|Republic of China (Taiwan)|
|Flag||Coat of Arms|
|Prime minister||Lin Chuan|
|Area||13,974 sq mi|
|Population April 2017||23,550,000|
|Currency||New Taiwan dollar|
Taiwan, also Formosa, is an island state and a democracy in East Asia. The population was 23.55 million in 2017 and the dominant language is Chinese. In 2012, it had the 20th largest economy in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund. Neighboring states include China to the west, Japan to the east and northeast, and the Philippines to the south. The capital is Taipei in the north of the island. Known for its natural beauty, the country is 245 miles long and 89 miles wide, with a steep central mountain range and plains on the west coast.
The Dutch East India Company had a trading post on Taiwan in the seventeenth century. The island was acquired by Japan in 1895 as a result of the Sino-Japanese War. It was returned to China in 1945 at the end of World War II. The current division between Taiwan and the mainland originated in 1949, when the Chinese Nationalist Party, or KMT, was defeated by the communists in the Chinese Civil War, fled the mainland, and relocated to Taiwan.
The United Nations and most non-communist states continued to recognize the Nationalist regime in Taiwan as the legitimate government of China until 1971. At this time, the Nationalists were expelled from the U.N. and China's seat was reassigned to Beijing. The communist government in Beijing claims Taiwan as a renegade province. President Jimmy Carter withdrew U.S. recognition of Taiwan in 1979, and Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act to regulate relations between the two countries.
Taiwan was under marital law from 1948 until 1987. During this period, Taiwan was a one-party state and opposition political activity was not permitted. The country held its first democratic presidential election in 1996. A presidential election in January 2016 was won by Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party. Her party, strongly opposed by China, stresses "Taiwanization" as opposed to Chinese identity. The Western media often accuses Beijing of treating Taiwan as a "renegade province," although the Chinese media denies this.
- 1 People
- 2 Government
- 3 Defense
- 4 Economy
- 5 History
- 6 Further reading
- 7 References
Taiwan has a population of 23 million. Numbering more than 18 million, the "native" Taiwanese, are descendants of migrants from Fujian and Guangdong provinces on the mainland, primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries. The "mainlanders," who arrived in Taiwan after 1945, came from all parts of China. About 485,000 "aborigines" (indigenous peoples of Taiwan who have not mixed with other peoples in recent times) inhabit the mountainous central and eastern parts of the island and are believed to be of Malayo-Polynesian origin. Of Taiwan's total population, approximately one million, or 4.4 percent, currently reside in mainland China.
- Population (2007): 23.0 million.
- Annual growth rate (2007): 0.36 percent.
- Languages: Mandarin (official), Taiwanese, Hakka.
- Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance (2006)--99.0 percent. Literacy (2006)--97.5 percent.
- Health: Infant mortality rate (2006)--0.46 percent. Life expectancy (2006)--77.46 years; male 74.57 years.; female 80.81 years.
- Work force (2007): 10.7 million.
Taiwan's official language and medium of instruction is Chinese. The Taiwanese form of the spoken language, known as Guóyǔ (national language), does not differ significantly from the Pǔtōnghuà (common speech) spoken on the mainland. Taiwan uses the "unsimplified" characters of pre-communist China, so its writing system is distinct. Most Taiwanese speak Minnan, or Taiwanese, as their first language. Minnan is also spoken in southern Fujian. Recently there has been a growing use of Taiwanese in the broadcast media. The Hakka, who are concentrated in several counties throughout Taiwan, have their own distinct language. Minnan, Hakka, and Mandarin are members of the Chinese language family. As a result of more than half a century of Japanese rule, many older people can also speak Japanese.
From 2002 to 2008, Tongyu Pinyin ("general-use spelling of sounds") was Taiwan's official Romanization system. This system is a variant of the Hanyu Pinyin system used on the mainland. Taiwan adopted Hanyu Pinyin officially in 2008. In practice, Taiwanese use of the Latin alphabet remains chaotic.
According to the Interior Ministry, there are about 11.2 million religious believers in Taiwan, with more than 75 percent identifying themselves as Buddhists or Taoists. At the same time, there is a strong belief in traditional folk religion throughout the island. These are not mutually exclusive, and many people practice a combination of the three. Confucianism also is an honored school of thought and ethical code. Christian churches have been active on Taiwan for many years, and today, the island has more than 600,000 Christians, a majority of whom are Protestant.
