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China vs. Taiwan – One China or Two?

Taipei, Taiwan —(Map)

You may have never asked yourself, “How many Chinas are there?” or “Which is the real China?” But those questions are very important to a lot of people in Asia.

From 1927 to 1949, there was a civil war in China. That means different groups inside the country were fighting each other. The country was being led by a group called the Kuomintang. The fight against the government was led by a man called Mao Zedong.

Picture of Mao Zedong from 1963.
Mao Zedong led the fight against the government of China.
In 1949, Mao and his followers took control of mainland China.
This picture of Mao is from 1963.
(Source: via Wikimedia Commons.)

In 1949, Mao and his followers defeated the Kuomintang and took control of the main continent of China, often called “mainland China”. The Kuomintang escaped and set up their own government on an island that is now called Taiwan.

CIA World Fact Book map of Taiwan
In 1949, the Kuomintang started a new government on the island of Taiwan. Since then, the governments in China and in Taiwan have both claimed that their country is the real China.
(Source: via Wikimedia Commons. .)

Since then, the governments in China and Taiwan have both claimed that their country is the real China. The government in China says that Taiwan belongs to it. The government in Taiwan says that mainland China belongs to it.

The country on the mainland is called the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The group in Taiwan uses the name the Republic of China (ROC).

This map shows the areas controlled by China (PRC) and Taiwan (ROC).
This map shows the areas controlled by China (PRC) and Taiwan (ROC).
(Source: Nat, via Wikimedia Commons.)

For years, the world treated Taiwan as if it were the real China. That changed in the 1970s, when China joined the United Nations and Taiwan was forced out. Soon most countries “recognized” mainland China. That means they started treating mainland China as the real China. Since then, China has become much more rich and powerful.

Flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan)
This is the flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Until the 1970s, most countries treated Taiwan like the real China.
Now only 17 countries recognize it.
(Source: SKopp, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Recently, China has been using threats and offers of help to put pressure on the few countries which still recognize Taiwan. For example, China offered money and help to El Salvador when it switched sides earlier this year. In 2017, it punished Palau for not switching sides by making it impossible for Chinese tour groups to visit Palau. That hurt a lot. In 2015, over 50% of Palau’s visitors came from China.

Flag of the People's Republic of China
This is the flag of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)
Almost 1/5 of all the people in the world live in China.
China has been putting pressure on other countries to stop recognizing Taiwan.
(Source: SKopp/Denelson83/Zscout370/cs/xfi/Shizhao, from Wikimedia Commons.)

For countries which depend on money or visitors from China, this pressure can be hard to resist. Since 2016, five countries have switched sides, leaving just 17 countries which recognize Taiwan.

Taiwan has complained that China is “bullying” it. The two countries are not evenly matched. China has much more money than Taiwan, and more power to control other countries. With 1.4 billion people, mainland China has almost one-fifth of all the people on the planet. Taiwan has about 23.5 million people.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people got together in Taiwan to protest for independence. They want the government to say that Taiwan is its own country and not part of China. That is something that China will not accept. China has said that if Taiwan declares independence, China will use force to take control of the situation.

On Saturday, thousands of people protested in Taiwan for independence.
A news site in Taiwan posted this picture of the protest on the Internet.

For now both China and Taiwan appear to be playing a game where they push the other side as hard as they can to get what they want, without actually causing a war. Both sides realize that they can’t control the other at the moment, but they don’t say so publicly.

Taipei, Taiwan


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