Cross-Strait relations, Mainland–Taiwan relations, or Taiwan–China relations refer to the relationship between the following two political entities, which are separated by the Taiwan Strait in the west Pacific Ocean:
- the People's Republic of China (PRC), commonly known as China, and
- the Republic of China (ROC), commonly known as Taiwan.
|Taiwan Affairs Office||Mainland Affairs Council|
Their relationship is complex and controversial due to the dispute on the political status of Taiwan after the administration of Taiwan was transferred from Japan at the end of World War II in 1945 and the subsequent split of China into the above two in 1949 as a result of civil war, and hinges on the key questions of whether the two entities are two separate countries (either as "Taiwan" and "China" or Two Chinas: "Republic of China" and "People's Republic of China"), or two "parts" or "regions" of the same country (i.e. "One China"), and also whether the transfer of Taiwan to Republic of China was legal in the first place.
In 1949, with the Chinese Civil War turning decisively in favour of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Republic of China (ROC) government led by the Kuomintang (KMT) retreated to Taiwan and established the provisional capital in Taipei, while the CPC proclaimed the People's Republic of China (PRC) government in Beijing.
Since then, the relations between the governments in Beijing and Taipei have been characterized by limited contact, tensions, and instability, due to the fact that the Civil War merely stopped without formal signing of any peace treaty and the two sides are technically still in a state of war. In the early years, military conflicts continued, while diplomatically both governments competed to be the "legitimate government of China". More recently, questions around the political and legal status of Taiwan have focused on the alternative prospects of political unification with mainland China or full Taiwanese independence. The People's Republic 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 been increasing. From 2008, negotiations began to restore the "Three Links" (transportation, commerce, and communications) between the two sides, cut off since 1949. Party-to-party talks between the CPC and the KMT have resumed and semi-official negotiations through organizations representing the interests of their respective governments are being scheduled.
The English expression "cross-Strait relations" has been used by the two sides concerned and by many observers so that the relationship would not be referred to as "(Mainland) China–Taiwan relations" or "PRC–ROC relations", due to the dispute on the nature of their relationship and each party's "correct" names. There is also no commonly used Chinese language phrase equivalent to the latter two phrases, although Mainland–Taiwan relations and China–Taiwan relations are occasionally used.
Comparison of the two states
Leaders of the two states
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The early history of cross-Strait relations involved the exchange of cultures, people, and technology. However, no Chinese dynasty formally incorporated Taiwan in ancient times. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Taiwan caught the attention of first Portuguese, then Dutch and Spanish explorers. In 1624, the Dutch established their first settlement in Taiwan. In 1662, Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong), a Ming dynasty loyalist, defeated the Dutch rulers of Taiwan, and took the island, establishing 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. However, they were defeated in 1683 by Qing forces. The following year, Taiwan was incorporated into Fujian province. Over the next two centuries, the Imperial government paid little attention to Taiwan.
The situation changed in the 19th century, with other powers increasingly eyeing Taiwan for its strategic location and resources. In response, the administration began to implement a modernization drive. In 1887, Fujian-Taiwan Province was declared by Imperial decree. Within 10 years, Taiwan had become one of the most modern provinces in the Empire. 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 the Japanese rule under the banner of the "Republic of Taiwan", but order was quickly established by Japanese authorities.
Japan ruled Taiwan until 1945. During this time, Taiwan, as part of the Japanese Empire, was a foreign jurisdiction in relation to first the Qing Empire, and, after 1912, the ROC. In 1945, Japan was defeated in World War II and surrendered its forces in Taiwan to the Allies, with the ROC, then ruled by the Kuomintang (KMT), taking custody of the island. The period of post-war Kuomintang rule over China (1945–1949) was marked in Taiwan by conflicts between local residents and the new KMT authority, most violently in the February 28 incident, which occurred on 28 February 1947. The seeds for the Taiwan autonomy and independence movement were sown in this time. During this time and in subsequent periods, the Taiwan autonomy and independence movement was allied with the CPC in the struggle against Chiang Kai-shek's KMT-led government in the ROC. Indeed, one such organization, the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League, remains one of the eight official minor parties in China.
China was soon engulfed in full-scale civil war. In 1949, the war turned decisively against the KMT and in favor of the CPC. On 1 October 1949, the CPC under Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China in Beijing. The capitalist ROC government retreated to Taiwan, eventually declaring Taipei its temporary capital in December 1949.
