In the 17th century, the island was colonized by the Dutch. Shortly thereafter, an influx of Han Chinese, including Hakka immigrants from areas of Fujian and Guangdong of mainland China, skipped across the Taiwan Strait.
The Spanish also built a settlement in the north for a brief period, but were driven out by the Dutch in 1642.
In 1662, Koxina (Zheng Cheng-gong), a loyalist of the Ming Dynasty, which had lost control of mainland China in 1644, defeated the Dutch and established a base of operations on the island. Zheng’s forces were later defeated by the Qing Dynasty in 1683.
As a Swede I have always found it interesting that the last Dutch governor on the island was from Sweden. He had been sending reports about Koxina’s threat to his superiors, but was ignored.
After the Qing Dynasty took over, parts of Taiwan became increasingly integrated into the Qing Dynasty before it ceded the island along with Penghu to the Empire of Japan in 1895 following the First Sino-Japanese War. Taiwan produced rice and sugar to be exported to Empire of Japan, and also served as a base for the Japanese colonial expansion into Southeast Asia and the Pacific during World War II. Japanese imperial education was implemented in Taiwan and many Taiwanese also fought for Japan during the war.
In 1945, following the end of World War II, the Republic of China (ROC) led by the Kuomintang (KMT) became the governing polity in Taiwan. In 1949, after losing control of mainland China following the Chinese civil war, the ROC government under the KMT withdrew to Taiwan and Chiang Kai-shek declared martial law. Japan formally renounced all territorial rights to Taiwan in 1952 in the San Francisco Peace Treaty. The KMT ruled Taiwan as a single-party state for forty years, until democratic reforms were mandated during the final year of authoritarian rule under Chiang Ching-kuo.
The reforms were promulgated under Chiang’s successor, Lee Teng-hui, which culminated in the first ever direct presidential election in 1996. In 2000, Chen Shui-bian was elected the president, becoming the first non-KMT president on Taiwan. The 2008 election of President Ma Ying-Jeou marked the second peaceful transfer of power, this time back to the KMT. In 2012 Ma Ying-Jeou won the presidential election, leading Taiwan towards its three-digit era.