of the Non-Aligned Movement, and some Western nations such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Both governments claimed to be the legitimate government of China, and labeled the other as illegitimate. Civil war propaganda permeated the education curriculum. Each side portrayed the people of the other as living in hell-like misery. In official media, each side called the other "bandits". The ROC also suppressed expressions of support for Taiwanese identity or Taiwan independence.

Thawing of relations (1979–1998)

After the United States formally recognized the PRC and broke its official relations with the ROC in 1979, the PRC under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping shifted its strategy from liberating Taiwan to peaceful unification.[33][34] Deng proposed a model for the incorporation of Taiwan into the PRC which involved a high degree of autonomy within the Chinese state, similar to the model proposed to Hong Kong which would eventually become "one country, two systems." The ROC government under Chiang Ching-kuo maintained a "Three Noes" policy of no contact, no negotiation and no compromise to deal with the PRC government. However, Chiang was forced to break from this policy during the May 1986 hijacking of a China Airlines cargo plane, in which the Taiwanese pilot subdued other members of the crew and flew the plane to Guangzhou. In response, Chiang sent delegates to Hong Kong to discuss with PRC officials for the return of the plane and crew, which is seen as a turning point between cross-strait relations.[35][36]

In 1987, the ROC government began to allow visits to China. This benefited many, especially old KMT soldiers, who had been separated from their family in China for decades.[37][38] This also proved a catalyst for the thawing of relations between the two sides. Problems engendered by increased contact necessitated a mechanism for regular negotiations. In 1988, a guideline was approved by PRC to encourage ROC investments in the PRC.[39][40] It guaranteed ROC establishments would not be nationalized, and that exports were free from tariffs, ROC businessmen would be granted multiple visas for easy movement.

In 1990, under the presidency of Lee Teng-hui, the National Unification Council was established in Taiwan.[34] In the following year, the Guidelines for National Unification were adopted and the period of mobilization for the suppression of Communist rebellion was terminated. In order to negotiate with China on operational issues without compromising the government's position on denying the other side's legitimacy, the ROC government created the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), a nominally non-governmental institution directly led by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), an instrument of the Executive Yuan in 1991. The PRC responded to this initiative by setting up the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), directly led by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. This system, described as "white gloves", allowed the two governments to engage with each other on a semi-official basis without compromising their respective sovereignty policies.[41] Led by Koo Chen-fu and Wang Daohan, the two organizations began a series of talks that culminated in the 1993 Wang–Koo summit while both sides agreed to deliberate ambiguity on questions of sovereignty in order to engage on operational questions affecting both sides.[42]

Also during this time, however, the rhetoric of ROC President Lee Teng-hui began to turn further towards Taiwan independence.[43] Prior to the 1990s, the ROC had been a one-party authoritarian state committed to eventual unification with China. However, with democratic reforms the attitudes of the general public began to influence policy in Taiwan. As a result, the ROC government shifted away from its commitment to the One China and towards a separate political identity for Taiwan. In 1995, Lee visited the United States and delivered a speech to an invited audience at Cornell University.[44] In response to Taiwan's diplomatic moves, the PRC postponed the second Wang–Koo summit indefinitely.[45] The PLA attempted to influence the 1996 Taiwanese presidential election by conducting a missile exercise, leading to the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis.[46][47]

Hostile non-contact (1998–2008)

'UN for Taiwan' banner at Taipei Railway Station

In 1998, the ARATS and the SEF resumed contact and the second Wang–Koo summit was held in Shanghai, China.[48] The PRC leader Jiang Zemin also received the Taiwanese representatives in Beijing. While Wang Daohan's return visit to Taiwan was scheduled, Lee Teng-hui described cross-Strait relations as "state-to-state or at least special state-to-state relations" in July 1999.[49] Lee's "two-state" theory postponed Wang's visit indefinitely and the PRC issued a white paper entitled "The One-China Principle and the Taiwan Issue" in February 2000, before the 2000 Taiwanese presidential election.[50]

