(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||In 1895, military defeat forced China to cede Taiwan to Japan. Taiwan reverted to Chinese control after World War II. Following the Communist victory on the mainland in 1949, 2 million Nationalists fled to Taiwan and established a government using the 1946 constitution drawn up for all of China. Over the next five decades, the ruling authorities gradually democratized and incorporated the local population within the governing structure. In 2000, Taiwan underwent its first peaceful transfer of power from the Nationalist to the Democratic Progressive Party. Throughout this period, the island prospered and became one of East Asia’s economic “Tigers.” The dominant political issues continue to be the relationship between Taiwan and China – specifically the question of eventual unification – as well as domestic political and economic reform.|
|History||Prehistory and early settlements
Evidence of human settlement in Taiwan dates back thirty thousand years, although the first inhabitants of Taiwan may have been genetically distinct from any groups currently on the island. About four thousand years ago, ancestors of current Taiwanese aborigines settled in Taiwan. These aborigines are genetically related to Malay and Polynesians, and linguists classify their languages as Austronesian. Polynesians are suspected to have ancestry traceable back to Taiwan.
Han Chinese began settling in Penghu 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 1544, a Portuguese ship sighted the main island of Taiwan and dubbed it “Ilha Formosa”, which means “Beautiful Island.” The Portuguese made no attempt to colonize Taiwan.
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.
Koxinga and Imperial Chinese rule
Naval and troop forces of Southern Fujian defeated the Dutch in 1662, subsequently expelling the Dutch government and military from the island. They were led by Koxinga. Following the fall of the Ming Dynasty, Koxinga retreated to Taiwan as a self-styled Ming loyalist and established the Kingdom of Tungning (1662–83). Koxinga established his capital at Tainan and he and his heirs, Zheng Jing, who ruled from 1662–82, and Zheng Keshuang, who served less than a year, continued to launch raids on the south-east coast of mainland China well into the Qing Dynasty, attempting to recover the mainland.
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.
Northern Taiwan and the Penghu Islands were the scene of an important subsidiary campaign in the Sino-French War (August 1884 to April 1885). The French occupied Keelung from 1 October 1884 to 22 June 1885 and the Penghu Islands from 31 March to 22 July 1885. A French attempt to capture Tamsui was defeated at the Battle of Tamsui (8 October 1884). Several battles were fought around Keelung between October 1884 and March 1885 between Liu Ming-ch’uan’s Army of Northern Taiwan and Colonel Jacques Duchesne’s Formosa Expeditionary Corps. The Keelung Campaign, despite some notable French tactical victories, ended in a stalemate. The Pescadores Campaign was a French victory, but had no long-term consequences. The French evacuated both Keelung and the Penghu archipelago at the end of the war.
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 (traditional Chinese: 台灣生番; simplified Chinese: 台湾生番; pinyin: Táiwān shēngfān) 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 Penghu 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. In 1938 there were 309,000 Japanese settlers in Taiwan. After World War II, most of the Japanese repatriated to Japan.
Kuomintang martial law period
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 Retrocession Day”. They were greeted as liberators by some Taiwanese, however, most other Taiwanese 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 very 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.
Modern democratic era
Chiang Kai-shek’s eventual successor, his son Chiang Ching-kuo, began to liberalize Taiwan’s political system. In 1984, the younger Chiang selected Lee Teng-hui, a Taiwan-born technocrat, to be his vice president. In 1986, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was formed and inaugurated as the first opposition party in Taiwan to counter the KMT. A year later Chiang Ching-kuo lifted martial law.
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. During later years of Lee’s administration, he was involved in corruption controversies relating to government release of land and weapons purchase, although no legal proceedings were commenced, as the investigations were interrupted.