Taiwan's culture is a blend of Chinese, Japanese, local Taiwanese and Western influences. Fine arts, folk traditions, and popular culture embody traditional and modern, Asian, and Western motifs. One of Taiwan's greatest attractions is the Palace Museum, which houses over 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting, and porcelain. This collection was moved from the mainland in 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party (KMT) fled to Taiwan. The collection is so extensive that only 1 percent is on display at any one time.
A nine-year public educational system has been in effect since 1979. Six years of elementary school and 3 years of junior high are compulsory for all children. About 96.2 percent of junior high graduates continue their studies in either a senior high or vocational school. Taiwan has an extensive higher education system with 163 institutions of higher learning. Each year, about 170,000 students attempt to enter higher education institutes; about 69 percent of the candidates are admitted to a college or university. Opportunities for graduate education are expanding in Taiwan, but many students travel abroad for advanced education. In 2006, over 16,000 U.S. student visas were issued to Taiwan passport holders.
The authorities in Taipei exercise control over Taiwan, Quemoy, Matsu, the Penghus (Pescadores) and several other smaller islands. Taiwan is divided into counties, provincial municipalities, and two special municipalities, Taipei and Kaohsiung. At the end of 1998, the Constitution was amended to make all counties and cities directly administered by the Executive Yuan. From 1949 until 1991, the authorities on Taiwan claimed to be the sole legitimate government of all of China, including the mainland. In keeping with that claim, when the Nationalists retreated to Taiwan in 1949, they re-established the full array of central political bodies, which had existed on the mainland. While much of this structure remains in place, the authorities on Taiwan in 1991 abandoned their claim of governing mainland China, stating that they do not "dispute the fact that the PRC controls mainland China."
The first National Assembly, elected on the mainland in 1947 to carry out the duties of choosing the president and amending the constitution, was re-established on Taiwan when the KMT moved. Because it was impossible to hold subsequent elections to represent constituencies on the mainland, representatives elected in 1947-1948 held these seats "indefinitely." In June 1990, however, the Council of Grand Justices mandated the retirement, effective December 1991, of all remaining "indefinitely" elected members of the National Assembly and other bodies.
The second National Assembly, elected in 1991, was composed of 325 members. The majority were elected directly, while 100 were chosen from party slates in proportion to the popular vote. This National Assembly amended the Constitution in 1994, paving the way for the direct election of the president and vice president the first of which was held in March 1996. In April 2000, the members of the National Assembly voted to permit their terms of office to expire without holding new elections. The National Assembly elected in 2005 voted to abolish itself the following month, leaving Taiwan with a unicameral legislature. The president is both leader of Taiwan and Commander-in-Chief of its armed forces. The president has authority over four of the five administrative branches (Yuan): Executive, Control, Judicial, and Examination. The president appoints the president of the Executive Yuan, who also serves as the premier. The premier and the cabinet members are responsible for government policy and administration.
The main lawmaking body, the Legislative Yuan, was originally elected in the late 1940s in parallel with the National Assembly. The first LY had 773 seats and was viewed as a "rubber stamp" institution. The second LY was not elected until 1992. The third LY, elected in 1995, had 157 members serving 3-year terms, while the fourth LY, elected in 1998, was enlarged to 225 members. The LY has greatly enhanced its standing in relation to the Executive Yuan and has established itself as a major player on the central level. With increasing strength, size, and complexity, the LY now mirrors Taiwan's recently liberalized political system. In the 1992 and 1995 elections, the main opposition party—the Democratic Progressive Party—challenged the half-century of KMT dominance of the Legislature. In both elections, the DPP won a significant share of the LY seats, leaving only half of the LY seats in the hands of the KMT. In 2001, the DPP won a plurality of LY seats—88 to KMT's 66, PFP's 45, TSU's 13, and other parties' 13. In the December 2004 LY election, the Pan-Blue coalition won a slender majority of 114 of the 225 seats compared to the Pan-Green coalition's 101. The LY was halved in size from 225 to 113 seats by constitutional amendments in 2005. In the January 2008 LY election, the first to be held under this new structure, the KMT won an absolute majority of 81 seats to the DPP's 27 seats, with the remaining five seats going to independent and small party candidates.
