Taiwan, formally the Republic of China (ROC), is an East Asian country. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is to the west, Japan is to the northeast, and the Philippines are to the south. Taiwan is the most populated non-UN country and has the world’s biggest economy outside of the UN.
China’s known history starts with an ancient civilisation that thrived in the rich Yellow River basin in the North China Plain, as one of the cradles of civilization. China’s political structure has been built on hereditary monarchs known as dynasties for millennia. The state has grown, split, and rebuilt many times since 221 bc, when the Qin Dynasty initially conquered various kingdoms to create a Chinese empire.
Before Han Chinese started coming to Taiwan in the 17th century, the island was mostly populated by Taiwanese aborigines. European colonies and the Kingdom of Tungning were founded soon before the island was conquered by the Qing dynasty, China’s final kingdom. After the Qing was defeated in battle, Taiwan was subsequently surrendered to Japan in 1895. While Taiwan was under Japanese control, the Republic of China (ROC) was founded on the mainland after the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912. Following Japan’s surrender to the Allies in 1945, the ROC assumed control of Taiwan. During the Chinese Civil War, however, the ROC lost control of the mainland to the Communists. The Communist Party of China seized complete control of the Chinese mainland in 1949, establishing the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The ROC administration retreated to Taiwan and continued to claim to be China’s legitimate government. Since then, the ROC’s effective authority has been confined to Taiwan and its surrounding islands, with the main island accounting for 99 percent of its de facto territory.
The ROC continued to represent China at the United Nations until 1971, when the PRC took China’s seat through Resolution 2758, thus removing the ROC from the UN. As most nations shifted their “China” recognition to the PRC, international recognition of the ROC progressively diminished. Today, the ROC has formal diplomatic ties with 21 UN member nations and the Holy See. Numerous other nations, on the other hand, retain unofficial relations via representative offices through organizations that serve as de facto embassies and consulates. Diplomats all around the globe avoid using the Republic of China’s official name, instead referring to the ROC as Chinese Taipei, Taiwan, China, or simply “Taiwan.” Taiwan transitioned from a military dictatorship with a one-party system of government controlled by the Kuomintang to a multi-party democracy with universal suffrage in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Taiwan has a steady industrial economy as a consequence of fast economic development and industrialisation, nicknamed the Taiwan Miracle. Taiwan is a member of the World Trade Organization and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. As the world’s 21st biggest economy, its high-tech sector is critical to the global economy. Taiwan is highly rated in terms of press freedom, health care, public education, economic freedom, and human development.
Taiwan’s complicated history after 1945 has produced a variety of practical problems for its people. The precise nature of Taiwanese national identity, Taiwan’s uncertain international political position, and the challenging Cross-Strait ties are among the most important of these. These topics spark discussion among political parties and candidates in Taiwan. Though the ROC abandoned invasion of PRC-controlled areas as a national objective in 1992, there is still debate over whether the constitution still claims sovereignty over all of the ROC’s pre-1949 territory, including Outer Mongolia and the whole current PRC. In practice, determining whether the ROC identifies more as “Taiwan” or “China,” and the precise nature of its identity relative to the PRC (whether international or internal), lies on the most recently elected political alliance. Meanwhile, the PRC maintains its One China policy, under which it is the only legal government of “China” and Taiwan is a province of China. As a consequence, most nations do not recognize the ROC as a sovereign state, and it has not been a member of the United Nations since 1971. The People’s Republic of China has vowed to use military action in response to any official declaration of national independence by Taiwan or any determination by PRC authorities that peaceful Chinese unification is no longer feasible.
Taiwan | Introduction
Taiwan has many beautiful scenic areas, and Taipei is a cultural hub for entertainment and recreational activities. The island is also a hotspot for Chinese pop culture, with a thriving entertainment sector. Taiwanese food is also well-regarded. The Japanese love taking short excursions to visit and enjoy the hospitality of their neighbors. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of Chinese visitors to the nation. Taiwan is home to some of the world’s most well-known multinational businesses, including Acer, MSI, Asus, HTC, and Giant Bicycles, whose technologies are among the most sophisticated in the world.
Taiwan was previously inhabited by indigenous tribes that spoke Austronesian languages similar to Malay, Tagalog, and Indonesian. Today, the surviving tribes account for just around 2% of the population, while the remaining 98 percent are ethnically Han Chinese. The ethnically Han Chinese are further divided into Taiwanese, who account for approximately 84 percent of the population and whose culture is derived from people who migrated during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and mainlanders, who account for approximately 14 percent of the population and whose families fled to Taiwan from the mainland following China’s communist takeover in 1949. The majority of Taiwanese are Hoklo (Minnan) speakers, accounting for about 70% of the population, with the other 14% mostly speaking Hakka. There is also a sizable Japanese population, many of whom work in the entertainment sector.