Chen Shui-bian of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected President of the ROC in 2000. Before the KMT handed over power to the DPP, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council Su Chi suggested a new term “1992 Consensus” as a common point that was acceptable to both sides so that Taiwan and China could keep up cross-strait exchanges.[51] Chen expressed some willingness to accept the 1992 Consensus, but backed down after backlash within his own party.[52] In his inaugural speech, Chen Shui-bian pledged to the Four Noes and One Without, in particular, promising to seek neither independence nor unification as well as rejecting the concept of special state-to-state relations expressed by his predecessor, Lee Teng-hui, as well as establishing the Three Mini-Links. Furthermore, he pursued a policy of normalizing economic relations with the PRC.[53] The PRC did not engage Chen's administration, but meanwhile in 2001 Chen lifted the 50-year ban on direct trade and investment with the PRC.[54][55] In November 2001, Chen repudiated "One China" and called for talks without preconditions.[56] On 3 August 2002, Chen defined the cross-Strait relations as One Country on Each Side (namely, that China and Taiwan are two different countries). The PRC subsequently cut off official contact with the ROC government.[57]

Hu Jintao became General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in late 2002, succeeding Jiang Zemin as de facto top leader of China. Hu continued to insist that talks can only proceed under an agreement of the "One China" principle. At the same time, Hu and the PRC continued a military missile buildup across the strait from Taiwan while making threats of military action against Taiwan should it declare independence or if the PRC considers that all possibilities for a peaceful unification are completely exhausted. The PRC also continued applying diplomatic pressure to other nations to isolate the ROC diplomatically.[58] However, during the 2003 Iraq war, the PRC allowed Taiwanese airlines use of China's airspace.[59]

After the re-election of Chen Shui-bian in 2004, Hu's government changed the previous blanket no-contact policy, a holdover from the Jiang Zemin administration. Under the new policy, on the one hand, the PRC government continued a no-contact policy towards Chen Shui-bian. It maintained its military build-up against Taiwan, and pursued a vigorous policy of isolating Taiwan diplomatically. In March 2005, the Anti-Secession Law was passed by the National People's Congress, formalizing "non-peaceful means" as an option of response to a formal declaration of independence in Taiwan.[citation needed]

Lien Chan touring the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum with the Kuomintang delegation to mainland China in 2005

On the other hand, the PRC administration pursued contact with apolitical, or politically non-independence leaning, groups in Taiwan. In his May 17 Statement in 2004, Hu Jintao made friendly overtures to Taiwan on resuming negotiations for the "Three Links", reducing misunderstandings, and increasing consultation.[citation needed] However, the Anti-Secession Law was passed in 2005, which was not well received in Taiwan. The CCP increased contacts on a party-to-party basis with the KMT,[60]: 138  then the opposition party in Taiwan, due to their support for the One China principle. The increased contacts culminated in the 2005 Pan-Blue visits to China, including a meeting between Hu and then-KMT chairman Lien Chan in April 2005.[61][62] It was the first meeting between the leaders of the two parties since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.[63][64][65]

Resumption of high level contact (2008–2016)

Inauguration of Ma Ying-jeou

In 2008, the KMT won a large majority in the legislative election and its candidate Ma Ying-jeou won the following Taiwanese presidential election on 22 March.[66] Ma advocated that cross-strait relations should shift from "mutual non-recognition" to "mutual non-denial".[67] He stated that the relations are neither between two Chinas nor two states. It is a special relationship.[68] Cross-strait cooperation increased during Ma's tenure.[69]

Both Hu Jintao and his new counterpart, Ma Ying-jeou, considered the 1992 Consensus to be the basis for negotiations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. On 26 March 2008, Hu Jintao held a telephone talk with the U.S. President George W. Bush, in which he explained that the "1992 Consensus" shows that "both sides recognize there is only one China, but agree to differ on its definition".[70][71][72] There followed a series of meetings between the two sides. On 12 April 2008, Hu Jintao held a meeting with ROC's then vice-president elect Vincent Siew as chairman of the Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation during the Boao Forum for Asia.[73] On 28 May 2008, Hu met with the KMT chairman Wu Po-hsiung, the first meeting between the heads of the CCP and the KMT as ruling parties.[74] During this meeting, Hu and Wu agreed that both sides should recommence semi-official dialogue under the 1992 Consensus.[75][76]

Chiang Pin-kung (left) represented the SEF at the Chen–Chiang Summit in October 2011.