In 1994, when the National Assembly voted to allow direct popular election of the president, the LY passed legislation allowing for the direct election of the governor of Taiwan Province and the mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung special municipalities. These elections were first held in 1994. In a move to streamline administration, the position of elected governor was abolished at the end of 1998, and most other elements of the Taiwan provincial government have been eliminated.
The Control Yuan monitors the efficiency of public service and investigates instances of corruption. The 29 Control Yuan members are appointed by the president and approved by the National Assembly; they serve six-year terms. In recent years, the Control Yuan has become more activist, and it has conducted several major investigations and impeachments. Since 2004, however, the pan-Blue dominated LY has refused to approve the new slate of CY members proposed by President Chen, leaving the CY inactive.
The Judicial Yuan administers Taiwan's court system. It includes a 16-member Council of Grand Justices that interprets the constitution. Grand Justices are appointed by the president, with the consent of the National Assembly, to nine-year terms.
The Examination Yuan functions as a civil service commission and includes two ministries: the Ministry of Examination, which recruits officials through competitive examination, and the Ministry of Personnel, which manages the civil service. The president appoints the president of the Examination Yuan.
Principal government officials
- President—Ma Ying-jeou
- Vice President—Wu Den-yih
- Premier—Mao Chi-kuo
- Vice Premier--
- Secretary-General, Executive Yuan—Hsieh Hsiang-chuan
- Minister of the Interior—Liai Liou-yi
- Minister of Foreign Affairs—Francisco H. L. Lin
- Minister of National Defense—Chen Chao-min
- Minister of Finance—Li Sush-der
- Minister of Education—Cheng Jei-cheng
Until 1986, Taiwan's political system was effectively controlled by one party, the Kuomintang (KMT), the chairman of which was also Taiwan's President. As the ruling party, the KMT was able to fill appointed positions with its members and maintain political control of the island. President Chiang Kai-shek ruled by military dictatorship, declared martial law, and also had a secret police, to silence operation, quite like what his counterpart Mao Zedong was doing. The Taiwanese military was complete with political commissars copied directly from the soviet union, his secret police quick to silence opposition.
After 1986, the KMT's hold on power was challenged by the emergence of competing political parties. Before 1986, candidates opposing the KMT ran in elections as independents or "nonpartisans." Before the 1986 island-wide elections, many "nonpartisans" grouped together to create Taiwan's first new political party, the Democratic Progressive Party. Despite the official ban on forming new political parties, Taiwan authorities did not prohibit the DPP from operating, and in the 1986 island-wide elections, DPP and independent candidates captured more than 20 percent of the vote. In 1987, President Chiang Ching-kuo lifted the emergency decree, which had been in place since 1948 and which had granted virtually unlimited powers to the president for use in the anti-communist campaign. This decree provided the basis for nearly four decades of martial law under which individuals and groups expressing dissenting views were dealt with harshly. Expressing views contrary to the authorities' claim to represent all of China or supporting independent legal status for Taiwan was treated as sedition. Since ending martial law, Taiwan has taken dramatic steps to improve respect for human rights and create a democratic political system. Almost all restrictions on the press have ended, restrictions on personal freedoms have been relaxed, and the prohibition against organizing new political parties has been lifted. Lee Teng-hui succeeded Chiang Ching-kuo as president when Chiang died in 1988.
In addition to the KMT (described above in 'History' and 'Political Conditions'), there is one other major political party, the DPP, whose membership is made up largely of native Taiwanese, and whose platform includes outspoken positions on some of the most sensitive issues in Taiwan politics. For example, the DPP maintains that Taiwan is an entity separate from mainland China, in contrast to the KMT position that Taiwan and the mainland, though currently divided, are both part of "one China." In sharp contrast to the tenets of both KMT and Communist policy, a number of ranking DPP officials openly advocate independence for Taiwan.
