The heavily forested hills and mountains of central and E Taiwan reach their summit at Yu Shan (13,113 ft/3,997 m high); there are about 70 peaks exceeding 10,000 ft (3,048 m). This mountainous area produces some minerals, chiefly gold, silver, copper, and coal, but its main resources are forest products, including valuable hardwoods and natural camphor. Petroleum and natural gas have also been found. The broad coastal plain in the west supports most of the island's population and is the chief agricultural zone. Typhoons are common. Taiwan has a semitropical climate and rainfall ranging from moderate to heavy. In addition to Taipei, other major cities include Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taichung, and Chilung.
The overwhelming majority of the people are Chinese; they generally speak the Mandarin, Fujian (Amoy), or Hakka dialects. There are also a small number of Kiaoshan (Malayan) aborigines living in the mountainous interior. Most Taiwanese practice a traditional mixture of Buddhism and Taoism; there is a small Christian minority.
The island produces abundant food crops, although in recent years agricultural production has decreased due to rising costs and increased competition. Rice is the chief crop, followed by sugarcane, corn, fruits and vegetables, tea, and sweet potatoes, Pigs, chickens, and cows are raised and the island has a sizable fishing fleet. Industry, once concerned mainly with rice and sugar milling, has diversified to include a variety of light and heavy manufactures, significant telecommunications and other high-technology businesses, and an important service sector. Manufacturing accounts for 25% of Taiwan's gross domestic product, with service industries generating much of the rest.
There is food processing, petroleum refining, and the manufacture of electronics, armaments, chemicals, textiles, iron and steel, machinery, vehicles, consumer products, and pharmaceuticals. Most industries are privately run, but the government operates those considered essential to national defense, such as steel and electricity. Railroad and bus lines are also government operated. Taiwan trades chiefly with China, Japan, the United States, and Hong Kong. Major exports are computers, electrical and electronic equipment, metals, textiles, plastic and rubber products, and chemicals; imports include machinery, electrical equipment, minerals, and precision instruments.
Taiwan's national government is based on the constitution of 1946 (effective 1947, amended numerous times), which was drawn up to govern the whole of China; when the Nationalist government moved to Taiwan in 1949, most countries still recognized it as the government of all China, and it technically continues to adhere to that claim.
The president is the head of state; the president is popularly elected for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The government is made up of five branches; the office of the president is separate from these branches. The Executive Yuan is similar to a cabinet and is headed by the premier (who is the president of the Executive Yuan); the premier is appointed by Taiwan's president. The 113 members of the Legislative Yuan are elected (most directly) for three-year terms. The Judicial Yuan is appointed by the president and serves as the highest judicial authority; the Control Yuan is in charge of censorship and such political matters as censure and impeachment; and the Examination Yuan supervises examinations for government positions. The dominant political party was long the conservative Kuomintang (KMT; the Nationalist party); the Democratic Progressive party, formed in 1986, is the other main party. The head of state is President Chen Shui-bian (since May 2000). The head of government is Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (since May 2007). Administratively, Taiwan is divided into 18 counties, five municipalities, and two special municipalities (Taipei and Kaohsiung).
Theoretically separate from the national government is the government of Taiwan province, which includes all of Taiwan except for the cities of Taipei and Kaohsing and a few islands off the mainland coast. The province is administered by a governor, which in 1994 became an elective post, and a 79-member provincial assembly.
There is evidence of inhabitation dating back roughly 20,000 years, possibly by now-extinct Negritos (see Pygmy). The origins of Taiwan's Austronesian aborigines, who may have arrived c.8,000 years ago, are a matter of debate. Some believe that these early inhabitants migrated from the Malay Archipelago, while others assert that they came from what is now SE China. The earliest Chinese settlements on Taiwan began in the 7th cent., chiefly from the mainland provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. The island was reached in 1590 by the Portuguese, who named it Formosa [=beautiful]. In 1624 the Dutch founded forts in the south at present Tainan, while the Spanish established bases in the north. The Dutch, however, succeeded in expelling the Spaniards in 1641 and assumed control of the entire island. They in turn were forced to abandon Taiwan in 1662, when Koxinga, a general of the Ming dynasty of China who had to flee from the Manchus, seized the island and established an independent kingdom. However, the island fell to the Manchus in 1683. Chinese immigration increased, and the aboriginal population was gradually pushed into the interior.