Cross-Strait high-level talks between the ARATS and the SEF reopened in June 2008, with the first meeting held in Beijing. On 13 June, President of the ARATS, Chen Yunlin, and President of the SEF, Chiang Pin-kung, signed files agreeing that direct flights between the two sides would begin on 4 July,[77] and that Taiwan would allow entrance of up to 3,000 visitors from China daily.[78] The first direct flights took off on 15 December 2008.[79]

The financial relationship between the two areas improved on 1 May 2009 in a move described as "a major milestone" by The Times.[80] The ROC's financial regulator, the Financial Supervisory Commission, announced that Chinese investors would be permitted to invest in Taiwan's money markets for the first time since 1949. Investors can apply to purchase Taiwan shares that do not exceed one tenth of the value of the firm's total shares. The move came as part of a "step by step" movement designed to relax restrictions on Chinese investment. Taipei economist Liang Chi-yuan commented: "Taiwan's risk factor as a flash point has dropped significantly with its improved ties with Chinese. The Chinese would be hesitant about launching a war as their investment increases here."

From military aspect, a report in 2010 from Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said that China's charm offensive is only accommodating on issues that do not undermine China's claim to Taiwan and that the PRC would invade if Taiwan declared independence, developed weapons of mass destruction, or suffered from civil chaos.[81] President Ma has called repeatedly for the PRC to dismantle the missile batteries targeted on Taiwan's cities, without result.[82] Ma also called on the PRC to embrace Sun Yat-sen's call for freedom and democracy.[83]

In June 2013, China offered 31 new measures to improve Taiwan's economic integration with the mainland.[84]

2014 Wang-Zhang Meeting in Taiwan

In October 2013, in a hotel lobby on the sidelines of the APEC Indonesia 2013 meetings, Wang Yu-chi, Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, spoke briefly with Zhang Zhijun, Minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office, each addressing the other by his official title. Both called for the establishment of a regular dialogue mechanism between their two agencies. Zhang also invited Wang to visit China.[85][86] The two ministers met in Nanjing on 11 February 2014, in the first official, high-level, government-to-government contact between the two sides since 1949.[87][88][89][90] During the meeting, Wang and Zhang agreed on establishing a direct and regular communication channel. They also agreed on finding a solution for health insurance coverage for Taiwanese students studying in mainland China, on pragmatically establishing SEF and ARATS offices in their respective territories, and on studying the feasibility of allowing visits to detained persons once these offices had been established. Zhang paid a retrospective visit to Taiwan between 25 and 28 June 2014, making him the highest CCP official to ever visit the country.[91]

Sunflower Student Movement

In 2014, the Sunflower Student Movement broke out. Citizens occupied the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan for 23 days, protesting against the government's forcing through the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement. The protesters felt that the trade pact with China would leave Taiwan vulnerable to political pressure from Beijing.[92] The agreement ended up unratified in the legislature.[93] In September 2014, Xi Jinping adopted a more uncompromising stance than his predecessors as he called for the "one country, two systems" model to be applied to Taiwan.[94] It was noted that the model had not been mentioned by the PRC since 2005, when the Anti-Secession Law was passed.[95]

2015 Ma–Xi meeting in Singapore

On 7 November 2015, Xi and Ma met and shook hands in Singapore, marking the first meeting between leaders of the two sides since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.[96][97] They met within their capacity as "Leader of Mainland China" and "Leader of Taiwan" respectively. No major agreements were reached on the occasion, however, a hotline connecting the head of the Mainland Affairs Council and the head of the Taiwan Affairs Office was established at the end of 2015.[98][99]

In January 2016, the opposition DPP won the Taiwanese presidential election.[100] In the transition to a new administration, the ROC Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay embarked on a 5-day historic visit to mainland China in March, making her the first minister of the Government of the Republic of China to visit the mainland after the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.[101]

Deteriorating relations (2016–present)

Inauguration of Tsai Ing-wen

Tsai Ing-wen succeeded Ma Ying-jeou as the ROC President in May 2016.