There are a number of small political parties, most notably the Taiwan Solidarity Union. Former KMT President Lee Teng-hui broke with the KMT after the 2000 presidential election and formed the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union in 2001. The TSU, which advocates changing Taiwan's official name and completely replacing the 1947 constitution, allied itself with the DPP as part of the ruling "Pan-Green" alliance. The TSU, however, failed to elect any members to the LY in January 2008. The other significant small party, People First Party, was formed in the wake of the 2000 presidential election, composed of former KMT members who supported former KMT Taiwan Provincial Governor James Soong's presidential bid. PFP and KMT subsequently formed the "Pan-Blue" Alliance to oppose the DPP government. The PFP, however, largely merged with the KMT in the run up to the January 2008 LY election, although one PFP candidate did win election to the LY under the name PFP. In addition, there are more than 10 other small political parties, such as the Hakka Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party, none of which received more than 1 percent or 2 percent of votes in the 2008 LY election.
The People's Republic replaced Taiwan at the United Nations in 1971, and Taiwan's diplomatic position has continued to erode, as many countries changed their official recognition from Taipei to Beijing. As of 2008, Taiwan had formal diplomatic ties with 23 countries. At the same time, Taiwan has cultivated informal ties with most countries to offset its diplomatic isolation and to expand its economic relations. A number of nations have set up unofficial organizations to carry out commercial and other relations with Taiwan. Including its official overseas missions and its unofficial representative and/or trade offices, Taiwan is represented in 122 countries. Recently, Taiwan has lobbied strongly for admission into the United Nations and other international organizations, such as the World Health Organization. China opposes Taiwan's membership in such organizations, most of which require statehood for membership, because Beijing considers Taiwan to be a province of China, not a separate sovereign state. The Taiwanese government itself considers Taiwan a province of China, but not of the People's Republic of China, rather of the Republic of China.
Relations with China
Despite differences between Taiwan and China, contact between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait has grown significantly over the past decade. Taiwan has continued to relax restrictions on unofficial contacts with China, and cross-strait interaction has mushroomed. In 2001, Taiwan formally allowed the "three mini-links" (direct trade, travel, and postal links) from Quemoy and Matsu Islands to Fujian Province and permitted direct cross-strait trade in February 2002. Taiwan authorities permitted residents of Penghu Islands starting in 2007, to begin visiting mainland China via Quemoy and Matsu. Cross-strait trade has grown rapidly over the past 10 years. China is Taiwan's largest trading partner, and Taiwan is China's fifth largest.
Relations with the United States
In 1979, the United States changed its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. In the U.S.-China Joint Communiqué that announced the change, the United States recognized the government of the People's Republic as the sole legal government of China and acknowledged the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China. The Joint Communiqué also stated that within this context the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people on Taiwan.
In 1979, President Carter signed into law the Taiwan Relations Act, which created domestic legal authority for the conduct of unofficial relations with Taiwan. U.S. commercial, cultural, and other interaction with the people on Taiwan is facilitated through the American Institute in Taiwan, a private nonprofit corporation. The Institute has its headquarters in the Washington, DC area and has offices in Taipei and Kaohsiung. It is authorized to issue visas, accept passport applications, and provide assistance to U.S. citizens in Taiwan. A counterpart organization, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, has been established by the Taiwan authorities. It has its headquarters in Taipei, the representative branch office in Washington, DC, and 11 other Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices in the continental U.S. and Guam. The Taiwan Relations Act continues to provide the legal basis for relations between the U.S. and Taiwan, and enshrines the U.S. commitment to assisting Taiwan maintain its defensive capability.
Following de-recognition, the United States terminated its Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan. However, the United States has continued the sale of appropriate defensive military equipment to Taiwan in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, which provides for such sales and which declares that peace and stability in the area are in U.S. interests. Sales of defensive military equipment are also consistent with the 1982 U.S.-China Joint Communiqué.
The United States position on Taiwan is reflected in the Three Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. The U.S. insists on the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences and encourages dialogue to help advance such an outcome. The U.S. does not support Taiwan independence. President Bush stated on December 9, 2003 that the United States is opposed to any attempt by either side to unilaterally alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. While the United States welcomes recent exchanges that enhance channels of communication between leaders in Beijing and Taipei, the United States urges Beijing and Taipei to further advance cross-Strait cooperation and dialogue, including direct discussions between the authorities in Beijing and elected leaders in Taipei.