Military stalemate to diplomatic war (1949–1979)
The two governments continued in a state of war until 1979. In October 1949, PRC's attempt to take the ROC controlled island of Kinmen was thwarted in the Battle of Kuningtou, halting the PLA advance towards Taiwan. The Communists' other amphibious operations of 1950 were more successful: they led to the Communist conquest of Hainan Island in April 1950, capture of Wanshan Islands off the Guangdong coast (May–August 1950) and of Zhoushan Island off Zhejiang (May 1950).
In June 1949, the ROC declared a "closure" of all Chinese ports and its navy attempted to intercept all foreign ships. The closure covered from a point north of the mouth of Min river in Fujian province to the mouth of the Liao River in Manchuria. Since China's railroad network was underdeveloped, north-south trade depended heavily on sea lanes. ROC naval activity also caused severe hardship for Chinese fishermen.
After losing China, a group of approximately 12,000 KMT soldiers escaped to Burma and continued launching guerrilla attacks into southern China. Their leader, General Li Mi, was paid a salary by the ROC government and given the nominal title of Governor of Yunnan. Initially, the United States supported these remnants and the Central Intelligence Agency provided them with 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 had left Burma and Li Mi declared his army disbanded. However, thousands remained, and the ROC continued to supply and command them, even secretly supplying reinforcements at times.
The Kuomintang Islamic Insurgency in China (1950–1958) was fought by Muslim Kuomintang army officers who refused to surrender to the communists throughout the 1950s and 60's.
During the Korean War, some captured Communist Chinese soldiers, many of whom were originally KMT soldiers, were repatriated to Taiwan rather than China. A KMT guerrilla force continued to operate cross-border raids into south-western China in the early 1950s. The ROC government launched a number of air bombing raids into key coastal cities of China such as Shanghai.
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 Quemoy and threatened to take the Dachen Islands. 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 January 24 of the same year, the United States Congress passed the Formosa Resolution authorizing the President to defend the ROC's offshore islands. The First Taiwan Straits crisis ended in March 1955 when the PLA ceased its bombardment. The crisis was brought to a close during the Bandung conference.
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 Quemoy (by the PRC) and Amoy (by the ROC), and ended on November of the same year. PLA patrol boats blockaded the islands from ROC supply ships. Though the United States 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 September 7, the United States escorted a convoy of ROC supply ships and the PRC refrained from firing. On October 25, the PRC announced an "even-day ceasefire" — the PLA would only shell Quemoy on odd-numbered days.
Despite the end of the hostilities, the two sides have never signed any agreement or treaty to officially end the war.
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. The bombardment finally ceased in 1979 after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and the United States.
During this period, movement of people and goods virtually ceased between PRC- and ROC-controlled territories. There were occasional defectors. One high-profile defector was Justin Yifu Lin, who swam across the Kinmen strait to China and is now Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank.
Most observers expected Chiang's government to eventually fall in response to a Communist invasion of Taiwan, and the United States 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, allowing a total Communist victory over Chiang became politically impossible in the United States, and President Harry S. Truman ordered the United States Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan straits to prevent the ROC and PRC from attacking each other.
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.
Both ROC and PRC engaged in proxy warfare in other countries to gain influence and allies. They would either have proxy forces or provide military aid or support during the conflict, to support their interests. Some notable conflicts include: Internal conflict in Myanmar, Korean War, Laotian Civil War, Hong Kong 1956 riots, Communist insurgency in Thailand, 12-3 incident, Hong Kong 1967 leftist riots and NDF Rebellion
Thawing of relations (1979–1998)
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Following the break of official relations between the United States and the ROC in 1979, the ROC government under Chiang Ching-kuo maintained a "Three Noes" policy in regards to communicating with the Chinese government. This policy however was revised following 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.
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. 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, 22 point regulation, was approved by PRC to encourage ROC investments in the PRC. 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 order to negotiate with China on operational issues without compromising the government's position on denying the other side's legitimacy, the ROC government under Chiang Ching-kuo created the "Straits Exchange Foundation" (SEF), a nominally non-governmental institution directly led by the Mainland Affairs Council, an instrument of the Executive Yuan. 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.
Led by highly respected elder statesmen Koo Chen-fu and Wang Daohan, the two organizations began a series of talks that culminated in the 1992 meetings, which, together with subsequent correspondence, may have established the 1992 Consensus, under which both sides agreed to deliberate ambiguity on questions of sovereignty, in order to engage on operational questions affecting both sides.
