Taiwan has a varied past. Studies of its prehistory suggest links with Southeast Asia, China, Japan, and possibly some other parts of Asia. Early historical records indicate connections with China, but those ties are weak and do not support very strongly, if at all, a legal claim to the island by the People's Republic of China. In the seventeenth century, Taiwan for a brief period was a Western colony, and it subsequently enjoyed a short span of self-rule before it was governed by China for more than two hundred years and by Japan for fifty years before 1945. At the end of World War II, Taiwan was returned to the Republic of China, or Nationalist China. But just four years later, that government was deposed by the Communists and driven off the Mainland, at which time Taiwan became the home of the Republic of China and, to many people, synonymous with it. In the post-World War II bipolar world, for nearly four decades, there were understandably few contacts between Taiwan and China. For just over two decades, until 1971, when Beijing won the China seat from Tapei in the United Nations, Taipei represented China in international affairs. Since then Taiwan has been diplomatically, though not in other ways, isolated as a result of Beijing's efforts to undermine the Republic of China's sovereignty. During the past two decades, Taiwan has become even more separate from China politically as a result of democratization. Yet for over a decade, economic ties and, to a lesser degree, people-to-people ties have brought the two together.
Evidence of human life in Taiwan dates back 15,000 years or more, to the Paleolithic Age.1 Whether Taiwan's early inhabitants were the ancestors of the present Aboriginal population is uncertain. In any case, most anthropologists believe