In proportion to its population, Taiwan still maintains a large military establishment. Defense expenditures accounted for 2.69 percent of GDP in 2007, and the 2008 central budget proposal increased defense expenditures to 3 percent of GDP. The military's primary mission is the defense of Taiwan against China, which is seen as the predominant threat and which has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan. Taiwan's armed forces were reduced as part of a reform initiative from 1997 to 2001, going from about 450,000 to 385,000, with further reductions since then bringing the total force level down to just under 300,000. Registered reservists reportedly totaled 3,870,000 in 1997. Conscription remains universal for qualified males between the ages of 18 and 30. In 2007 the length of conscription service was dropped from 16 to 14 months, with a view toward eventually creating an all-volunteer force. For qualified applicants, alternative service is available in police and fire departments and public clinics, as well as through teaching in some rural schools. Applicants with advanced degrees may qualify for National Defense Service, consisting of reserve officer training followed by four years of work in a government or academic research institution.
Taiwan's armed forces are equipped with weapons obtained primarily from the United States. In recent years, however, Taiwan also has procured some weapons from other Western nations and has stressed military "self-reliance," which has resulted in the growth of indigenous military production in certain fields. In 2007 Taiwan's legislature approved funding for certain defensive weapons systems the U.S. agreed to sell Taiwan in 2001 and earlier. These included the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-2 upgrade) missile defense system, P-3C maritime patrol aircraft, and a preliminary study of diesel-electric submarines. These systems would give Taiwan key capabilities in missile defense and anti-submarine warfare to remedy vulnerabilities in countering the China's accelerated military modernization. Taiwan adheres to the principles of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has stated that it does not intend to produce nuclear weapons.
Through over five decades of hard work and sound economic management, Taiwan has transformed itself from an underdeveloped, agricultural island to an economic power that is a leading producer of high-technology goods. In the 1960s, foreign investment in Taiwan helped introduce modern, labor-intensive technology to the island, and Taiwan became a major exporter of labor-intensive products. In the 1980s, focus shifted toward increasingly sophisticated, capital-intensive and technology-intensive products for export and toward developing the service sector. At the same time, the appreciation of the New Taiwan dollar, rising labor costs, and increasing environmental consciousness in Taiwan caused many labor-intensive industries, such as shoe manufacturing, to move to China and Southeast Asia. Taiwan has transformed itself from a recipient of U.S. aid in the 1950s and early 1960s to an aid donor and major foreign investor, especially in Asia. Taiwan is now a creditor economy, holding the world's fourth-largest stock of foreign exchange reserves ($273 billion as of 2007). Although Taiwan enjoyed sustained economic growth, full employment, and low inflation for many years, in 2001, Taiwan joined other regional economies in its first recession since 1949. The economy began to recover in 2002, but the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) slowed growth to 3.5 percent in 2003. The world economic upturn drove growth in 2004 to 6.2 percent. However, slower world growth in 2005, higher energy prices and interest rates, and excess inventory dragged 2005 growth to 4.2 percent. Continued expansion of exports pushed up Taiwan's economic growth to 5.7 percent in 2007.
- GDP (2007): $383 billion.
- Real annual growth rate (2007): 4.6 5.7 percent.
- Per capita GDP (2007): $16,790.
- Unemployment (2007) 3.9 percent.
- Natural resources: Small deposits of coal, natural gas, limestone, marble, and asbestos.
- Agriculture (1.4 percent of GDP): Major products—pork, rice, fruit and vegetables, sugarcane, poultry, shrimp, eel.
- Services: (71.1 percent of GDP).
- Industry (27.5 percent of GDP): Types—electronics and flat panel products, chemicals and petrochemicals, basic metals, machinery, textiles, transport equipment, plastics, machinery.
- Trade (2007): Exports--$247 billion: electronics, optical and precision instruments, information and communications products, textile products, basic metals, plastic and rubber products. Major markets—U.S. $32 billion, China and Hong Kong $100 billion, Japan $16 billion. Imports--$219 billion: electronics, optical and precision instruments, information and communications products, machinery and electrical products, chemicals, basic metals, transport equipment, crude oil. Major suppliers—Japan $46 billion, China $30 billion, U.S. $27 billion.