In the 1990s, the ROC continued its democratic reforms, 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 controversies 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 Mainland China under a policy of “mutual nondenial”. Ma took office on May 20, 2008.
|Geography||Location: Eastern Asia, islands bordering the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, South China Sea, and Taiwan Strait, north of the Philippines, off the southeastern coast of China
Geographic coordinates: 23 30 N, 121 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 35,980 sq km
land: 32,260 sq km
water: 3,720 sq km
note: includes the Pescadores, Matsu, and Quemoy islands
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Maryland and Delaware combined
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,566.3 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; marine; rainy season during southwest monsoon (June to August); cloudiness is persistent and extensive all year
Terrain: eastern two-thirds mostly rugged mountains; flat to gently rolling plains in west
Elevation extremes: lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: Yu Shan 3,952 m
Natural resources: small deposits of coal, natural gas, limestone, marble, and asbestos
Land use: arable land: 24%
permanent crops: 1%
other: 75% (2001)
Irrigated land: NA
Total renewable water resources: 67 cu km (2000)
Natural hazards: earthquakes and typhoons
Environment – current issues: air pollution; water pollution from industrial emissions, raw sewage; contamination of drinking water supplies; trade in endangered species; low-level radioactive waste disposal
Environment – international agreements: party to: none of the selected agreements because of Taiwan’s international status
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements because of Taiwan’s international status
Geography – note: strategic location adjacent to both the Taiwan Strait and the Luzon Strait
|Politics||The ROC is governed under the Constitution of the Republic of China which was drafted in 1947 before the fall of the Chinese mainland to communism and outlined a government for all of China. Significant amendments were made to the Constitution in 1991, and there have been a number of judicial interpretations made to take into account the fact that the Constitution covers a much smaller area than originally envisioned. Previously, the Kuomintang government in Taiwan governed as a one party state, and disallowed the formation of rival parties and many opponents.
Until 1991, the government in Taipei claimed to be the sole legitimate government of all of China, which it defined as including Taiwan, mainland China, and outer Mongolia. In keeping with that claim, when the Kuomintang (KMT) fled to Taipei in 1949, they re-established the full array of central political bodies, which had existed in mainland China in the de jure capital of Nanking. While much of this structure remains in place, the President Lee Teng-hui in 1991 unofficially abandoned the government’s claim of sovereignty over mainland China, stating that they do not “dispute the fact that the Communists control mainland China.” However, the National Assembly has not officially changed the national borders, as doing so may be seen as a prelude to formal Taiwan independence (the People’s Republic of China has threatened to start a war if the government of Taiwan formalizes independence). It should be noted that neither the National Assembly nor the Supreme Court has actually defined what “existing national boundaries,” as stated in the constitution, actually is. The latter refused to do so claiming that it is a “major political issue”.
|People||Population: 22,920,946 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 17.3% (male 2,057,458/female 1,900,449)
15-64 years: 72.3% (male 8,362,038/female 8,204,834)
65 years and over: 10.5% (male 1,167,476/female 1,228,691) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 36 years
male: 35.5 years
female: 36.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.238% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 8.99 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.65 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.04 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.09 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.95 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 5.45 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.75 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.11 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 77.76 years
male: 74.89 years
female: 80.89 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.13 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Taiwan (singular and plural)
note: example – he or she is from Taiwan; they are from Taiwan
Ethnic groups: Taiwanese (including Hakka) 84%, mainland Chinese 14%, indigenous 2%
Religions: mixture of Buddhist and Taoist 93%, Christian 4.5%, other 2.5%
Languages: Mandarin Chinese (official), Taiwanese (Min), Hakka dialects
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96.1%
female: NA (2003)
Education expenditures: NA
|Government||Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Taiwan
local long form: none
local short form: T’ai-wan
Government type: multiparty democracy
Capital: name: Taipei
geographic coordinates: 25 03 N, 121 30 E
time difference: UTC+8 (13 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: includes main island of Taiwan plus smaller islands nearby and off coast of China’s Fujian Province; Taiwan is divided into 18 counties (hsien, singular and plural), 5 municipalities (shih, singular and plural), and 2 special municipalities (chuan-shih, singular and plural)
note: Taiwan uses a variety of romanization systems; while a modified Wade-Giles system still dominates, the city of Taipei has adopted a Pinyin romanization for street and place names within its boundaries; other local authorities use different romanization systems; names for administrative divisions that follow are taken from the Taiwan Yearbook 2007 published by the Government Information Office in Taipei.