Also during this time, however, the rhetoric of ROC President Lee Tung-hui began to turn further towards Taiwan independence. 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 policy and towards a separate political identity for Taiwan. The People's Liberation Army attempted to influence the 1996 ROC election in Taiwan by conducting a missile exercise designed to warn the pro-independence Pan-Green Coalition, leading to the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. By 1998, semi-official talks had broken down.
Hostile non-contact (1998–2008)
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Chen Shui-bian was elected President of the ROC in 2000. Politically, Chen is strongly pro-Taiwan independence. Chen's repudiation of the 1992 Consensus combined with the PRC's insistence that the ROC agree to the "one China" principle for negotiations to occur prevented improvement in cross-strait relations.
Chen called for talks without any preconditions, repudiating the 1992 consensus while Hu continued to insist that talks can only proceed under an agreement of the "one China" principle. Chen Shui-bian and his party continued to express an ultimate goal of formal Taiwanese independence, and make statements on the political status of Taiwan that the PRC considers provocative. 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.
Despite these provocations, in 2001 Chen lifted the 50-year ban on direct trade and investment with the PRC, which made the later ECFA possible. During the 2003 Iraq war, the PRC allowed Taiwanese airlines use of China's airspace.
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.
On the other hand, the PRC administration loosened its rhetoric in relation to Taiwan, and 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. In the Anti-Secession Law passed in 2005, the PRC government for the first time authoritatively committed to negotiations on the basis of equal status between the two sides, and further refrained from imposing the "one China" policy as a precondition for talks. The CPC increased contacts on a party-to-party basis with the KMT, then the opposition party in Taiwan. Despite having been the warring parties in the Chinese Civil War, the CPC and the KMT also have a history of co-operation, when the two parties twice co-operated in the Northern Expedition and the war against Japan; in addition, both parties, for a variety of historic and ideological reasons, adhere to their respective versions of a one China policy.
Resumption of high level contact (2008–2016)
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. On 22 March 2008, the KMT party won the presidential election in Taiwan. It also won a large majority in the Legislature.
A series of meetings between the two sides have followed. 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. On 28 May 2008, Hu met with former KMT chairman Wu Po-hsiung, the first meeting between the heads of the CPC and the KMT as ruling parties. During this meeting, Hu and Wu agreed that both sides should recommence semi-official dialogue under the 1992 consensus. Wu committed the KMT against Taiwanese independence, but also stressed that a "Taiwan identity" did not equate to "Taiwanese independence". Hu committed his government to addressing the concerns of the Taiwanese people in regard to security, dignity, and "international living space", with a priority given to discussing Taiwan's wish to participate in the World Health Organization.
Both Hu and his new counterpart Ma Ying-jeou agree that the 1992 Consensus is the basis for negotiations between the two sides of the Taiwan strait. On 26 March 2008, Hu Jintao held a telephone talk with the US President George W. Bush, in which he explained that the "1992 Consensus" sees "both sides recognize there is only one China, but agree to differ on its definition". The first priority for the SEF–ARATS meeting will be opening of the three links, especially direct flights between China and Taiwan.
These events suggest a policy by the two sides to rely on the deliberate ambiguity of the 1992 Consensus to avoid difficulties arising from asserting sovereignty. As Wu Po-hsiung put it during a press conference in his 2008 China visit, "we do not refer to the 'Republic of China' so long as the other side does not refer to the 'People's Republic of China'". Since the March elections in Taiwan, the PRC government has not mentioned the "one China policy" in any official announcements. The only exception has been one brief aberration in a press release by the Ministry of Commerce, which described Vincent Siew as agreeing to the "1992 consensus and the "one China policy". Upon an immediate protest from Siew, the PRC side retracted the press release and issued apologetic statements emphasizing that only press releases published by the Xinhua News Agency represented the official PRC position. The official press release on this event did not mention the One China Policy.
Dialogue through semi-official organisations (the SEF and the ARATS) reopened on 12 June 2008 on the basis of the 1992 Consensus, with the first meeting held in Beijing. Neither the PRC nor the ROC recognizes the other side as a legitimate entity, so the dialogue was in the name of contacts between the SEF and the ARATS instead of the two governments, though most participants were actually officials in PRC or ROC governments. Chen Yunlin, President of the ARATS, and Chiang Pin-kung, President of the SEF, signed files on June 13, agreeing that direct flights between the two sides would begin on July 4 and that Taiwan would allow entrance of up to 3000 visitors from China every day.