Foreign trade has been the engine of Taiwan's rapid growth during the past 50 years. Taiwan's economy remains export-oriented, so it depends on an open world trade regime and remains vulnerable to fluctuations in the world economy. The total value of trade increased more than five-fold in the 1960s, nearly ten-fold in the 1970s, doubled in the 1980s, and nearly doubled again in the 1990s. In the first half of this decade, exports grew 60 percent. Export composition changed from predominantly agricultural commodities to industrial goods (now 98 percent). The electronics sector is Taiwan's most important industrial export sector and is the largest recipient of U.S. investment. Taiwan became a member of the World Trade Organization as a special customs territory in January 2002.
Taiwan firms are the world's largest suppliers of computer monitors and leaders in PC manufacturing, although now much of the final assembly of these products occurs overseas, typically in China. Textile production continues to move to lower-cost locations overseas, but is still a major industrial export sector and employs nearly 190,000 people. Imports are dominated by raw materials and capital goods, which account for more than 90 percent of the total. Taiwan imports coal, oil and gas to meet most of its energy needs. Reflecting the large Taiwan investment in China, it supplanted the United States as Taiwan's largest trade partner in 2003. In 2007, China (including Hong Kong) accounted for over 28 percent of Taiwan's total trade and almost 41 percent of Taiwan's exports. Japan was Taiwan's second-largest trading partner with 13 percent of total trade, including 21 percent of Taiwan's imports. The U.S. is now Taiwan's third-largest trade partner, taking 12.6 percent of Taiwan's exports and supplying 12 percent of its imports. Taiwan is the United States' ninth-largest trading partner; Taiwan's two-way trade with the United States amounted to $61 billion in 2006 and rose 5.6 percent to $65 billion in 2007. Imports from the United States consist mostly of agricultural and industrial raw materials as well as machinery and equipment. Exports to the United States are mainly electronics and consumer goods. The United States, Hong Kong, China, and Japan account for 60.2 percent of Taiwan's exports, and the United States, Japan, and China provide almost 46.6 percent of Taiwan's imports. As Taiwan's per capita income level has risen, demand for imported, high-quality consumer goods has increased. The U.S. trade deficit with Taiwan in 2007 was $11.9 billion, down 21 percent from $15.2 billion in 2006. Even though Taiwan maintains formal diplomatic relations with about a score of its trading partners, Taiwan maintains trade offices in nearly 100 countries. Taiwan is a member of the Asian Development Bank, the WTO, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Taiwan is also an observer at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. These developments reflect Taiwan's economic importance and its desire to become further integrated into the global economy.
Although only about one-quarter of Taiwan's land area is arable, virtually all farmland is intensely cultivated, with some areas suitable for two and even three crops a year. However, increases in agricultural production have been much slower than industrial growth. Agriculture only comprises about 1.4 percent of Taiwan's GDP. Taiwan's main crops are rice, sugarcane, fruit, and vegetables. While largely self-sufficient in rice production, Taiwan imports large amounts of wheat, corn, and soybeans, mostly from the United States. Poultry and pork production are mainstays of the livestock sector and the major demand drivers for imported corn and soybeans. Rising standards of living have led to increased demand for a wide variety of high-quality food products, much of it imported. Overall, U.S. agricultural and food products account for more than 30 percent of Taiwan's agricultural import demand. U.S. food and agricultural exports total about $2.5 billion annually, making Taiwan the United States' sixth-largest agricultural export destination. Taiwan's agricultural exports include frozen fish, aquaculture and sea products, canned and frozen vegetables, and grain products. Taiwan's imports of agricultural products have increased since its WTO accession in 2002, and it is slowly liberalizing previously protected agricultural markets.
Pre-historically, Taiwan's inhabitants consisted of various tribes believed to be of Malayo-Polonesian origin, who today only make up over 2 percent of the Taiwanese population (though most have mixed with other ethnic groups in recent times); this changed with the arrival of invaders from the Ming dynasty, who swiftly lost control of the island to Dutch explorers when they colonized the island in 1624. Two years later, the Spanish established a settlement on the northwest coast of Taiwan, which they occupied until 1642 when they were driven out by the Dutch. Dutch colonists administered the island and its predominantly Aboriginal population until 1661. The first major influx of migrants from mainland China came during the Dutch period, sparked by the political and economic chaos on the China coast during the Manchu invasion and the end of the Ming dynasty.