counties: Changhua, Chiayi [county], Hsinchu, Hualien, Kaohsiung [county], Kinmen, Lienchiang, Miaoli, Nantou, Penghu, Pingtung, Taichung, Tainan, Taipei [county], Taitung, Taoyuan, Yilan, and Yunlin
municipalities: Chiayi [city], Hsinchu, Keelung, Taichung, Tainan
special municipalities: Kaohsiung [city], Taipei [city]
National holiday: Republic Day (Anniversary of the Chinese Revolution), 10 October (1911)
Constitution: 25 December 1947; amended in 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2005
note: constitution adopted on 25 December 1946; went into effect on 25 December 1947
Legal system: based on civil law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 20 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President MA Ying-jeou (since 20 May 2008); Vice President Vincent SIEW (since 20 May 2008)
head of government: Premier (President of the Executive Yuan) LIO Chao-shiuan (since 20 May 2008); Vice Premier (Vice President of Executive Yuan) Paul CHIU (CHANG-hsiung) (since 20 May 2008)
cabinet: Executive Yuan – (ministers appointed by president on recommendation of premier)
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms (eligible for a second term); election last held 22 March 2008 (next to be held in March 2012); premier appointed by the president; vice premiers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the premier
election results: MA Ying-jeou elected president on 22 March 2008; percent of vote – MA Ying-jeou 58.45%, Frank HSIEH 41.55%; MA Ying-jeou takes office on 20 May 2008
Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Yuan (113 seats – 73 district members elected by popular vote, 34 at-large members elected on basis of proportion of islandwide votes received by participating political parties, 6 elected by popular vote among aboriginal populations; to serve four-year terms); parties must receive 5% of vote to qualify for at-large seats
elections: Legislative Yuan – last held 12 January 2008 (next to be held in January 2012)
election results: Legislative Yuan – percent of vote by party – KMT 53.5%, DPP 38.2%, NPSU 2.4%, PFP 0.3%, others 1.6%, independents 4%; seats by party – KMT 81, DPP 27, NPSU 3, PFP 1, independent 1
Judicial branch: Judicial Yuan (justices appointed by the president with consent of the Legislative Yuan)
Political parties and leaders: Democratic Progressive Party or DPP [TSAI Ing-wen]; Kuomintang or KMT (Nationalist Party) [WU Po-hsiung]; Non-Partisan Solidarity Union or NPSU [CHANG Po-ya]; People First Party or PFP [James SOONG]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Organization for Taiwan Nation Building; World United Formosans for Independence
other: environmental groups; independence movement; various business groups
note: debate on Taiwan independence has become acceptable within the mainstream of domestic politics on Taiwan; political liberalization and the increased representation of opposition parties in Taiwan’s legislature have opened public debate on the island’s national identity; a broad popular consensus has developed that the island currently enjoys sovereign independence and – whatever the ultimate outcome regarding reunification or independence – that Taiwan’s people must have the deciding voice; public opinion polls consistently show a substantial majority of Taiwan people supports maintaining Taiwan’s status quo for the foreseeable future; advocates of Taiwan independence oppose the stand that the island will eventually unify with mainland China; goals of the Taiwan independence movement include establishing a sovereign nation on Taiwan and entering the UN
International organization participation: ADB, APEC, BCIE, ICC, IOC, ITUC, WCL, WFTU, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: none; unofficial commercial and cultural relations with the people of the US are maintained through an unofficial instrumentality, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), which has its headquarters in Taipei and in the US in Washington, DC; there are also branch offices called Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in 12 other US cities
Diplomatic representation from the US: none; unofficial commercial and cultural relations with the people on Taiwan are maintained through an unofficial instrumentality – the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) – which has offices in the US and Taiwan; US office at 1700 N. Moore St., Suite 1700, Arlington, VA 22209-1996, telephone:  (703) 525-8474, FAX:  (703) 841-1385); Taiwan offices at #7 Lane 134, Hsin Yi Road, Section 3, Taipei, Taiwan, telephone:  (2) 2162-2000, FAX:  (2) 2162-2251; #2 Chung Cheng 3rd Road, 5th Floor, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, telephone:  (7) 238-7744, FAX:  (7) 238-5237; and the American Trade Center, Room 3208 International Trade Building, Taipei World Trade Center, 333 Keelung Road Section 1, Taipei, Taiwan 10548, telephone:  (2) 2720-1550, FAX:  (2) 2757-7162
Flag description: red field with a dark blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a white sun with 12 triangular rays
|Culture||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.