In the 2016 Taiwan general elections, Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP captured landslide victories.[102] Tsai initially pursued a similar strategy as Chen Shui-bian, but after winning the election she received a similarly frosty reception from the PRC.[103][104][105] In her inauguration speech, President Tsai acknowledged that the talks surrounding the 1992 Consensus took place without agreeing that a consensus was reached. She credited the talks with spurring 20 years of dialogue and exchange between the two sides. She hoped that exchanges would continue on the basis of these historical facts, as well as the existence of the Republic of China's constitutional system and the democratic will of the Taiwanese people.[106] In response, Beijing called Tsai's answer an "incomplete test paper" because Tsai did not agree to the content of the 1992 Consensus.[104] On 25 June 2016, Beijing suspended official cross-strait communications,[107] with any remaining cross-strait exchanges thereafter taking place through unofficial channels.[108]

The Tsai administration blocked former President Ma Ying-jeou from visiting Hong Kong,[109][110][111] but eight non-DPP magistrates and mayors from Taiwan visited Beijing in 2016.[112][113][114] Their visit was aimed to reset and restart cross-strait relations after Tsai took office. The eight local leaders reiterated their support of One China under the 1992 Consensus.

In October 2017, Tsai Ing-wen expressed hopes that both sides would restart their cross-strait relations after the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, and argued that new practices and guidelines governing mutual interaction should be examined.[115][116] However, Xi Jinping emphasized the PRC's sovereignty over Taiwan in his opening speech at the 19th National Congress.[117] At the same time, he offered the chance for open talks and "unobstructed exchanges" with Taiwan as long as the government moved to accept the 1992 Consensus.[117][118]

Beginning in the mid-to-late 2010s, Beijing has significantly restricted the number of Chinese tour groups allowed to visit Taiwan in order to place pressure upon President Tsai Ing-wen.[119] Apart from Taiwan, the Holy See and Palau have also been pressured to recognize the PRC over the ROC.[120] China was also accused of conducting hybrid warfare against Taiwan.[121][122] ROC political leaders, including President Tsai and Premier William Lai, as well as international media outlets, have repeatedly accused the PRC of spreading fake news via social media to create divisions in Taiwanese society and influence voters.[123][124][125][126]

In 2019, Tsai Ing-wen explained the government's position on a speech delivered by Xi Jinping, and emphasized that she has never accepted the 1992 Consensus.[127] Tsai made a shift from not publicly accepting the 1992 Consensus to directly rejecting it, stating that there's no need to talk about the 1992 Consensus anymore, because this term has already been defined by Beijing as "one country, two systems."[128] Tsai, who supported the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests, pledged that as long as she is Taiwan's president, she will never accept the "one country, two systems."[129] In January 2020, re-elected Tsai Ing-wen argued that Taiwan already was an independent country called the "Republic of China (Taiwan)", further arguing that the mainland Chinese authorities had to recognize that situation.[130]

The Taiwanese public turned further against mainland China, due to fallout from the Hong Kong protests and also due to the PRC's continued determination to keep the ROC out of the World Health Organization during the COVID-19 pandemic.[131] The opposition KMT also appeared to distance itself from the Chinese mainland in 2020, stating it would review its unpopular advocacy of closer ties with the PRC. In March 2021, KMT chairman Johnny Chiang rejected "one country, two systems" as a feasible model for Taiwan, citing Beijing's response to protests in Hong Kong as well as the value that Taiwanese place in political freedoms.[132]

The Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office in Taiwan suspended its operation indefinitely in 2021, followed by the Macau Economic and Cultural Office.[133] In October 2021, Tsai stated in her National Day speech that Taiwanese people would not be forced to "bow" down to mainland Chinese pressure, and said that Taiwan would keep bolstering its defenses.[134] The PRC denounced Tsai's speech as "incited confrontation and distorted facts", and added that seeking Taiwanese independence was closing doors to dialogue.[135] Following a ban on the importation of pineapples from Taiwan and wax apples in 2021, the Chinese government banned the import of grouper fish in June 2022, claiming they had found banned chemicals and excessive levels of other substances.[136][137]

2022 and 2023 military exercises

Further information: PRC threat of military operation against Taiwan, 2022 visit by Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, 2022 Chinese military exercises around Taiwan, and 2023 Chinese military exercises around Taiwan

ROC President Tsai Ing-wen with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on 3 August 2022

On 2 August 2022, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. China perceived her visit as a violation of its sovereign rights on Taiwan, and the PLA announced it would conduct live-fire exercises in six zones surrounding Taiwan from 4 to 7 August.[138][139] The live-fire drills were unprecedented in recent history[139] and took place in zones that surrounded the island's busiest territorial waters and airspace.[140][141] The military exercises involved the usage of live-fire ammunition, air assets, naval deployments, and ballistic missile launches by the PLA.[142] In response, Taiwan deployed ships and aircraft. No military conflict came of this, although it greatly increased tensions between the two countries. China announced an end to the exercises on 10 August, but also stated that regular "patrols" would be launched in the Taiwan Strait.[143][144]

