History, Shifting Relations
Chiang Ching-kuo, native Taiwanese, diplomatic recognition, Chiang Kai-shek, little damage
In the early 1970s Taiwan’s international situation changed radically. The decision by the United States government to seek contact with the Communist government in Beijing, on the mainland, led to Taiwan’s expulsion from the United Nations in 1971, and China’s seat was given to the Communist government. Many nations transferred their diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing. In 1972 United States president Richard Nixon visited Beijing, and the United States opened a liaison office on mainland China. In the wake of these developments, many other nations transferred their diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the mainland Communist government. Then, in 1979, the United States formalized relations with mainland China and ended formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan, although trade relations and informal communications between Taiwan and the United States continued. In January 1980 the United States-Taiwan defense treaty of 1954 lapsed. By 1981 relatively few nations maintained formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but the island’s international trade suffered little damage.
Chiang Kai-shek was elected to his fifth term as president in 1972. Three years later, embittered by U.S. abandonment, he died and was succeeded by Vice President Yen Chia-kan. Chiang’s eldest son, Chiang Ching-kuo, who had been premier of Taiwan since 1972, continued in that office and assumed leadership of the KMT party. He was elected to the presidency in 1978 and reelected in 1984.
In the late 1970s and the 1980s Taiwan’s economy continued to expand. Trade contacts with Western Europe increased, and the government rejected offers of reconciliation that came from Beijing. Martial law, in effect since 1949, was finally lifted in July 1987. Chiang Ching-kuo died in January 1988 and was succeeded by Vice President Lee Teng-hui, who became the first native Taiwanese to assume the presidency. Lee was elected to a full six-year term in 1990 and reelected to a four-year term in 1996.
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