Japan, attracted by the island's strategic and economic importance, acquired Taiwan by the Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895) after the First Sino-Japanese War. Japan exploited the island for the benefit of the Japanese home economy and tried to establish Japanese as the language of the island. The island was scarcely used, however, for Japanese colonization. Under Japan, Taiwan's economy was modernized and industrialized, railroads were built, and the large cities expanded. During World War II, Taiwan was heavily bombed by U.S. planes. In accordance with the Cairo declaration of 1943 and the Potsdam Conference of 1945, Taiwan was returned to China as a province after the war.Nationalist Rule
In 1949, as the Chinese Communists gained complete control of the mainland, the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek and the remnants of his army took refuge on the island. The Chinese Communists planned an invasion of Taiwan in 1950, but it was thwarted when President Truman ordered the U.S. 7th Fleet to patrol Taiwan Strait. Japan renounced all claims to Taiwan and the Pescadores in the peace treaty of 1951, but Taiwan's territorial status remained a major issue among the great powers. In 1953, President Eisenhower announced the lifting of the blockade of Taiwan by the U.S. navy. In 1955, following repeated attacks by the People's Republic of China against the Nationalist-held islands of Quemoy and Matsu, the United States entered into a mutual security treaty with the Nationalists in which the U.S. promised to defend Taiwan from outside attack.
In 1958 there was continuous, intensive shelling of Quemoy and Matsu, and an invasion was again threatened. China reiterated its demands to the island, but the United States reasserted its determination to defend Taiwan, although it stressed that there was no commitment to help the Nationalist government return to the mainland. By the spring of 1959 bombardment of the islands had diminished, but no agreement had been reached. At that time, the Nationalist army was trained and equipped by the United States and there was also a sizable navy and modern air force. In support of Chiang's repeated declaration to free China from the Communists, Taiwan long served as a base for espionage and guerrilla forays into the Chinese mainland and for reconnaissance flights over China.
Internally, the Nationalist government implemented land reforms, which improved the lot of the peasants by allowing tenants to purchase their own land; much of it was bought by the government from big landlords and sold to tenant farmers under lenient terms. With U.S. economic aid, Taiwan enjoyed spectacular economic growth after 1950. The aid program was so successful that it became superfluous and was terminated after 1965. Chiang Kai-shek, elected to his fifth six-year term as president in 1972, was criticized for dictatorial methods. Between a native Taiwanese movement for independence and the continuing threat from China, the position of the Nationalist government was far from secure in the 1960s and 70s. Chiang died in 1975 and was replaced as president in 1978 by his son, Chiang Ching-kuo.
China's seat in the United Nations was taken away from the Republic of China and given to the People's Republic in 1971. Taiwan's international position continued to weaken in the early 1970s as the United States sought to improve relations with the People's Republic of China and as more large countries, such as Canada and Japan, moved to recognize the mainland government. The United States established formal diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China on Jan. 1, 1979, which necessitated the cutting of its defense ties with Taiwan. To compensate, the United States passed (1979) the Taiwan Relations Act, which allows for the sale of defensive arms to Taiwan. Taiwan was also expelled (1980) from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in favor of the People's Republic of China. (the country does, however, belong to the World Trade Organization and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation). Official social and economic contact is maintained with the United States through the American Institute on Taiwan and the Coordination Council for North American Affairs.Contemporary Taiwan
The process of liberalization and democratization increased in Taiwan throughout the 1980s. The government's new openness included the recognition of some of its past actions, such as the Nationalist government's massacre of thousands of native Taiwanese in 1947. Although friction has lessened between the island Chinese, who make up about 85% of the population, and those who came from the mainland, it has remained a problem. Martial law, in effect since 1949, was lifted in 1987 and many jailed political dissidents were released. Opposition parties were legalized in Jan., 1989. Relations with mainland China were eased somewhat during the 1980s so that Taiwanese were allowed to visit after 1987, but the crackdown at Tiananmen Square in 1989 fanned Taiwanese mistrust of the mainland.
Chiang Ching-kuo died in 1988 and was replaced by Lee Teng-hui, a Taiwan native, who was reelected by the national assembly in 1990. In 1991, Lee ended emergency rule, and all the members of the national assembly, many of whom were mainland delegates originally elected in 1947, stepped down. In elections for a new national assembly, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), which continued to promise unification with the mainland, held on to a majority, but the Democratic Progressive party, strongly advocating an independent "Republic of Taiwan," won nearly a third of the seats; the KMT retained its hold on the legislature throughout the 1990s.
