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|Out with the old
US President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972 came as a further blow to Taiwan’s prestige, paving the way for Washington and Beijing to establish diplomatic relations seven years later. Under its “one China” policy Beijing insists that countries wanting to establish diplomatic relations must automatically break off official ties with Taipei and during the 1970s other western countries and their allies followed Washington’s lead.
In an effort to get around this, pro-Taiwan members of the US Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, allowing for the sale of defence equipment to Taiwan and providing vague guarantees for the island’s security. Nonetheless as China made its way onto the world stage Taiwan was increasingly pushed off it.
In Taiwan itself, President Chiang died in 1975 and three years later his son replaced him as president, raising opposition alarm that the appointment heralded the start of a Chiang dynasty.
In 1979 opposition groups organised a protest rally in the southern city of Kaohsiung to mark International Human Rights Day. Although the rally was crushed by scores of riot police the event came to be regarded by many as the catalyst that united Taiwan’s opposition.
During the 1980s a series of financial scandals rocked the Kuomintang government and criticism grew of Taiwan’s continued one-party rule. In 1985 Chiang opened talks with the domestic opposition and a year later Taiwan’s first opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party, was born.
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