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When the Qing ceded control of Taiwan and Penghu Islands to the Japanese after the 1895 Sino-Japanese war, Japan ruled Taiwan for 50 years from 1895 to 1945 when they were defeated in World War II.

What followed was a period of rebellion and conflict between Taiwanese aboriginals and the heavy-handed Japanese. The last uprising was in late 1930 but during the intervening years, Japan implemented much of its own infrastructure including banking to encourage investment from Japan’s major companies such as Mitsui and Mitsubishi. Taiwan had electric power from the waters of Sun Moon Lake by 1905. In fact Taiwan had been weened off Japanese subsidies and was self sufficient financially by 1905.

There were a host of other beneficial developments under Japanese rule which no doubt laid the foundations for today’s economic powerhouse in modern Taiwan.

But it must be remembered that during this period, the Republic of China (ROC) was ruled by the nationalistic Kuomintang (KMT) under Chiang Kai-shek. When Japan was defeated in WWII, it signed the ‘instrument of surrender’ and ended its rule over Taiwan and Penghu Islands. The ROC assumed administrative control over Taiwan in 1945.

The San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 saw Japan officially renounce sovereignty over Taiwan and the Penghu Islands. At the date when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into force in 1952, the political status of Taiwan and Penghu Islands was still uncertain.

The Republic of China and Japan signed the Treaty of Taipei on April 28, 1952 and the treaty came into force on August 5. Writing in the American Journal of International Law, professors Jonathan I. Charney and J. R. V. Prescott argued that "none of the post–World War II peace treaties explicitly ceded sovereignty over the covered territories to any specific state or government.”

This is an important outcome and is just as relevant today.

As we all know, and although it started much earlier, Mao Zedong and his Communist Party were engaged in a bloody civil war against the nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek for the complete control of mainland China. The war lasted from 1945 until 1949. Millions died during the conflict both from the war itself and from starvation and disease. Until Japan was defeated, China presented a United Front with the Nationalists and Communists side by side. Once Japan was defeated in 1945, a series of ill-fated attempts were made at rejoining the parties or reuniting China. The US tried desperately to sponsor a peace and mutual agreement on a way forward. The Marshall Mission led by George C. Marshall in January 1946 managed to get the two parties back to the bargaining table but it was short-lived.

What followed were two more years of conflict and politicking which resulted in the Communists taking control and Mao declaring on 1st October 1949 the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. The Nationalists had already started in 1948 to move the headquarters and assets to Taiwan and by the end of 1949, the mainland was totalling controlled by the Communists.

The Nationalists had managed to transfer considerable assets to Taipei including relics, gold (well over 100 tons) and various other treasures – many of which are still held in the National Palace Museum.

Perhaps a little known fact is that the KMT under Chaing Kai-shek had planned to retake the mainland after regrouping and fortifying. Their plan was named “Project National Glory”. Once it became apparent that such a plan could not be realized, the ROC's national focus shifted to the modernization and economic development of Taiwan. The ROC, however, continues to officially claim exclusive sovereignty over the now-CCP governed mainland China.

It would seem that the tables may have been turned since 1949! The next 73 years tell a very different story and set out the grounds for today’s conflict between the 2 Chinas. Yes 2.


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