In 1995 and 1996, Beijing conducted missile tests and ultimately military exercises near Taiwan in an effort to inhibit Taiwanese moves toward democracy and independence. In 1996, President Lee, who was opposed by the Beijing government, won a landslide victory in Taiwan's first-ever direct elections for president. A major earthquake hit central Taiwan in Sept., 1999, killing more than 2,000 people and causing massive infrastructure damage.
In the 2000 Taiwanese presidential election, a KMT split resulted in the election of the opposition candidate, Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive party (DPP); the KMT retained control of the legislature. Chen did not move officially to alter Taiwan's status. In Oct., 2000, Chen cancelled a half-built nuclear power plant, creating a political crisis with the KMT-dominated legislature, which accused him of exceeding his powers; the crisis ended when Chen reversed himself in Feb., 2001. Limited direct travel and trade with China was permitted by Taiwan from Matsu and Quemoy beginning in Jan., 2001, and in November restrictions on Taiwanese investment in China were lifted. In the December legislative elections the DPP won the largest bloc of seats for the first time, but a bare majority of the seats were won by KMT and its offshoot, the People First party.
In late 2003 Taiwan passed a law permitting the holding of referendums; the move was stridently criticized by China, which believed the law would be used to obtain a vote for independence, and also criticized by the United States, which regarded such a vote as unnecessarily provocative. Chen won reelection in Mar., 2004, narrowly defeating KMT candidate Lien Chan in a two-person race. In the last days of the campaign Chen was wounded in an apparent assassination attempt; the opposition accused him of staging the shooting in an effort to win votes. The narrow victory also led to opposition calls for a recount, but the election was ultimately upheld after challenges in the courts.
Chen's victory led to DPP hopes for gains in the legislative elections in Dec., 2004, but the party failed to win a majority. The vote was seen as a defeat for Chen, who resigned as DPP chairman. China's adoption (Mar., 2005) of an antisecession law, which called for the use of force if peaceful means failed to achieve reunification with Taiwan, sparked protests in Taiwan.
In April and May China hosted Taiwanese opposition leaders in an attempt to undermine President Chen, but elections for a constitutional assembly in mid-May resulted in a plurality for the DPP. In Dec., 2005, however, the DPP did poorly in local elections. Chen's announcement in Feb., 2006, that the National Unification Council, a largely symbolic body on unification with the mainland, would cease to function brought a sharp response from China, which regarded the action as a possible move toward independence.
Revelations in May that the president's son-in-law was under investigation for insider trading—he was indicted for insider trading in July and convicted in December—led Chen to cede control of the cabinet to the prime minister. It also resulted in a recall move (June) against the president in the legislature, but the opposition measure failed to win the required two-thirds majority. In September there were a series of demonstrations against the president and in support of a second recall move; the move failed in October. In Nov., 2006, prosecutors charged Chen's wife with corruption over the handling of secret state funds and said that Chen himself would have been indicted but was protected by his presidential immunity. Chen denied the charges, but it led the opposition to mount a third recall move in the legislature, which also failed (Nov., 2006).
In the local elections in Dec., 2006, the DPP did better than expected, as its supporters did not abandon the party despite the scandals involving Chen. A major undersea earthquake S of Taiwan during the same month damaged a number of telecommunications cables and disrupted international communications among a number of E and SE Asian nations. The Jan., 2008, legislative elections resulted in a landslide victory for the KMT, which won more than two thirds of the seats, and the KMT candidate for president, Ma Ying-jeou, subsequently (March) easily defeated the DPP candidate.
The vice president-elect met in April with China's president; the highest level official contact between Taiwan and China since 1949, it was seen as sign of better relations between the two. In Nov., 2008, Taiwan and China signed agreements that led to improved trade and transportation between them; additional agreements have since been signed. The following month, former President Chen and his wife, among others, were indicted on corruption charges; they were convicted in 2009. In Aug., 2009, a typhoon caused significant destruction in S Taiwan and killed more than 600 persons; the government's poor handling of the disaster led to the resignation of the prime minister.
See G. W. Barclay, Colonial Development and Population in Taiwan (1954, repr. 1972); H. Chiu, ed., China and the Question of Taiwan (1973); R. Storey, Taiwan (1987); K. T. Li, The Evolution of Policy Behind Taiwan's Development Success (1988); J. W. Davidson, The Island of Formosa: Past and Present (1989); W. B. Bader and J. T. Bergner, ed., The Taiwan Relations Act: A Decade of Implementation (1989).