Taiwanese (who make up 84 percent of Taiwan’s population and are culturally Chinese) are mostly the offspring of recent immigrants from the mainland who intermarried with indigenous people. As a consequence, Taiwanese genetic composition differs significantly from that of mainlanders. In recent years, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Filipino migrant laborers have coexisted peacefully with other Asian minorities and Mainland Chinese immigration. The 14 million post-1949 immigrants come from all provinces and include numerous non-Han inhabitants.
Because the majority of Taiwanese are ethnic Chinese whose ancestors moved to Taiwan from that area, Taiwanese culture is mainly based on traditional Chinese culture, especially that of Fujian province. However, as a result of recent historical events, Taiwanese culture has diverged from that of mainland China. Due to 50 years of Japanese occupation, there are significant Japanese influences in contemporary Taiwanese society, which can be observed in its food as well as pop culture. Furthermore, the Japanese brought baseball and hot-spring swimming to Taiwan, which are still popular hobbies among Taiwanese today. Because Taiwan was spared the excesses of the cultural revolution that destroyed mainland China, the Taiwanese have preserved many aspects of traditional Chinese culture that have been lost in mainland China.
The Republic of China’s present jurisdiction covers 36,193 km2 (13,974 sq mi), making it the world’s 137th-largest country/dependency, smaller than Switzerland but bigger than Belgium.
Taiwan is located about 180 kilometers (110 miles) off the southeastern coast of mainland China, across the Taiwan Strait, and has an area of 35,883 km2 (13,855 sq mi). To the north is the East China Sea, to the east is the Philippine Sea, to the south is the Bashi Channel of the Luzon Strait, and to the southwest is the South China Sea. All of them are Pacific Ocean arms. Taiwan’s main island has the form of a sweet potato or tobacco leaf when seen from the south to the north, and as a result, Taiwanese (particularly Min Nan speakers) frequently refer to themselves as “children of the Sweet Potato.”
The island is distinguished by the contrast between the eastern two-thirds, which are mostly made up of rugged mountains that run in five ranges from the northern to the southern tip of the island, and the flat to gently rolling Chianan Plains in the west, which also house the majority of Taiwan’s population. Taiwan’s highest peak is Yu Shan (Jade Mountain), which stands at 3,952 meters (12,966 feet); Taiwan is the world’s fourth-highest island.
The Penghu Islands, located 50 kilometers (31.1 miles) west of the main island, have an area of 126.9 km2 (49.0 sq mi). The Republic of China also controls the Kinmen, Wuchiu, and Matsu Islands off the coast of Fujian, which have a total size of 180.5 km2 (69.7 sq mi), and the Pratas Islands and Taiping Island in the South China Sea, which have a total area of 2.9 km2 (1.1 sq mi) with no permanent residents.
Lowland During the summer, Taiwan has a marine tropical climate, with hot, humid weather (over 30°C, 86°F) from June through September. In the winter, the weather is affected by the neighboring continent, and temperatures in the northern regions may drop to as low as 8°C at night. The ideal time to come is from October to December, but even then, typhoons may ruin the pleasure. Spring is also pleasant, but it rains more than in fall. Because it faces the Pacific Ocean, the east coast takes the brunt of the damage during typhoon season.
When you go into the hilly regions, though, you will find more moderate weather. Rapid weather change may harm unprepared tourists, so get guidance on appropriate preparation before visiting such regions. In reality, snow falls on Taiwan’s highest mountains every year, and even on summits like Alishan on occasion.
In Taiwan, the Minguo (ROC) calendar is widely used, with years beginning with the foundation of the ROC (1911). Simply add 1911 to any Minguo date to convert it to an A.D. date. Months and days are calculated using the Gregorian calendar. The year 2014 is the 103rd Minguo. However, the traditional Chinese lunar calendar is also used by the majority of people for holidays.
Taiwan’s fast industrialisation and development in the second part of the twentieth century has been dubbed the “Taiwan Miracle.” Taiwan, along with Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore, is one of the “Four Asian Tigers.”
Prior to and during World War II, Japanese control brought about improvements in the public and private sectors, most notably in the field of public infrastructure, which allowed fast communications and improved transportation across most of the island. The Japanese also enhanced public education and made it mandatory for all Taiwanese citizens.
As a consequence of the war with Japan, hyperinflation was in full swing in mainland China and Taiwan by 1945. To distance Taiwan from it, the Nationalist administration established a separate currency zone for the island and initiated a price stability program. Inflation has been substantially reduced as a result of these measures.