The financial relationship between the two areas improved on 1 May 2009 in a move described as "a major milestone" by The Times. 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 now 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 which is supposed 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.” China's biggest telecoms carrier, China Mobile, was the first company to avail of the new movement by spending $529 million on buying 12 percent of Far EasTone, the third largest telecoms operator in Taiwan.
President Ma has called repeatedly for the PRC to dismantle the missile batteries targeted on Taiwan's cities, without result.
On 30 January 2010, the Obama administration announced it intended to sell $6.4 billion worth of antimissile systems, helicopters and other military hardware to Taiwan, an expected move which was met with reaction from Beijing: in retaliation, China cut off all military-to-military ties with Washington and warned that US-China cooperation on international issues could suffer as a result of the sales.
A report from Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said that China's current 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.
In June 2013, China offered 31 new measures to better integrate Taiwan economically.
In October 2013, in a hotel lobby on the sidelines of the APEC Indonesia 2013 meetings in the Indonesian island of Bali, 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 to facilitate cross-strait engagement. Zhang also invited Wang to visit China.
On 11 February 2014, Wang met with Zhang in Nanjing, in the first official, high-level, government-to-government contact between the two sides since 1949. The meeting took place at Purple Palace Nanjing. Nanjing was the capital of the Republic of China during the period in which it actually ruled China. During the meeting, Wang and Zhang agreed on establishing a direct and regular communication channel between the two sides for future engagement under the 1992 Consensus. 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 have been established. Before shaking hands, Wang addressed Zhang as "TAO Director Zhang Zhijun" and Zhang addressed Wang as "Minister Wang Yu-chi" without mentioning the name Mainland Affairs Council. However, China's Xinhua News Agency referred to Wang as the "Responsible Official of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council" (Chinese: 台湾方面大陆委员会负责人; pinyin: Táiwān Fāngmiàn Dàlù Wěiyuánhuì Fùzérén) in its Chinese-language news and as "Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Chief" in its English-language news. On 25–28 June 2014, Zhang paid a retrospective visit to Taiwan, making him the highest official of the Communist Party of China to ever visit Taiwan.
In September 2014, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China [clarify] to adopt a more uncompromising stance than his predecessors as he called for the "one country, two systems" model to be applied to Taiwan. In Taiwan it was noted that Beijing was no longer referring to the 1992 Consensus.
On 7 November 2015, Xi and Ma met and shook hands in Singapore, marking the first ever meeting between leaders of both sides since the end of Chinese Civil War in 1949. They met within their capacity as Leader of Mainland China and Leader of Taiwan respectively.
On 30 December 2015, a hotline connecting the head of the Mainland Affairs Council and the head of the Taiwan Affairs Office was established. First conversation via the hotline between the two heads was made on 5 February 2016.
In March 2016, former ROC Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay embarked on a 5-day historic visit to Mainland China, making her the first Minister of the Government of the Republic of China to visit Mainland China after the end of Chinese Civil War in 1949.
Deteriorating relations (2016–present)
On 1 June 2016, it was confirmed that former President Ma Ying-jeou would visit Hong Kong on 15 June to attend and deliver speech on Cross-Strait relations and East Asia at the 2016 Award for Editorial Excellence dinner at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Tsai Ing-wen administration blocked Ma from traveling to Hong Kong, and he gave prepared remarks via teleconference instead.
In September 2016, eight magistrates and mayors from Taiwan visited Beijing, which were Hsu Yao-chang (Magistrate of Miaoli County), Chiu Ching-chun (Magistrate of Hsinchu County), Liu Cheng-ying (Magistrate of Lienchiang County), Yeh Hui-ching (Deputy Mayor of New Taipei City), Chen Chin-hu (Deputy Magistrate of Taitung County), Lin Ming-chen (Magistrate of Nantou County), Fu Kun-chi (Magistrate of Hualien County) and Wu Cheng-tien (Deputy Magistrate of Kinmen County). Their visit was aimed to reset and restart cross-strait relations after President Tsai Ing-wen took office on 20 May 2016. The eight local leaders reiterated their support of One-China policy under the 1992 consensus. They met with Taiwan Affairs Office Head Zhang Zhijun and Chairperson of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Yu Zhengsheng.