Arm of the northwestern Pacific Ocean. Lying between the coast of China's Fujian province and the island of Taiwan, it is about 100 mi (160 km) wide. The strait connects the South China Sea and East China Sea.
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Taiwan (Taiwanese: Tâi-oân/Tāi-oân (historically 大灣/台員/大員/台圓/大圓/台窩灣)) is an island in East Asia. "Taiwan" is also commonly used to refer to the territories governed by the Republic of China (ROC) and to ROC itself, which governs the island of Taiwan, Orchid Island and Green Island in the Pacific off the Taiwan coast, the Pescadores in the Taiwan Strait, and Kinmen and the Matsu Islands off the coast of mainland Fujian. The island groups of Taiwan and Penghu (except the municipalities of Taipei and Kaohsiung) are officially administered as Taiwan Province of the ROC. However, in practice, almost all government power is exercised at the national and local (city/county) levels.
Taiwan is also currently claimed by the People's Republic of China (PRC) although the PRC has never controlled Taiwan or any of the current ROC territory commonly referred to as "Taiwan". The PRC justifies its claim by arguing that the PRC succeeded the ROC in 1949, and pointing out that the ROC had ruled Taiwan for four years from 1945 to 1949.
The main island of Taiwan, also known as Formosa (from Portuguese (Ilha) Formosa, meaning "beautiful (island)"), is located in East Asia off the coast of mainland China, southwest of the main islands of Japan but directly west of the end of Japan's Ryukyu Islands, and north-northwest of the Philippines. It is bound to the east by the Pacific Ocean, to the south by the South China Sea and the Luzon Strait, to the west by the Taiwan Strait and to the north by the East China Sea. The island is 394 kilometers (245 miles) long and 144 kilometers (89 miles) wide and consists of steep mountains covered by tropical and subtropical vegetation.
Han Chinese began settling in the Pescadores in the 1200s, but Taiwan's hostile tribes and its lack of the trade resources valued in that era rendered it unattractive to all but "occasional adventurers or fishermen engaging in barter" until the sixteenth century.
Records from ancient China indicate that Han Chinese might have known of the existence of the main island of Taiwan since the Three Kingdoms period (third century, 230 A.D.), having assigned offshore islands in the vicinity names like Greater Liuqiu and Lesser Liuqiu (etymologically, but perhaps not semantically, identical to Ryūkyū in Japanese), though none of these names has been definitively matched to the main island of Taiwan. It has been claimed but not verified that the Ming Dynasty admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He) visited Taiwan between 1403 and 1424.
In 1624, the Dutch established a commercial base on Taiwan and began to import workers from Fujian and Penghu as laborers, many of whom settled. The Dutch made Taiwan a colony with its colonial capital at Tayoan City (present day Anping, Tainan). Both Tayoan and the island name Taiwan derive from a word in Sirayan, one of the Formosan languages.
The Dutch military presence was concentrated at a stronghold called Castle Zeelandia. The Dutch colonists also started to hunt the native Formosan Sika deer (Cervus nippon taioanus) that inhabited Taiwan, contributing to the eventual extinction of the subspecies on the island.
In 1683, following the defeat of Koxinga's grandson by an armada led by Admiral Shi Lang of Southern Fujian, the Qing Dynasty formally annexed Taiwan, placing it under the jurisdiction of Fujian province. The Qing Dynasty government tried to reduce piracy and vagrancy in the area, issuing a series of edicts to manage immigration and respect aboriginal land rights. Immigrants mostly from Southern Fujian continued to enter Taiwan. The border between taxpaying lands and "savage" lands shifted eastward, with some aborigines 'Sinicizing' while others retreated into the mountains. During this time, there were a number of conflicts between Chinese from different regions of Southern Fujian, and between Southern Fujian Chinese and aborigines.
In 1887, the Qing government upgraded Taiwan's status from prefecture of Fujian to full province, the twentieth in the country, with its capital at Taipei. This was accompanied by a modernization drive that included building Taiwan's first railroad and starting a postal service.
Imperial Japan had sought to control Taiwan since 1592, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi began extending Japanese influence overseas. In 1609, the Tokugawa Shogunate sent Arima Harunobu on an exploratory mission. In 1616, Murayama Toan led an unsuccessful invasion of the island.
