Scattered Clouds / 19°C in Taipei, TAIWAN    

     Taiwan was first populated by unknown peoples, then by Austronesian peoples. It was colonized by the Dutch in the 17th century, followed by an influx of Han Chinese including Hakka immigrants from areas of Fujian and Guangdong of mainland China, across the Taiwan Strait. The Spanish also built a settlement in the north for a brief period, but were driven out by the Dutch in 1642. The Chinese name of the island, "臺灣" ("Taiwan"), derives from an aboriginal term; in the past (from the 16th century), the island has been called "Formosa" (from Portuguese: Ilha Formosa, "Beautiful Island") by the west.

     In 1662, Koxinga (Zheng Cheng-gong), a loyalist of the Ming Dynasty, which had lost control of mainland China in 1644, defeated the Dutch and established a base of operations on the island. Zheng's forces were later defeated by the Qing Dynasty in 1683. From then, parts of Taiwan became increasingly integrated into the Qing Dynasty before it ceded the island, along with Penghu, to the Empire of Japan in 1895, following the First Sino-Japanese War. Taiwan produced rice and sugar to be exported to the Empire of Japan, and also served as a base for the Japanese colonial expansion into Southeast Asia and the Pacific during World War II. Japanese imperial education was implemented in Taiwan and many Taiwanese also fought for Japan during the war.

     In 1945, following the end of World War II, the Republic of China (ROC), led by the Kuomintang (KMT), became the governing polity on Taiwan. In 1949, after losing control of mainland China following the Chinese civil war, the ROC government under the KMT withdrew to Taiwan and Chiang Kai-shek declared martial law. Japan formally renounced all territorial rights to Taiwan in 1952 in the San Francisco Peace Treaty. The KMT ruled Taiwan (along with Kinmen, Wuchiu and the Matsu Islands on the opposite side of the Taiwan Strait) as a single-party state for forty years, until democratic reforms were promulgated by Chiang Ching-kuo in the 1980s. The reforms were continued by Chiang's successor, Lee Teng-hui, which culminated in the first-ever direct presidential election in 1996. In 2000, Chen Shui-bian was elected president, becoming the first non-KMT president on Taiwan. He was re-elected in 2004. Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT was elected president in 2008, and subsequently re-elected in 2012.



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