History of Taiwan

The island of Taiwan, or Ilha Formosa -meaning Beautiful Island in portuguese-, was discovered for Europe by the Portuguese in the 16th century and first colonized in the early 17th century. The Dutch East India Company established the first settlements in the south of the island, and a few years later the Spanish did in the north, although they were driven out by the Dutch in 1642.

At the end of the 17th century, China took control of the island, and in 1885 it became part of the Qing Empire, in mainland China. But in 1895, the Japanese Empire made Taiwan its colony after the First Sino-Japanese War, and they did not return it to China until the final defeat of Japan in World War II.

However, in 1949 political tension in China divided the country into two factions. On the one hand, the Chinese Communist Army, which surpassed nationalist forces on the continent to end up establishing the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The nationalist government and its army, along with 1.2 million people fled to Taiwan, resulting in both territorial and population separation in China.

Following this confrontation, the Republic of China (ROC) claimed jurisdiction over mainland China and Taiwan, until the Taiwanese government withdrew this lawsuit in the early 1990s. Since Beijing, the Chinese government has maintained that its sovereignty over Taiwan is legitimate and has always referred to China as a single territory, ignoring the ROC’s political claims.

Currently, few countries in the world dispute the legitimacy of the PRC’s territorial claim, especially considering the great political and economic influence that exerts in the world. However, there is still no agreement on how and when this reunification would take place, or if it will take place one day.

Flag of the Republic of China (R.O.C.)

1. National flag of the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan). Source: crwflags.com

As we have just seen, the symbology of the flag of Taiwan is totally linked to the history of China:

Red represents the Chinese territory, more specifically the Han race, which is the majority in the country. As in many countries, it is also associated with the values of sacrifice, brotherhood, and nationalism.

The white sun symbolizes the spirit of progress and equality, and the twelve rays that surround it mark the 12 traditional Chinese hours (1 Chinese hour = 2 conventional hours).

The blue canton together with the white sun are the emblem of the Kuomintang Nationalist Party (KMT), which ruled Taiwan until 2000. But they also represent freedom, justice and democracy.

This flag was designed as the political emblem of the KMT party in 1921, and during the fight with the warlords in that decade it became the symbol of the Republic of China (Taiwan).

2. China-Taipei Olympic Flag. Source: crwflags.com

The conflict over the legitimate sovereignty of Chinese territory even goes as far as the Olympic Games, where Taiwan participates under a modified flag since 1980 and the China-Taipei denomination.

It shows the emblem of the Republic of China: the white sun on a blue background, with the Olympic rings underneath. The five petals of the national flower (Prunus mei) wrap the symbols above with the colors of Taiwan: blue, white and red.