In 1871, an Okinawan vessel shipwrecked on the southern tip of Taiwan and the crew of fifty-four were beheaded by the Paiwan aborigines. When Japan sought compensation from Qing China, the court rejected the demand on the grounds that the "wild"/"unsubjugated" aboriginals were outside its jurisdiction. This open renunciation of sovereignty led to a Japanese invasion of Taiwan. In 1874, an expeditionary force of three thousand troops was sent to the island. There were about thirty Taiwanese and 543 Japanese casualties (twelve in battle and 531 by endemic diseases).
Qing China was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), and ceded Taiwan and the Pescadores to Japan in perpetuity in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Inhabitants wishing to remain Chinese subjects were given a two-year grace period to sell their property and remove to mainland China. Very few Taiwanese saw this as feasible.
On May 25, 1895, a group of pro-Qing high officials proclaimed the Republic of Formosa to resist impending Japanese rule. Japanese forces entered the capital at Tainan and quelled this resistance on October 21, 1895.
The Japanese were instrumental in the industrialization of the island; they extended the railroads and other transportation networks, built an extensive sanitation system and revised the public school system. During this period, both rice and sugarcane production greatly increased. At one point, Taiwan was the seventh greatest sugar producer in the world. Still, the ethnic Chinese and Taiwanese aborigines were classified as second- and third-class citizens. Large-scale violence continued in the first decade of rule. Japan launched over 160 battles to destroy Taiwan's aboriginal tribes during its 51-year rule of the island …' Around 1935, the Japanese began an island-wide assimilation project to bind the island more firmly to the Japanese Empire. The plan worked very well, to the point that tens of thousands of Taiwanese joined the Japanese army ranks, and fought loyally for them. For example, former ROC President Lee Teng-hui's elder brother served in the Japanese navy and died while on duty in February 1945 in the Philippines.
Taiwan played a significant part in the system of Japanese prisoner of war camps that extended across South-East Asia between 1942 and 1945.' Allied POW's, as well as 'women and children as young as seven or eight years old,' were brutally enslaved at various locations like at the copper mine northwest of Keelung, sadistically supervised by Taiwanese and Japanese. '… it was found that, while the Japanese were invariably proud to give their name and rank, Taiwanese soldiers and 'hanchos' invariably concealed their names … some Taiwanese citizens … were willing participants in war crimes of various degrees of infamy … young males were to an extent highly nipponized; in fact a proportion in the 1930s are reported to have been actively hoping for a Japanese victory in China … One of the most tragic events of the whole Pacific war took place in Kaohsiung. This was the bombing of the prison ship Enoura Maru in Kaohsiung harbour on January 9, 1945.'
The Imperial Japanese Navy operated heavily out of Taiwan. The "South Strike Group" was based out of the Taihoku Imperial University in Taiwan. Many of the Japanese forces participating in the Aerial Battle of Taiwan-Okinawa were based in Taiwan. Important Japanese military bases and industrial centers throughout Taiwan, like Kaohsiung, were targets of heavy American bombing.
By 1945, just before Japan lost World War II, desperate plans were put in place to incorporate popular representation of Taiwan into the Japanese Diet to make Taiwan an integral part of Japan proper.
Japan's rule of Taiwan ended when it lost World War II and signed the Instrument of Surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945. But the Japanese occupation had long lasting effects on Taiwan and Taiwanese culture. Taiwanese tend to have a more positive view of Japan than other Asians. Significant parts of Taiwanese infrastructure were started under the Japanese rule. The current Presidential Building was also built during that time.
On October 25, 1945, ROC troops representing the Allied Command accepted the formal surrender of Japanese military forces in Taihoku. The ROC Government, led by Chiang Kai-shek, announced that date as "Taiwan Restoration Day" (). They were greeted as liberators by some Taiwanese. Many other Taiwanese, however, who fought against China and the allies for the Japanese war machine greeted them reluctantly, this new generation of Chinese arrivals. The ROC under Chen Yi was generally unstable and corrupt; it seized the people's property and set up government monopolies of many industries. Many problems like this, compounded with hyperinflation, unrest due to the Chinese Civil War, and distrust due to political, cultural and linguistic differences between the Taiwanese and the Mainland Chinese, quickly led to the loss of popular support for the new government. This culminated in a series of severe clashes between the ROC government and Taiwanese, in turn leading to the bloody 228 incident and the reign of White Terror.