In November 2016, First Lady Peng Liyuan's brother Peng Lei (彭磊) visited Chiayi City from Mainland China to attend the funeral of their uncle Lee Hsin-kai (李新凱), a veteran KMT member. The funeral was kept low key and was attended by KMT Chairperson Hung Hsiu-chu, KMT Vice Chairperson Huang Min-hui and other government and party officials.
In October 2017, Tsai Ing-wen expressed hopes that both sides would restart their cross-strait relations after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, and argued that new practices and guidelines governing mutual interaction should be examined. Regarding the old practices, Tsai stated that “If we keep sticking to these past practices and ways of thinking, it will probably be very hard for us to deal with the volatile regional situations in Asia”. Relations with the Mainland had stalled since Tsai took office in 2016.
In his opening speech at the 19th Communist Party Congress, CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized the PRC's sovereignty over Taiwan, stating that “We have sufficient abilities to thwart any form of Taiwan independence attempts." 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. His speech received a tepid response from Taiwanese observers, who argued that it did not signal any significant changes in Beijing's Taiwan policy, and showed "no significant goodwill, nor major malice."
Beijing has recently significantly restricted the number of Chinese tour groups allowed to visit Taiwan to place pressure upon President Tsai Ing-wen. Apart from Taiwan, the Holy See and Palau have also been targeted to try pressure them to recognize PRC over the ROC.
In April 2018, political parties and organizations demanding a referendum on Taiwan's independence have formed an alliance to further their initiative. The Formosa Alliance was established, prompted by a sense of crisis in the face of growing pressure from China for unification. The alliance wants to hold a referendum on Taiwan's independence in April 2019, change the island's name from the Republic of China to Taiwan, and apply for membership in the United Nations. In May 2018, China engaged in military exercises around Taiwan to pressure Taiwan not to become independent.
Interpretation of the relations
On 2 September 2008, former ROC President Ma Ying-jeou was interviewed by the Mexico-based newspaper El Sol de México and he was asked about his views on the subject of 'two Chinas' and if there is a solution for the sovereignty issues between the two. Ma replied that the relations are neither between two Chinas nor two states. It is a special relationship. Further, he stated that the sovereignty issues between the two cannot be resolved at present, but he quoted the '1992 Consensus' as a temporary measure until a solution becomes available. Former spokesman for the ROC Presidential Office Wang Yu-chi later elaborated the President's statement and said that the relations are between two regions of one country, based on the ROC Constitutional position, the Statute Governing the Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and Mainland Area and the '1992 Consensus'. On 7 October 2008 Ma Ying-jeou was interviewed by a Japan-based magazine "World". He said that laws relating to international relations cannot be applied regarding the relations between Taiwan and the mainland, as they are parts of a state.
Semi-governmental contact is maintained through the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS). Negotiations between the SEF and the ARATS resumed on 11 June 2008.
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 Executive Yuan of the ROC, and the ARATS by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council of the PRC. The heads of the two bodies, Lin Join-sane and Chen Deming, are both full-time appointees and do not hold other government positions. However, both are senior members of their respective political parties (Kuomintang and Communist Party of China respectively), and both have previously served as senior members of their respective governments. Their deputies, who in practice are responsible for the substantive negotiations, are concurrently senior members of their respective governments. For the June 2008 negotiations, the main negotiators, who are deputy heads of the SEF and the ARATS respectively, are concurrently deputy heads of the Mainland Affairs Council and the Taiwan Affairs Office respectively.
To date, the 'most official' representative offices between the two sides are the PRC's Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Association (CSTEA) in Taiwan, established on 7 May 2010, and ROC's Taiwan Strait Tourism Association (TSTA) in China, established on 4 May 2010. However, the duties of these offices are limited only to tourism-related affairs so far.
First 2008 meeting
A series of meetings were held between the SEF and the ARATS at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing from 11 June 2008 to 14 June 2008. By convention, SEF–ARATS negotiations proceed in three rounds: a technical round led by negotiators seconded from the relevant government departments, a draft round led by deputy heads of the two organisations, and a formal round led by the heads of the two organisations. In this case, however, both sides have already reached broad consensus on these issues on both the technical and political levels through previous negotiations via the non-governmental and inter-party channels. As a result, the initial technical round was dispensed with, and the negotiations began with the second, draft round.