Popular sports in Taiwan include basketball and baseball. Cheerleading performances and billiards are quite fashionable. Badminton is also common.
Karaoke, drawn from contemporary Japanese culture, is extremely popular in Taiwan, where it is known as KTV.
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. Taiwanese films have won various international awards at film festivals around the world. Ang Lee, a native of Taiwan, has directed critically acclaimed films such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Eat Drink Man Woman, Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, and Lust, Caution
|Economy||Economy – overview: Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy with gradually decreasing guidance of investment and foreign trade by the authorities. In keeping with this trend, some large, state-owned banks and industrial firms are being privatized. Exports have provided the primary impetus for industrialization. The island runs a large trade surplus, and its foreign reserves are among the world’s largest. Despite restrictions on cross-strait links, China has overtaken the US to become Taiwan’s largest export market and its second-largest source of imports after Japan. China is also the island’s number one destination for foreign direct investment. Strong trade performance in 2007 pushed Taiwan’s GDP growth rate above 5%, and unemployment is below 4%.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $698.6 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $383.3 billion (2007 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 5.7% (2007 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $30,100 (2007 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 1.4%
services: 71.1% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 10.71 million (2007 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 5.3%
services: 57.9% (2007 est.)
Unemployment rate: 3.9% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: 0.95% (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 6.7%
highest 10%: 41.1% (2002 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 21.2% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $76.2 billion
expenditures: $75.65 billion (2007 est.)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Public debt: 27.9% of GDP (2007 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.8% (2007 est.)
Central bank discount rate: NA
Commercial bank prime lending rate: NA
Stock of money: NA
Stock of quasi money: NA
Stock of domestic credit: NA
Agriculture – products: rice, corn, vegetables, fruit, tea; pigs, poultry, beef, milk; fish
Industries: electronics, petroleum refining, armaments, chemicals, textiles, iron and steel, machinery, cement, food processing, vehicles, consumer products, pharmaceuticals
Industrial production growth rate: 9.2% (2007 est.)
Electricity – production: 216.6 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 208.7 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 71.4%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: 10,600 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – consumption: 950,500 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil – exports: 289,200 bbl/day (2006)
Oil – imports: 1.208 million bbl/day (2006)
Oil – proved reserves: 2.38 million bbl (1 January 2008 est.)
