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TIMELINE: Milestones in China-Taiwan relations since 1949

(Reuters) - China and Taiwan began talking for the first time in almost a decade on Thursday, though the two often bitter diplomatic rivals are focusing on just a few practical issues and avoiding sensitive political problems.

Relations between Beijing and the self-ruled island it views as a renegade province have see-sawed between aggression, attempts at rapprochement and snubs for almost six decades.

Here is a chronology showing some milestones in relations:

* 1949: Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists lose civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communist forces, sets up government-in-exile on Taiwan.

* 1958: China bombards offshore islands held by Nationalist troops, nearly sparking war between China and the United States.

* 1971: Taiwan loses U.N. seat held since 1946 as the Republic of China, to the People’s Republic of China. Its diplomatic allies dwindle to 23 by 2008 as most countries in the world switch recognition to China.

* 1987: After decades of hostility, Taiwan and China embark on cautious rapprochement, allowing cross-Strait family visits.

* 1991: Taiwan renounces use of force to retake mainland, paving way for unofficial talks.

* 1993: Landmark bilateral meeting in Singapore.

* Jan 1995: Chinese President Jiang Zemin calls for high-level talks to end state of hostility. Taiwan rejects offer.

* June 1995: Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui enrages Beijing by making landmark, private trip to the United States.

* March 1996: China test-fires missiles in waters near key ports in northeastern and southwestern Taiwan ahead of island’s first democratic presidential elections. Lee wins by a landslide.

* 1998: Taiwan envoy Koo Chen-fu meets Jiang in China in highest-level contact in nearly five decades.

* 1999: Lee unilaterally redefines bilateral ties as “special state to state”. Beijing freezes semi-official talks.

* Jan 2001: Taiwan opens direct but limited trade and travel links with China. In November, Taiwan partially eases decades-old curbs on Chinese visiting the island in goodwill gesture.

* 2003: First Taiwan commercial flight to China for more than 50 years arrives in Shanghai, but has to go via Hong Kong.

* March 2005: China’s parliament passes anti-secession bill authorising use of force if Taiwan declares independence.

* 2007: Taiwan bans 2008 Beijing Olympics torch relay from the island, after months of talks with China fail.

* June 12, 2008: Beijing hosts two-day talks seen as the first step in new Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s plan to reinvigorate ties.

Source: Reuters

Editing by Gillian Murdoch and Alex Richardson