On 10 August 2022, the PRC's Taiwan Affairs Office and the State Council Information Office jointly published the first white paper about Taiwan's status since 2000 called "The Taiwan Question and China's Reunification in the New Era". In it, the PRC urged again for Taiwan to unify under the "one country, two systems" formula. Notably, the white paper did not contain a previous line stating that no troops would be sent to Taiwan after unification. In response, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said the white paper was "wishful thinking and disregarding facts".[145]

Another set of military exercises began on 8 April 2023, after president Tsai visited U.S. Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.[146][147][148] Beijing called this operation the "Joint Sword". Taiwan reportedly spotted 70 aircraft and 11 ships from China. On the first day of the military exercises, one of the Chinese vessels discharged a shot while sailing near Pingtan Island – the nearest point between China and Taiwan.[149]

Taiwan's prosecutions of Chinese espionage cases spiked in 2023, reaching 16 throughout the year. From 2013 to 2019, the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau registered 44 espionage cases by China.[150]

Semi-official relations

Straits Exchange Foundation headquarter office in Taipei, Taiwan
Shanghai Mayor Gong Zheng and Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an shaking hands at the 2023 Shanghai-Taipei City Forum

Semi-governmental contact is maintained through the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS). Although formally privately constituted bodies, the SEF and the ARATS are both directly led by the Executive Government of each side: the SEF by the Mainland Affairs Council of the ROC's Executive Yuan, and the ARATS by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the PRC's State Council. The heads of the two bodies are both full-time appointees and do not hold other government positions.

Semi-official representative offices between the two sides are the PRC's Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Association (CSTEA) in Taiwan, and ROC's Taiwan Strait Tourism Association (TSTA) in China.[151][152] Both were established in May 2010.[153] However, the duties of these offices are limited only to tourism-related affairs.

The Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party maintained regular dialogue via the KMT–CCP Forum from 2006 to 2016.[154][155] This was called a "second rail" in Taiwan and helped to maintain political understanding between the two parties.[156]

The Shanghai-Taipei City Forum is an annual forum between the cities of Shanghai and Taipei. Launched in 2010 by then-Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-pin to promote city-to-city exchanges, it led to Shanghai's participation in the Taipei International Flora Exposition end of that year.[157] Both Taipei and Shanghai are the first two cities across the Taiwan Strait that carries out exchanges. The forum proceeded even though Ko Wen-je was the non-KMT mayor of Taipei from 2014 to 2022.[158][159]

Another mode of contact is through private bodies accredited by the respective governments to negotiate technical and operational aspects of issues between the two sides. Called the "Macau mode", this avenue of contact was maintained even through the years of the Chen Shui-bian administration.[160]


An Air China Airbus A330-300 at Taipei Songshan Airport

The PRC proposed Three Links to open up postal, transportation and trade links between mainland China and Taiwan. Before 2003, travelers had to make a time-consuming stopover at a third destination, usually Hong Kong or Macau.[161] Cross-Strait charter flights during Chinese New Year took off in 2003. However, the charter flights still had to land in Hong Kong. The transportation model was improved in 2005 as the flights had to fly over Hong Kong's flight information region without landing. It was not until 2008 that direct flights and cargo shipments began.[79] As of 2015, 61 mainland Chinese cities are connected with eight airports in Taiwan. The flights operate every day, totaling 890 round-trip flights across the Taiwan Strait per week.[162]

Taiwan residents cannot use the Republic of China passport to travel to mainland China, and mainland China residents cannot use the People's Republic of China passport to travel to Taiwan, as neither the ROC nor the PRC considers this international travel. The PRC government requires Taiwan residents to hold a Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents when entering mainland China, whereas the ROC government requires mainland Chinese residents to hold the Exit and Entry Permit for the Taiwan Area of the Republic of China to enter the Taiwan Area.