When the KMT administration fled to Taiwan, it took with them millions of taels (1.2 ozt) of gold and the mainland Chinese foreign currency reserve, which, according to the KMT, stabilized prices and lowered hyperinflation. Perhaps more significantly, the KMT took with it intellectual and economic elites from Mainland China as part of their retreat to Taiwan. Many legislation and land reforms were passed by the KMT administration that had never been successfully implemented on mainland China. The government also adopted an import-substitution strategy, aiming to manufacture imported products locally.
With the start of the Korean War in 1950, the United States initiated an assistance program that resulted in completely stabilized prices by 1952. American economic assistance and initiatives such as the Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction aided economic development by transforming the agricultural sector into the foundation for future prosperity. Agricultural output grew at a pace of 4% per year on average between 1952 and 1959, outpacing population growth of 3.6 percent.
Taiwan had a (nominal) per-capita GNP of $170 in 1962, putting its economy on par with that of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the early 1960s, its GDP per capita was $1,353 in purchasing power parity (PPP) (in 1990 prices). By 2011, per-capita GNP had grown to $37,000 when adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP), leading to a Human Development Index (HDI) comparable to that of other affluent nations. According to the UN’s new “Inequality-adjusted HDI” calculation method, Taiwan’s HDI in 2012 is 0.890 (23rd, extremely high).
Chiang Ching-kuo launched the Ten Major Construction Projects in 1974, laying the groundwork for Taiwan’s present export-driven economy. Since the 1990s, a number of Taiwanese technology companies have extended their global reach. Personal computer makers Acer Inc. and Asus, mobile phone maker HTC, and electronics manufacturing behemoth Foxconn, which manufactures goods for Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, are all based in Taiwan. Computex Taipei is a significant computer trade show that has been held since 1981.
Taiwan now has a dynamic, capitalist, export-driven economy, with the state’s role in investment and international commerce steadily diminishing. Some major government-owned banks and industrial companies are being privatized in line with this trend. Over the last three decades, real GDP growth has averaged about 8%. Exports have been the main driver of industrialisation. The trade surplus is significant, and the country’s foreign reserves are the fifth biggest in the world. The New Taiwan dollar is the currency of the Republic of China.
Taiwan’s economic relations with the People’s Republic of China have been extremely fruitful since the early 1990s. Taiwanese firms have spent more than US$150 billion in the PRC as of 2008, and about 10% of the Taiwanese labor population works in the PRC, typically to operate their own businesses. Although the Taiwanese economy benefits from this scenario, others argue that the island has grown more reliant on the Mainland Chinese economy. According to a white paper published in 2008 by the Department of Industrial Technology, “Taiwan should strive to preserve stable relations with China while continuing to safeguard national security and preventing undue ‘Sinicization’ of the Taiwanese economy.” Others believe that Taiwan’s strong economic connections with Mainland China would make any military involvement by the PLA against Taiwan prohibitively expensive, and therefore unlikely.
According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Finance, overall commerce in 2010 hit an all-time high of $526.04 billion. For the year, both exports and imports hit record highs, reaching US$274.64 billion and US$251.4 billion, respectively.
Agriculture accounted for just 2% of GDP in 2001, down from 35% in 1952. Traditional labor-intensive sectors are being pushed overseas, with more capital- and technology-intensive businesses taking their place. Taiwan’s high-tech industrial parks have sprung up in every area. The ROC has emerged as a significant foreign investor in the People’s Republic of China, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. It is believed that about 50,000 Taiwanese companies, as well as 1,000,000 entrepreneurs and their dependents, have established themselves in the PRC.
Because of its conservative financial strategy and entrepreneurial capabilities, Taiwan fared well during the 1997 Asian financial crisis in comparison to many of its neighbors. Unlike its neighbors, South Korea and Japan, the Taiwanese economy is dominated by small and medium-sized companies rather than big corporate conglomerates. However, the global economic slump, coupled with a lack of policy coordination by the new government and rising bad loans in the banking sector, drove Taiwan into recession in 2001, the first year of negative growth since 1947. Because of the transfer of numerous industrial and labor-intensive sectors to the PRC, unemployment has reached levels not seen since the oil crises of the 1970s. During the 2004 presidential election, this became a significant topic. In the years 2002–2006, growth averaged more than 4%, while the unemployment rate dropped below 4%.
Under a politically neutral moniker, the ROC often joins international organizations (particularly those that also include the People’s Republic of China). Since 2002, the ROC has been a member of governmental trade groups such as the World Trade Organization as the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu (Chinese Taipei).