Island off the coast of China, in the west Pacific Ocean. Originally populated by an aboriginal people of Malaysian origin, substantial Chinese settlement began in the 1600s. Taiwan was conquered by China in 1683 and remained a Chinese province until 1895, when it was ceded to Japan. Local Chinese inhabitants objected and proclaimed an independent republic, which was soon suppressed by Japanese forces. Between August and October 1895, the Formosan regime issued eight locally printed stamps. In 1945, it was reoccupied by China and, in December 1949, General Chiang Kai-shek withdrew the Nationalist Army to Taiwan, after the communists had conquered the mainland of China. The Nationalists maintained the policy that their regime was the only legitimate Chinese government and planned, with increasing futility as the years went by, their reconquest of the mainland. In the meantime, they ruled Taiwan as the Republic of China, with the 15% mainland Chinese minority ruling the country. United States support averted a Chinese invasion from the mainland in 1953 and kept China's United Nations seat in the hands of Taiwan until 1971. During the 1960s rapid manufacturing development increasingly created a prosperous and, by the 1970s a predominantly industrial, economy. Political controls began to loosen after Chiang's death in 1975. In recent years, Taiwan has become a democratic nation, and control of the country has gradually shifted from the old Nationalist mainland Chinese families to the native Taiwanese. While a significant minority favor long-term independence, the majority of Taiwanese prefer an eventual reunion with the mainland, at a time when economic and political liberalization there permits them to maintain their identity and way of life.