China is Taiwan's most important target of outward foreign direct investment.[163] From 1991 to 2022, more than US$200 billion have been invested in China by Taiwanese companies.[164] Much of Taiwanese-owned manufacturing, particularly in the electronics sector and the apparel sector, occurs in the PRC.[165]: 11  The investments helped the Taiwanese economy but also propelled China's economic rise.[166]

China is also Taiwan's largest trading partner, accounting for over 20 percent of total trade.[167] China and Hong Kong account for over 30 percent of Taiwan's exports. In 2022, Taiwan's trade surplus with mainland China and Hong Kong amounted to $100.4 billion.[168] Electronic components, including semiconductor chips, lead in Taiwan's total exports to China.[169]

Since the governments on both sides of the strait do not recognize the other side's legitimacy, there is a lack of legal protection for cross-strait economic exchanges. The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was viewed as providing legal protection for investments.[170] In 2014, the Sunflower Student Movement effectively halted the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA).

Neither China nor Taiwan is comfortable with mutual economic dependence, and each government has been driven to seek alternatives.[171] Since 2016, Taiwan has tried to reduce its economic reliance on mainland China through its New Southbound Policy – in 2022 Taiwan's total investments in the countries targeted by the policy outstripped investments in China for the first time.[172] The number of Taiwanese working in China also fell. In 2015, 58 percent of Taiwanese working outside Taiwan worked in mainland China, with a total number of 420,000 people.[173] In 2021, the number fell to 163,000, accounting for 51.1 percent of the 319,000 Taiwanese who worked overseas.[174]

In 2021, China banned pineapple imports from Taiwan, citing the risk of “harmful creatures” that could affect its own crops. The Taiwanese government characterized the ban as a Chinese campaign to ramp up political pressure on Taiwan. Similar to the Australian barley and wine incident, China was accused of "using ambiguous and opaque trade policies to punish its rivals." As a reaction to the ban, Taiwanese politicians and allies promoted Taiwanese pineapples as freedom pineapples.[175] In May 2024, following the inauguration of Lai Ching-te, China suspended preferential tariff arrangements on 134 items under the ECFA.[176]

Cultural exchanges

The National Palace Museum in Taipei and the Palace Museum in Beijing have collaborated on exhibitions.[177] Scholars and academics frequently visit institutions across the Taiwan Strait.[178] Books published on each side are regularly re-published in the other side. However, restrictions on direct imports, different writing systems, and censorship somewhat impede the exchange of books and ideas.[179][180] Some cultural exchanges are even accused of being associated with China's united front work.[181][182]

Taiwanese students can apply to universities in the mainland China without taking China's nationwide unified examination, called Gaokao.[183] There are regular programs for school students from each side to visit the other.[184][185] In 2019, there were 30,000 mainland Chinese and Hong Kong students studying in Taiwan.[186] There were also more than 7,000 Taiwanese students studying in Hong Kong that same year.[187]

Religious exchange has become frequent. Frequent interactions occur between worshipers of Matsu, and also between Buddhists.[188][189] Taiwan Buddhist organization Tzu Chi is the first overseas non-governmental organization allowed to operate in China.[190]

Humanitarian actions

Both sides have provided humanitarian aid to one another on several occasions.[citation needed] Following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, an expert search and rescue team was sent from Taiwan to help rescue survivors in Sichuan. Shipments of aid material were also provided under the coordination of the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China and charities such as Tzu Chi.[191]

Following the 2023 Jishishan earthquake, Taiwanese President Tsai expressed her condolences and offered humanitarian aid to the PRC.[192] Tsai expressed her condolences in official remarks, as well as in a simplified character post on X.[193]


China has embarked on a massive military build-up.[194] The U.S. has increased military exchanges with Taiwan,[195][196] and U.S. military vessels passed through the Taiwan Strait at a far greater rate.[197]

Speculation about the odds of war between China and Taiwan is rife. The Deputy Director-General of Taiwan's National Security Bureau, Chen Wen-fan, stated in 2020 that Xi Jinping intends to solve the "Taiwan Problem" by 2049.[198] In 2022, U.S. Pacific Command described the situation of Cross-Straits relations as being dire, as China was amassing the largest build-up of military personnel and assets seen since World War II.[199] Admiral Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations of the U.S. Navy, warned that the American military must be prepared for the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan before 2024.[200] A poll conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) summarized that China is determined to unify with Taiwan and the potential for a military crisis or conflict in the Taiwan Strait is very real.[201] The poll also showed that China is willing to wait to unify with Taiwan peacefully, but would immediately invade if Taiwan declared independence.