In 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, the Kuomintang (KMT), led by Chiang Kai-shek, retreated from Mainland China and moved the ROC government from Nanjing (then romanised as "Nanking") to Taipei, Taiwan's largest city, while continuing to claim sovereignty over all of China, which the ROC defines to include mainland China, Taiwan, Outer Mongolia as well as other areas. In mainland China, the victorious Communists established the PRC, claiming to be the sole representative of China including Taiwan and portraying the ROC government on Taiwan as an illegitimate entity.
Some 2 million refugees from Mainland China, consisting mainly of soldiers, KMT party members and most importantly the intellectual and business elites fled mainland China and arrived in Taiwan around that time. In addition, as part of its escape from Communists in mainland China, the ROC government relocated to Taiwan with many national treasures including gold reserves and foreign currency reserves. This was often used by the PRC government to explain its economic difficulties and Taiwan's comparative prosperity. From this period through the 1980s, Taiwan was governed by a party-state dictatorship, with the KMT as the ruling party. Military rule continued and little to no distinction was made between the government and the party, with public property, government property, and party property being interchangeable. Government workers and party members were indistinguishable, with government workers, such as teachers, required to become KMT members, and party workers paid salaries and promised retirement benefits along the lines of government employees. In addition all other parties were outlawed, and political opponents were persecuted, incarcerated, and executed.
Taiwan remained under martial law and one-party rule, under the name of the "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion" from 1948 to 1987, when the ROC Presidents Chiang Ching-kuo and Lee Teng-hui gradually liberalized and democratized the system. With the advent of democratization, the issue of the political status of Taiwan has resurfaced as a controversial issue (previously, discussion of anything other than unification under the ROC was taboo).
As the Chinese Civil War continued without truce, the ROC built up military fortification works throughout Taiwan. Within this effort, former KMT soldiers built the now famous Central Cross-Island Highway through the Taroko Gorge in the 1950s. The two sides would remain in a heightened military state well into the 1960’s on the islands on the border with unknown number of night raids and clashes with details that are rarely made public. During the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis in September 1958, Taiwan's landscape added Nike-Hercules Missile batteries with the formation of the 1st Missile Battalion Chinese Army and would not be deactivated until 1997. Newer generations of missile batteries have since replaced the Nike Hercules systems throughout the island.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the ROC began to develop into a prosperous, industrialized developed country with a strong and dynamic economy, becoming one of the Four Asian Tigers while maintaining the authoritarian, single-party government. Because of the Cold War, most Western nations and the United Nations regarded the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China (while being merely the de-facto government on Taiwan) until the 1970s, when most nations began switching recognition to the PRC.
After the 1988 death of Chiang Ching-Kuo, his successor as President Lee Teng-hui continued to hand more government authority over to the Taiwan-born and democratize the government. Under Lee, Taiwan underwent a process of localization in which local culture and history was promoted over a pan-China viewpoint. Lee's reforms included printing banknotes from the Central Bank rather than the Provincial Bank of Taiwan, and disbanding the Taiwan Provincial Government. Under Lee, the original members of the Legislative Yuan and National Assembly, elected in 1947 to represent mainland Chinese constituencies and having taken the seats without re-election for more than four decades, were forced to resign in 1991. Restrictions on the use of Taiwanese in the broadcast media and in schools were lifted as well.
In the 1990s, the ROC transformed into a true democratic country, as President Lee Teng-hui was elected by the first popular vote held in Taiwan during the 1996 Presidential election. In 2000, Chen Shui-bian of the DPP, was elected as the first non-KMT President and was re-elected to serve his second and last term since 2004. Polarized politics has emerged in Taiwan with the formation of the Pan-Blue Coalition of parties led by the KMT, favoring eventual Chinese reunification, and the Pan-Green Coalition of parties led by the DPP, favoring an eventual and official declaration of Taiwan independence.
On September 30, 2007, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party approved a resolution asserting separate identity from China and called for the enactment of a new constitution for a "normal country". It also called for general use of "Taiwan" as the island's name, without abolishing its formal name, the Republic of China. The Chen administration also pushed for referendums on national defense and UN entry in the 2004 and 2008 elections, which failed due to voter turnout below the required legal threshold of 50% of all registered voters. The Chen administration was also dogged by public concern over reduced economic growth, legislative gridlock due to a pan-blue controlled Legislative Yuan, and alleged corruption scandals involving the First Family.