The two sides agreed to the following:
- Initiate direct passenger airline services every weekend from 4 July 2008. Both parties agreed to negotiate on the routes of cross-strait direct flights and establish direct communication procedures concerning air traffic management systems as soon as possible. But before the routes of direct flights are finalized, charter flights may temporarily fly across Hong Kong Flight Information Region. There is no need to stop in Hong Kong, but planes still have to fly through its airspace. Weekend charter flights shall fly from each Friday to the following Monday for a total of four full days.
- Opening Taiwan to Chinese tourists. Both parties agreed that Mainland Chinese tourists must travel to Taiwan in groups. Tourists must enter into, visit, and exit from Taiwan in groups. The maximum quota of tourists received by the party responsible for tourist reception shall not exceed the average of 3,000 persons per day, and each group shall consist of a minimum of ten persons and forty persons at the maximum, being in Taiwan for a maximum of ten days.
- However, in 2012, it was agreed by both parties that individual tourists from the PRC cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Xiamen were allowed to visit Taiwan. Later, tourists from Chengdu, Chongqing, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Tianjin were allowed to visit Taiwan individually. Finally, Fuzhou, Jinan, and Xi'an will join the list by the end of 2012.
To facilitate the above, both sides also agreed to further discuss on the possibilities of exchanging representative offices, with an SEF office to be opened in Beijing and an ARATS office in Taipei to issue travel permits to cross-Strait visitors, among other duties.
Second 2008 meeting
Following an invitation issued by the SEF at the first meeting, the head of ARATS, Chen Yunlin, began a visit to Taiwan on 3 November 2008. Items on the agenda raised by SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung included direct maritime shipping, chartered cargo flights, direct postal service, and co-operation in ensuring food safety, in response to the 2008 Chinese milk scandal, while ARATS chairman Chen Yunlin raised the matters of direct freight service, and opening up air routes that directly cross the Taiwan Strait. Previous routes avoided crossing the Strait for security reasons, with planes detouring through Hong Kong or Japan air control areas.
On 4 November 2008, ARATS and SEF signed a number of agreements in Taipei. The agreement relating to direct passenger flights increased the number of charter flights from 36 to 108 per week, operating daily instead of the four days a week previously. Flights would now operate to and from 21 Chinese cities. Flights would also take a more direct route. Private business jet flights would also be allowed. The agreement relating to cargo shipping allowed direct shipping between 11 sea ports in Taiwan and 63 in China. The shipping would be tax free. The agreement relating to cargo flights provided for up to 60 direct cargo flights per month. Finally, an agreement was made to set up food safety alerts between the two sides. 
During Chen's visit in Taipei, he was met with a series of strong protests directed at himself and Ma Ying-jeou, some of which were violent with Molotov cocktails being thrown by the protesters at riot police. A series of arrests were made after the protests. Local police reported that 149 of its officers were injured during the opposition protests. Consistent with the 1992 Consensus, Chen did not call Ma as "President". Similarly, the representatives from Taiwan did not call the PRC President Hu Jintao as "President" in the previous meeting in Beijing.
China Post reported that some polls have indicated that the public may be pleased with Chen's visit, with about 50% of the Taiwanese public considered Chen's visit having a positive effect on Taiwan's development, while 18 to 26% of the respondents thought the effect would be negative. In another poll, it suggested that 26% of the respondents were satisfied with the DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen's handling of the crowds in the series of protests, while 53% of the respondents were unsatisfied. The same poll also showed that 33% of the respondents were satisfied with President Ma's performance at his meeting with Chen Yunlin, while 32% of the respondents were not satisfied.
The Kuomintang (former ruling party of Taiwan) and the Communist Party of China, maintain regular dialogue via the KMT–CPC Forum. This has been called a "second rail" in Taiwan, and helps to maintain political understanding and aims for political consensus between the two parties.
The Shanghai-Taipei City Forum is an annual forum between the city of Shanghai and Taipei. Launched in 2010 by then-Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-pin to promote city-to-city exchanges, it led Shanghai participation in the Taipei International Flora Exposition end of that year. Both Taipei and Shanghai are the first two cities across the Taiwan Strait that carries out exchanges. In 2015, the newly elected Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je attended the forum. He was addressed as Mayor Ko of Taipei by Shanghai Mayor Yang Xiong.
A third mode of contact is through private bodies accredited by the respective governments to negotiate on 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. For example, on the issues of opening Taiwan to Chinese tourists, the accredited bodies were tourism industry representative bodies from both sides.