Natural gas – production: 400 million cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 11.3 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 10.9 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 6.229 billion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
Current account balance: $32.88 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $246.5 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports – commodities: electronic and electrical products, metals, textiles, plastics, chemicals, auto parts (2002)
Exports – partners: China 32.6%, US 12.9%, Hong Kong 8.6%, Japan 6.4%, Singapore 5% (2007)
Imports: $215.1 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports – commodities: electronic and electrical products, machinery, petroleum, precision instruments, organic chemicals, metals (2002)
Imports – partners: Japan 22.7%, US 13.3%, China 11.2%, South Korea 6.6%, Saudi Arabia 4.8%, Singapore 4.6% (2007)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $275 billion (31 December 2007)
Debt – external: $97.85 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment – at home: $92.83 billion (2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad: $108.9 billion (2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $654 billion (28 December 2007)
Currency (code): New Taiwan dollar (TWD)
Currency code: TWD
Exchange rates: New Taiwan dollars (TWD) per US dollar – 32.84 (2007), 32.534 (2006), 31.71 (2005), 34.418 (2004), 34.575 (2003)
|Communications||Telephones – main lines in use: 14.313 million (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 24.302 million (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: provides telecommunications service for every business and private need
domestic: thoroughly modern; completely digitalized
international: country code – 886; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and the US; satellite earth stations – 2
Radio broadcast stations: AM 140, FM 229, shortwave 49
Radios: 16 million (1994)
Television broadcast stations: 76 (46 digital and 30 analog) (2007)
Televisions: 8.8 million (1998)
Internet country code: .tw
Internet hosts: 5.225 million (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 8 (2000)
Internet users: 14.76 million (2007)
|Transportation||Airports: 41 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 38
over 3,047 m: 8
2,438 to 3,047 m: 9
1,524 to 2,437 m: 11
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 3 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (2007)
Heliports: 4 (2007)
Pipelines: condensate 25 km; gas 661 km (2007)
Railways: total: 1,588 km
standard gauge: 345 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 1,093 km 1.067-m gauge
note: 150 km .762-m gauge (belonging primarily to Taiwan Sugar Corporation and Taiwan Forestry Bureau; some to other entities) (2007)
Roadways: total: 40,262 km
paved: 38,171 km (includes 976 km of expressways)
unpaved: 2,091 km (2007)
Merchant marine: total: 102
by type: bulk carrier 32, cargo 19, chemical tanker 1, container 24, passenger/cargo 3, petroleum tanker 14, refrigerated cargo 7, roll on/roll off 2
foreign-owned: 3 (Canada 2, France 1)
registered in other countries: 536 (Bolivia 1, Cambodia 1, Honduras 2, Hong Kong 11, Indonesia 2, Italy 13, Kiribati 5, Liberia 91, Marshall Islands 1, Panama 320, Philippines 1, Sierra Leone 1, Singapore 72, Thailand 1, UK 11, unknown 3) (2008)
Ports and terminals: Chilung (Keelung), Kaohsiung, Taichung
|Military||Military branches: Army, Navy (includes Marine Corps), Air Force, Coast Guard Administration, Armed Forces Reserve Command, Combined Service Forces Command, Armed Forces Police Command
Military service age and obligation: 19-35 years of age for male compulsory military service; service obligation 14 months (reducing to 1 year in 2009) year; women may enlist; women in Air Force service are restricted to noncombat roles; reserve obligation to age 30 (Army); the Ministry of Defense has announced plans to implement an incremental voluntary enlistment system beginning 2010, with 10% fewer conscripts each year thereafter, although nonvolunteers will still be required to perform alternative service or go through 3-4 months of military training (2008)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 6,283,134
females age 16-49: 6,098,599 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 5,112,737
females age 16-49: 5,036,346 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 164,883
female: 152,085 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: 2.2% of GDP (2006)
|Transnational Issues||Disputes – international: involved in complex dispute with China, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, and possibly Brunei over the Spratly Islands; the 2002 “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” has eased tensions but falls short of a legally binding “code of conduct” desired by several of the disputants; Paracel Islands are occupied by China, but claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam; in 2003, China and Taiwan became more vocal in rejecting both Japan’s claims to the uninhabited islands of the Senkaku-shoto (Diaoyu Tai) and Japan’s unilaterally declared exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea where all parties engage in hydrocarbon prospecting
Illicit drugs: regional transit point for heroin, methamphetamine, and precursor chemicals; transshipment point for drugs to Japan; major problem with domestic consumption of methamphetamine and heroin; rising problems with use of ketamine and club drugs