In 1664, a fleet led by the Ming loyalist Cheng Ch'eng-kung (Zheng Chenggong, known in the West as Koxinga) retreated from the mainland and occupied Taiwan. Cheng expelled the Dutch and established Taiwan as a base in his attempt to restore the Ming Dynasty. He died shortly thereafter, and in 1683, his successors submitted to Manchu (Qing dynasty) control. From 1680, the Qing Dynasty ruled Taiwan as a prefecture and, in 1875, divided the island into two prefectures, north and south. In 1887 the island was declared a Chinese province.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, migration from Fujian and Guangdong provinces steadily increased, and migrants from these two provinces supplanted aborigines as the dominant population group. In 1895, a weakened Imperial China ceded Taiwan to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki following the first Sino-Japanese war.
During its 50 years (1895-1945) of rule, Japan expended considerable effort in developing Taiwan's economy. At the same time, Japanese rule led to the "Japanization" of the island, including compulsory Japanese education and requiring residents of Taiwan to adopt Japanese names.
At the end of World War II in 1945, Taiwan reverted to Chinese rule. During the immediate postwar period, the Nationalist Chinese (KMT) administration on Taiwan was repressive and corrupt, leading to local discontent. Anti-mainlander violence flared on February 28, 1947, prompted by an incident in which a cigarette seller was injured and a passerby was shot to death by Nationalist authorities. The island-wide rioting was brutally put down by Nationalist Chinese troops, who killed thousands of people. As a result of the February 28 Incident, the native Taiwanese felt a deep-seated bitterness toward the mainlanders. For 50 years the KMT authorities suppressed accounts of this episode in Taiwan history. In 1995 a monument was dedicated to the victims of the "2-28 Incident," and for the first time, Taiwan's leader, President Lee Teng-hui, publicly apologized for the Nationalists' brutality.
Starting before World War II and continuing afterwards, a civil war was fought in mainland China between Chiang Kai-shek's KMT government and the Chinese Communist Party led by Mao Zedong. When the civil war ended in 1949, 2 million refugees, predominately from the Nationalist government, military, and business community, fled to Taiwan. In October 1949 the People's Republic of China was founded in mainland China by the victorious communists. Chiang Kai-shek established a "provisional" KMT capital in Taipei in December 1949. During the 1950s, the KMT authorities implemented a far-reaching and highly successful land reform program on Taiwan. They redistributed land among small farmers and compensated large landowners with commodities certificates and stock in state-owned industries. Although this left some large landowners impoverished, others turned their compensation into capital and started commercial and industrial enterprises. These entrepreneurs were to become Taiwan's first industrial capitalists. Together with refugee businessmen from the mainland, they managed Taiwan's transition from an agricultural to a commercial, industrial economy.
Taiwan has developed steadily into a major international trading power with $466 billion in two-way trade (2007). Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2002 has expanded its trade opportunities and further strengthened its standing in the global economy. Tremendous prosperity on the island has been accompanied by economic and social stability. Chiang Kai-shek's successor, his son Chiang Ching-kuo, began to liberalize Taiwan's political system, a process that continued when President Lee Teng-hui took office in 1988. The direct election of Lee Teng-hui as president in 1996 was followed by opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Chen Shui-bian's election victory in 2000. Chen was re-elected in 2004 in a tightly contested election. KMT's Ma Ying-jeou won the 2008 presidential election by a substantial majority and was inaugurated in 2008.
- Taylor, Jay. The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China (2009), 722 pp. highly favorable scholarly biography
- Taiwan: Republic of China. Official site
- Taiwan: The Republic of China at a glance 2017, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan). The table on the inside cover says, "Official name: Republic of China (Taiwan)." Under the Nationalists, the official name of the country was "Republic of China."
- Taiwan: The Republic of China at a glance 2017, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan).
- Taiwan's GDP for 2012 was $902 billion (PPP).
- "The mainland has never called Taiwan a "renegade province" and has repeatedly stressed that the cross-straits negotiation will not be one between the central government and a local government, it will be an equal negotiation under the One-China principle." ("Taiwan's New Leader Urged to Recognize One-China Principle", People's Daily, May 17, 2000.)
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