According to an opinion poll released by the Mainland Affairs Council taken after the second 2008 meeting, 71.79% of the Taiwanese public supported continuing negotiations and solving issues between the two sides through the semi-official organisations, SEF and ARATS, 18.74% of the Taiwanese public did not support this, while 9.47% of the Taiwanese public did not have an opinion.
In 2015, a poll conducted by the Taiwan Braintrust showed that about 90 percent of the population would identify themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese if they were to choose between the two. Also, 31.2 percent of respondents said they support independence for Taiwan, while 56.2 percent would prefer to maintain the status quo and 7.9 percent support unification with China.
In late 2017, a poll reported by Focus Taiwan showed that President Tsai Ing-Wen's approving rate on cross-strait relation was at 36%, reflecting dissatisfaction among the majority on the topic of China relations.
In 2014, the Sunflower Student Movement broke out. Citizens occupied the Taiwanese legislature for 23 days, protesting against the government forcing through Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement without consulting public opinion and without proper legislative supervision. The protesters perceived the trade pact with China would leave Taiwan vulnerable to political pressure from Beijing.
2016 meme campaign
In January 2016, the leader of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, Tsai Ing-wen, was elected to the presidency of the Republic of China. On 20 January thousands of mainland Chinese internet users, primarily from the forum "Li Yi Tieba" (李毅貼吧), bypassed the Great Firewall of China to flood with messages and stickers the Facebook pages of the president-elect, Taiwanese news agencies Apple Daily and SET News, and other individuals to protest the idea of Taiwanese independence.
The Three Links
Regular weekend direct, cross-strait charter flights between mainland China and Taiwan resumed on 4 July 2008 for the first time since 1950. Liu Shaoyong, China Southern Airlines chair, piloted the first flight from Guangzhou to Taipei. Simultaneously, a Taiwan-based China Airlines flight flew to Shanghai. Currently, 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. Previously, regular passengers (other than festive or emergency charters) had to make a time-consuming stopover at a third destination, usually Hong Kong.
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.
Cross-strait investments have greatly increased in recent years. Predominantly, this involves Taiwan-based firms moving to, or collaborating in joint ventures, in Mainland China. The collective body of Taiwanese investors in Mainland China is now a significant economic force for both Mainland China and Taiwan. In 2014, trade values between the two sides reached US$198.31 billion, with imports from Taiwan to the mainland counted up to US$152 billion.
In 2015, 58% of Taiwanese working outside Taiwan worked in Mainland China, with a total number of 420,000 people.
Cultural, educational, religious and sporting exchanges
Cultural exchanges have increased in frequency. The National Palace Museum in Taipei and the Palace Museum in Beijing have collaborated on exhibitions. Scholars and academics frequently visit institutions on the other side. Books published on each side are regularly re-published in the other side, though restrictions on direct imports and the different writing systems between the two sides somewhat impede the exchange of books and ideas.
Students of Taiwan origin receive special concessions in the National Higher Education Entrance Examination in mainland China. There are regular programs for school students from each side to visit the other.
The Chinese football team Changchun Yatai F.C. chose Taiwan as the first stop of their 2015 winter training session, which is the first Chinese professional football team's arrival in Taiwan, and they were supposed to have an exhibition against Tatung F.C., which, however, wasn't successfully held, under unknown circumstances.
Both sides have provided humanitarian aid to each other on several occasions. Most recently, 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 co-ordination of the Red Cross Society of The Republic of China and charities such as Tzu Chi.
Taiwanese intelligence noted that China has moved amphibious training away from the coast opposite Taiwan, and is instead holding the drills elsewhere.
In addition, the United States has indicated that it would supply Taiwan's military with ships and planes, but has not provided significant numbers of either for some years though Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in 2011 that the United States would reduce arms sales to Taiwan if tensions are eased, but that this was not a change in American policy.
In 2012, PACCOM commander Willard said that there was a reduced possibility of a cross-strait conflict accompanying greater interaction, though there were no reductions in military spending on either side.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cross-Strait relations.|
- Taiwan Affairs Office website (PRC government department in charge of relations with Taiwan)
- Mainland Affairs Council website (Taiwan government department in charge of Relations with PRC)
- Taiwan-China-US Relations – March 2010 radio interview with Professor T.Y. Wang (Illinois State University)