The KMT increased its majority in the Legislative Yuan in the January 2008 legislative elections, while its nominee Ma Ying-jeou went on to win the presidency in March of the same year, campaigning on a platform of increased economic growth, and better ties with the Mainland China under a policy of "mutual nondenial". Ma took office on May 20, 2008.
The Republic of China has its own currency, the New Taiwan dollar.
Agriculture constitutes only two percent of the GDP, down from 35 percent in 1952. Traditional labor-intensive industries are steadily being moved offshore and with more capital and technology-intensive industries replacing them. The ROC has become a major foreign investor in the PRC, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. It is estimated that some 50,000 Taiwanese businesses and 1,000,000 businesspeople and their dependents are established in the PRC.
Because of its conservative financial approach and its entrepreneurial strengths, the ROC suffered little compared with many of its neighbors from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. Unlike its neighbors South Korea and Japan, the Taiwanese economy is dominated by small and medium sized businesses, rather than the large business groups. The global economic downturn, however, combined with poor policy coordination by the new administration and increasing bad debts in the banking system, pushed Taiwan into recession in 2001, the first whole year of negative growth since 1947. Due to the relocation of many manufacturing and labor intensive industries to the PRC, unemployment also reached a level not seen since the 1970s oil crisis. This became a major issue in the 2004 presidential election. Growth averaged more than 4% in the 2002-2006 period and the unemployment rate fell below 4%.
The ROC often joins international organizations under a politically neutral name. The ROC is a member of governmental trade organizations such as the World Trade Organization under the name Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu since 2002.
Leading technologies of Taiwan include:
The island of Taiwan lies some 120 kilometers off the southeastern coast of mainland China, across the Taiwan Strait, and has an area of . The East China Sea lies to the north, the Philippine Sea to the east, the Luzon Strait directly to the south and the South China Sea to the southwest. The island is characterized by the contrast between the eastern two-thirds, consisting mostly of rugged mountains running in five ranges from the northern to the southern tip of the island, and the flat to gently rolling plains in the west that are also home to most of Taiwan's population. Taiwan's highest point is the Yu Shan at 3,952 meters, and there are five other peaks over 3,500 meters. This makes it the world's seventh-highest island. Taroko National Park, located on the mountainous eastern side of the island, has good examples of mountainous terrain, gorges and erosion caused by a swiftly flowing river.
The shape of the main island of Taiwan is similar to a sweet potato seen in a south-to-north direction, and therefore, Taiwanese people, especially the Min-nan division, often call themselves "children of the Sweet Potato. There are also other interpretations of the island shape, one of which is a whale in the ocean (the Pacific Ocean) if viewed in a west-to-east direction, which is a common orientation in ancient maps, plotted either by Western explorers or the Qing Dynasty.
The major seismic faults in Taiwan correspond to the various suture zones between the various terranes. These have produced major quakes throughout the history of the island. On September 21, 1999, a 7.3 quake known as the "Chi-Chi earthquake" occurred.
Taiwan's climate is marine tropical. The Northern part of the island has a rainy season that lasts from January to late March during the southwest monsoon, and also experiences meiyu in May. The entire island succumbs to hot humid weather from June until September, while October to December are arguably the most pleasant times of year. The middle and southern parts of the island do not have an extended monsoon season during the winter months, but can experience several weeks of rain, especially during and after Lunar New Year. Natural hazards such as typhoons and earthquakes are common in the region.
Camphor oil extraction and cane sugar production played an important role in Taiwan's exportation from the late nineteenth century through the first half of the twentieth century. The importance of the above industries subsequently declined not because of the exhaustion of related natural resources but mainly of the decline of international market demands.
Nowadays, few natural resources with significant economic value are retained in Taiwan, which are essentially agriculture-associated. Domestic agriculture (rice being the dominant kind of crop) and fishery retain importance to a certain degree, but they have been greatly challenged by foreign imports since Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001. Consequently, upon the decline of subsistent importance, Taiwan's agriculture now relies heavily on the marketing and exportation of certain kinds of specialty, such as banana, guava, lychee, wax apple, and high-mountain tea.