The People's Republic of China's persistent opposition to Taiwan's de facto autonomy has edged many times on the possibility and threat of a military invasion of the latter territories with the aim of achieving its vision of Chinese unification. Such threat has become increasingly tangible in the course of the 2020s decade, driven by the expressed willingness of mainland political leadership to pursue a military intervention, its parallel build-up of forces and recurrent exercises around Taiwan; as a consequence, Taiwan has also pursued forms of military preparation and international political alignment to discourage and possibly resist such intervention.[202][203]

The PLA exercises around Taiwan in 2022 were widely seem as signalling their willingness to pursue a military scenario and protest the United States' support of Taiwan's status quo.[202]

The People's Liberation Army's current capacity of carrying out and winning such a war is a matter of debate, ranging mostly on the analysis whether it has the power to take the self-governing island despite the heavy costs foreseen. The perceived failure of the Russian army in rapidly occupying Ukraine, turning into a protracted conflict with destabilizing repercussions inside Russia itself, is believed to weigh on PRC decision making.[204][205][206]

International scenario

Positions from other countries


See also: India–Taiwan relations and China–India relations

India's position before Taiwan's sovereignty and the PRC's military threat is considered key to the regional balance of power, and its policy to the Taiwan question has been evolving along with the military build-up and the growing affirmation of the possibility of invasion. It has been reportedly studying the threat such invasion would entail for the regional stability, economic relations and its own security. The consolidation of Chinese hegemony in the Indo-Pacific and the immediate economic repercussions of the disruption to commodities logistics and electronic technology production are its main concerns in relation to Taiwan's security. Some analysts see India as an approximation to the United States of America as a visible positioning as well as a growing liability, amounting to the possibility of the country being dragged into the war.[207]

In August 2023, three retired army chiefs from India participated in a security conference in Taiwan, organized the ministry of foreign relations, and additionally held closed doors discussions with Taiwan ministries and its main military think-tank, the Institute of National Defence and Security Research. In parallel, India's Chief of Defence Staff, General Anil Chauhan, has reportedly initiated a study on the possibility of India being dragged into the war and the path the country should seek.[207]

Public opinion


A survey conducted between 2020 and 2021 showed that 55 percent of the respondents accepted launching a unification war to take back Taiwan entirely while 33 percent of them opposed.[208] 22 percent of the respondents accepted the two sides of the Taiwan Strait keeping separate political systems, with unification not necessarily being the end game. Another survey conducted in 2022 showed Chinese respondents were split between those favoring tough policies on Taiwan and those favoring friendly ones.[209]

Young jingoistic Chinese nationalists on the internet, also called Little Pink, occasionally bypassed the Great Firewall to flood websites with messages and stickers in protest against Taiwan independence.[210][211][212]


Further information: Opinion polling on Taiwanese identity

Results from an identity survey conducted each year since 1992 by the Election Study Center, National Chengchi University.[213] Responses are Taiwanese (green), Chinese (red) or both Taiwanese and Chinese (hatched). Non-responses are shown as grey.

In 2023, a poll conducted by the Election Study Center of National Chengchi University (NCCU) showed that the Taiwanese public opted for maintaining some forms of the status quo, instead of choosing Taiwan independence or unification with China as soon as possible.[214][215] Other polls released by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC)[216] and the Focus Survey Research[217] showed similar responses. A poll conducted by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation (TPOF) showed the public preferred independence to unification with China.[218][219]

On people's national identity of being either "Taiwanese" or "Chinese," a majority of respondents identify as Taiwanese in either poll of the NCCU[213] or the TPOF.[220] MAC polls have consistently shown support for the future of Taiwan to be decided by the people in Taiwan.[221][222][223]

On President Tsai Ing-wen's cross-strait policy, the first poll conducted by the TPOF in August 2016 showed 51 percent of approval and 40 percent of disapproval.[224] The approval rating dropped below the disapproval rating three month later and hit the lowest of 25 percent in December 2018.[225] However, the approval rating bounced after 2019.[224] In 2020, an annual poll conducted by Academia Sinica showed 73 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement that "the Chinese government is a friend of Taiwan's," an increase of 15 percent from the previous year.[226][227]

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Further reading