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Taiwan (Chinese language: 臺灣 or 台湾 pinyin tái wān) is an island off the coast of Mainland China in the Pacific Ocean. It is also known by its Portuguese name Formosa, which means "beautiful". Taiwan, as well as several smaller islands of Fujian, such as Quemoy and Matsu, have been administered since 1945 by a government called the Republic of China (ROC), the former government of mainland China before its 1949 defeat by the Communist Party of China. Whether the island is or is not part of China and the meaning of "China" in this context is an extremely complex and controversial issue. The ROC government continues to claim sovereignty over mainland China (including Tibet) and outer Mongolia, although President Lee Teng-hui in 1991 stated that the government no longer challenges communist rule on the mainland.

Although it is common to use the terms "Taiwan" and "Republic of China" synonymously, Taiwan is still technicially administered as a province of the Republic of China and the ROC government also has jurisdiction over two counties of Fujian province. Offically, the ROC claims sovereignty over Mainland China (including Tibet) and outer Mongolia. The mention of politics in this article refer to the government of the Republic of China, and not to the Taiwan provincial government.

Republic of China
ㄓㄨㄥ ㄏㄨㄚˊ ㄇㄧㄣˊ ㄍㄨㄛˊ
The ROC has no national coat of arms
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official language Mandarin Chinese
Capital Taipei¹
PresidentChen Shui-bian
Premier[?] Yu Shyi-kun[?]
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 134th
35,980 km²
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 47th
 - Declared
 - Established
Wuchang Uprising
October 10, 1911
January 1, 1912
Currency New Taiwan Dollar
Time zone UTC +8
National anthem Three Principles of the People
Internet TLD.TW
Calling Code886
(1) Provisional; official ROC capital remains the city of Nanking in Mainland China; the capital of Taiwan province is Chung-hsing-hsin-ts'un

Table of contents

History Main articles: History of Taiwan, History of China, Republic of China

Taiwan's indigenous population was first joined and intermarried with male traders and seasonal workers from Mainland China primarily during a brief period of Dutch control between 1624 and 1662. The Dutch were ousted from the island in 1662 by Zheng Chenggong (also known as Koxinga), a Ming loyalist, who hoped to marshall his troops on the island. Following the defeat of Zheng's grandson to an armada led by Admiral Shi Lang, Zheng's followers were expatriated to the furthest reaches of the Qing empire leaving approxamately 7000 Chinese on Taiwan. The Qing government wrestled with its Taiwan policy to reduce piracy and vagrancy in the area ,which led to a series of edicts to manage immigration and respect aboriginal land rights. Illegal immigrants continued to enter Taiwan as rentors of the large plots aboriginal lands under contracts that usually involved marriage, while the border between tax paying lands and "savage" lands expanded east. Following the Sino-Japanese War in 1895, China was forced to cede Taiwan to Japan in perpetuity allowing a grace period for those wishing to remain Chinese subjects to sell their property and return to the mainland. The island was ceded to the R.O.C. in 1945 following Japan's defeat in World War II. The severe clash of cultures between mainland Chinese and native Taiwanese led to the bloody 228 incident in which R.O.C. troops sent by Chiang Kai-shek massacred 30,000 citizens and leaders of democracy and pro-independence groups.

The Republic of China had been founded after Chinese revolutionaries overthrew the Qing government in 1911. The nationalist Kuomintang party, which at the time controlled the government of the ROC, retreated to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China ended in the Communists' favour in 1949, bringing with them some 2 million refugees from Mainland China.

Taiwan remained under martial law for 4 decades until 1987 and one-party rule until 1991 when President Chiang Ching-kuo gradually liberalized and democratized the system. The relationship with the People's Republic of China and the related issues of either Taiwanese independence or Chinese reunification continue to dominate Taiwanese politics.

See also: Timeline of Chinese history

Politics Main article: Politics of Taiwan

The Republic of China on Taiwan has undergone a process of democratisation since its constitution was reformed in the early 1990s. The head of state is the president, who is elected by popular vote for a four-year term on the same ticket as the vice-president. The president has authority over the five administrative branches (Yuan): the Executive Yuan[?], Legislative Yuan, Control Yuan[?], Judicial Yuan[?], and Examination Yuan[?]. The president appoints the members of the Executive Yuan as his cabinet, including a premier who is officially the President of the Executive Yuan; members are responsible for policy and administration.

The main legislative body is the unicameral Legislative Yuan with 225 seats, of which 168 are elected by popular vote. Of the remainder, 41 are elected on the basis of the proportion of nationwide votes received by participating political parties, eight are elected from overseas Chinese constituencies on the same principle, as are the eight seats for the aboriginal populations; members serve three-year terms. Originally the unicameral National Assembly, as a standing constitutional convention and electoral college, held some parliamentary functions, but this has now become a non-standing body of 300 members that has seen most of its powers transferred to the Legislative Yuan.