The ROC's population was estimated in 2005 at 22.9 million, most of whom are on the island of Taiwan. About 98% of the population is of Han Chinese ethnicity. Of these, 86% are descendants of early Han immigrants known as "native Taiwanese" (). This group contains two subgroups: the Southern Fujianese or "Hokkien" or "Min-nan" (70% of the total population), who migrated from the coastal Southern Fujian (Min-nan) region in the southeast of mainland China; and the Hakka (15% of the total population), who originally migrated south to Guangdong, its surrounding areas and Taiwan, intermarrying extensively with Taiwanese aborigines. The remaining 12% of Han Chinese are known as "mainlanders" and are composed of and descend from immigrants who arrived after the Second World War. This group also includes those who fled mainland China in 1949 following the Nationalist defeat in the Chinese Civil War. For political reasons, more and more young people started to call the mainlanders xin zhùmín or "new residents". A survey in November 2006 conducted by the Taiwanese National Chengchi University, the Japanese University of the Ryukyus and the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed that more than 60% of Taiwan's population consider themselves Taiwanese, compared to only 18% in 1992.
Dalu ren refers to residents of mainland China. Most Taiwanese, including the "mainlanders" discussed above, fall outside this group. It includes only the most recent immigrants from mainland China, such as (predominantly) women made ROC citizens through marriage. It also excludes foreign spouses from other countries, of which women come predominantly from Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, while a greater proportion of men come from Western countries. One in seven marriages now involves a partner from another country. As Taiwan's birthrate is among the lowest in the world, this contingent is playing an increasingly important role in changing Taiwan's demographic makeup. Transnational marriages now account for one out of six births.
The other 2% of Taiwan's population, numbering about 458,000, are listed as the Taiwanese aborigines divided into 13 major groups: Ami, Atayal, Paiwan, Bunun, Rukai, Puyuma, Tsou, Saisiyat, Tao (Yami), Thao, Kavalan, Truku and Sakizaya.
Although Mandarin is still the language of instruction in schools and dominates television and radio, non-Mandarin dialects have undergone a revival in public life in Taiwan. A large fraction of the populace speak the Taiwanese dialect, a variant of Min Nan spoken in southern Fujian, China, and a majority understand it. Many also speak Hakka. People educated during the Japanese period of 1900 to 1945 used Japanese as the medium of instruction. Some in the older generations only speak the Japanese they learned at school and the Taiwanese they spoke at home and are unable to communicate with many in the modern generations who only speak Mandarin.
Most aboriginal groups in Taiwan have their own languages which, unlike Taiwanese or Hakka, do not belong to the Chinese language family, but rather to the Austronesian language family.
Over 93% of Taiwanese are adherents of a combination of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism; 4.5% are adherents of Christianity, which includes Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, and other non-denominational Christian groups; and 2.5% are adherents of other religions, such as Islam. Taiwanese aborigines comprise a notable subgroup among professing Christians: "...over 64 percent identify as Christian... Church buildings are the most obvious markers of Aboriginal villages, distinguishing them from Taiwanese or Hakka villages.
Confucianism is a philosophy that deals with secular moral ethics, and serves as the foundation of both Chinese and Taiwanese culture. The majority of Taiwanese and Chinese usually combine the secular moral teachings of Confucianism with whatever religions they are affiliated with.
The cultures of Taiwan are a hybrid blend of Confucianist Han Chinese cultures, Japanese, European, American, global, local and indigenous influences which are both interlocked and divided between perceptions of tradition and modernity (Harrell/Huang 1994:1-5).
After the retreat to Taiwan, the Nationalists promoted an official interpretation of traditional Chinese culture over the local Taiwanese cultures. The government launched a program promoting Chinese calligraphy, traditional Chinese painting, folk art, and Chinese opera.
Since the Taiwan localization movement of the 1990s, Taiwan's cultural identity has been allowed greater expression. Identity politics, along with the over one hundred years of political separation from mainland China has led to distinct traditions in many areas, including cuisine, opera, and music.
The status of Taiwanese culture is debated. It is disputed whether Taiwanese culture is part of Chinese culture or a distinct culture. Speaking Taiwanese as a symbol of the localization movement has become an emblem of Taiwanese identity.
One of Taiwan's greatest attractions is the National Palace Museum, which houses more than 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting and porcelain. The KMT moved this collection from the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1949 when it fled to Taiwan. The collection, estimated to be one-tenth of China's cultural treasures, is so extensive that only 1% is on display at any time.
Taiwan has a high density of 24-hour convenience stores, which in addition to the usual services, provide services on behalf of financial institutions or government agencies such as collection of parking fees, utility bills, traffic violation fines, and credit card payments.
Taiwanese culture has also influenced other cultures. Bubble tea and milk tea are available in Australia, Europe and North America. Ang Lee has directed critically acclaimed films such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Eat Drink Man Woman, Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, Lust, Caution