China and Taiwan, while in practice maintaining a fragile "status quo" relationship, periodically grow impatient with the diplomatic patchwork that has kept the island separate from the Communist mainland since 1949. After losing the civil war to Communist Chinese and fleeing to Taiwan in 1949, the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) leaders of the Republic of China regarded the Communist Chinese government as illegitimate, claiming the mainland as rightfully their own. Beijing, in turn, regards Taiwan as a renegade province, and has tried repeatedly to persuade the island to negotiate a return to the fold. The KMT returned to power in 2008 after being in opposition for eight years. During this time President Chen Shui-bian and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had engaged in policy that widely departed from the KMT, invigorating efforts to seek Taiwan's sovereignty. Current President Ma Ying-jeou takes a decidedly more conciliatory approach; shortly after taking office he declared a "diplomatic truce" with China. Since then, Taiwan's relations with the mainland have improved.
“One China” Principle
The two sides sharply disagree on Taiwan's de jure political status. The People's Republic of China asserts that there is only "One China" and Taiwan is an inalienable part of it. Beijing says Taiwan is bound by the consensus reached in 1992 between the representatives of both governments in Hong Kong. Referred to as the 1992 Consensus, it states that there is only one China, but China and Taiwan can interpret that principle however they wish. Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian, however, rejected the very existence of the consensus. The KMT accepts it as a starting point for negotiations.
In 1979, the United States reestablished relations with Beijing and signed a joint communiqué that reasserted the One China policy. According to it, "the Government of the United...