The Republic of China, as one of its founding members was in the United Nations and held China's seat on the Security Council until 1971, when it was expelled by General Assembly Resolution Resolution 2758 and replaced in all UN organs with the People's Republic of China government. Multiple attempts by the Republic of China to re-join the UN have not made it past committee. Since the 1970's, the number of nations officially recognising the ROC has decreased to 27. The People's Republic of China refuses to maintain diplomatic relations with any government which formally recognises the ROC, leading to a complex political status of Taiwan.

Political divisions Main article: Political divisions of Taiwan

The Republic of China currently has jurisdiction over two of the historic provinces of China: the entire Taiwan province and several islands near the mainland, chiefly Quemoy and Matsu, that are part of Fujian province. The next level consists of 16 counties (hsien), five municipalities (shih) and two special municipalities (chi-hsia-shih), marked by a *:

Counties Municipalities

See also: Provinces of China

Geography Main article: Geography of Taiwan

The island of Taiwan lies some 200 km off the southeastern coast of Mainland China across the Taiwan Strait, with the East China Sea 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 characterised by the contrast between the eastern two-thirds that consist 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 3,997 m.

Taiwan's climate is marine tropical[?]. The rainy season lasts from June to August during the southwest monsoon, though cloudiness is persistent and extensive all year. Natural hazards include typhoons and earthquakes.

See also: Geography of China

Economy Main article: Economy of Taiwan

Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy with gradually decreasing guidance of investment and foreign trade by government authorities. In keeping with this trend, some large government-owned banks and industrial firms are being privatised. Real growth in GDP has averaged about 8% during the past three decades. Exports have provided the primary impetus for industrialisation. The trade surplus is substantial, and foreign reserves are the world's third largest.

Agriculture contributes 2% to GDP, down from 35% in 1952. Traditional labour-intensive industries are steadily being moved offshore and replaced with more capital- and technology-intensive industries. Taiwan has become a major investor in China, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam; 50,000 Taiwanese businesses are established in Mainland China.

Because of its conservative financial approach and its entrepreneurial strengths, Taiwan suffered little compared with many of its neighbours from the Asian financial crisis in 1998-1999. 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. Unemployment also reached a level not seen since the 1970s oil crisis.

See also: East Asian Tigers

Demographics Main article: Demographics of Taiwan

The aboriginal population of Taiwan, divided into ten main tribes, now numbers only 2%. The remainder consists of Han Chinese, who themselves consist of early Han immigrants who are referred to as "Ben-sheng-ren" (84%) and later immigrants which are referred to as "Wai-sheng-ren" or "Mainlanders" (14%) that came with the ROC government in 1949. The Ben sheng ren on their part consist chiefly of Southern Fujianese, as well as the Hakka, who are concentrated in several counties throughout Taiwan. However, some claim that these official figures are innaccurate, since children with Han fathers and aboriginal mothers passed themselves off as Han.

The majority of people on Taiwan speak Mandarin Chinese, which has been the medium of instruction in the schools for more than four decades. A large fraction of people in also speak one of the Southern Fujianese dialects, Min-nan, also known as Taiwanese. The Hakka have a distinct Hakka dialect. Between 1900 and 1945 the population also spoke Japanese. Chinese romanisation on Taiwan remains chaotic with many different systems, some ad-hoc, in use. In 2002, Taiwan authorities announced adoption a form of pinyin, but this has not resolved the chaos as there is a large and mostly political controversy about which pinyin system to use, with different localities now using different systems.

About half of the Taiwanese population can be considered religious believers, most of whom identify themselves as Buddhists or Taoists. At the same time there is a strong belief in folk religion throughout the island. These are not mutually exclusive, and many people practice a combination of the three. Confucianism also is an honoured school of thought and ethical code. Christian churches have been active on Taiwan for many years, a majority of which are Protestant and with Presbyterians playing a particularly significant role.

Culture Main article: Culture of Taiwan[?]

See also: Culture of China

Date English Name Local Name Remarks
January 1 Founding Day 開國紀念日 Coincides with New Year
February 28 Peace Memorial Day 和平紀念日 Commemorates February 28 Incident in February 28, 1947
May 1Labour Day 勞動節  
September 28 Teacher's Day 教師節 Confucius' Birthday
October 10 Double Tenth Day 國慶日 Wuchang Uprising on October 10, 1911
October 25 Retrocession Day 光復節 Japan surrenders Taiwan to Chiang Kai-shek on October 25, 1945
December 25 Constitution Day 行憲紀念日 Coincides with Christmas
1st day of 1st lunar month Chinese New Year 春節 Based on Chinese calendar
5th day of 5th lunar month Dragon Boat Festival[?] (Dragon Festival) 端午節 Based on Chinese calendar
15th day of 8th lunar month Mid-autumn Festival[?] (Moon Festival) 中秋節 Based on Chinese calendar

Miscellaneous topics

External Links

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