Taiwan -- Geography --
Official Name: Taiwan
Capital City: Taipei
Official Language: Mandarin Chinese
Official Currency: New Taiwan Dollar (TWD)
Religions: Mixture of Buddhist and Taoist 93%, Christian 4.5%, others 2.5%
Population: 22,858,872 (July 2007 est.)
Land Area: 32,260 sq km
Landforms: The island of Taiwan 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. Major rivers include Wu River, Jhuoshuei River, Gaoping River, Danshuei River.
Climate: Taiwan straddles the tropical and subtropical zones and has warm summers and mild winters. Taiwan's climate is marine tropical. The entire island succumbs to hot humid weather from June until September, while October to December are arguably the most pleasant times of year. Natural hazards such as typhoons and earthquakes are common in the region.
Land Divisions: Taiwan is divided into 18 counties, 2 manucipalities - Kaohsiung City and Taipei City, and two province - like territories - Taiwan Province and Fuchien Province.
Taiwan -- History --
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.Taiwan's aboriginal peoples, who originated in Austronesia and southern Asia, have lived on Taiwan for 12,000 to 15,000 years. Significant migration to Taiwan from the Chinese mainland began as early as A.D. 500. Dutch traders first claimed the island in 1624 as a base for Dutch commerce with Japan and the China coast. Two years later, the Spanish established a settlement on the northwest coast of Taiwan, which they occupied until 1642 when they were driven out by the Dutch. Dutch colonists administered the island and its predominantly aboriginal population until 1661. The first major influx of migrants from the Chinese mainland came during the Dutch period, sparked by the political and economic chaos on the China coast during the Manchu invasion and the end of the Ming Dynasty.
In 1664, a fleet led by the Ming loyalist Cheng Ch'eng-kung (Zheng Chenggong, known in the West as Koxinga) retreated from the mainland and occupied Taiwan. Cheng expelled the Dutch and established Taiwan as a base in his attempt to restore the Ming Dynasty. He died shortly thereafter, and in 1683, his successors submitted to Manchu (Qing Dynasty) control. From 1680, the Qing Dynasty ruled Taiwan as a prefecture and, in 1875, divided the island into two prefectures, north and south. In 1887 the island was made into a separate Chinese province.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, migration from Fujian and Guangdong provinces steadily increased, and Chinese supplanted aborigines as the dominant population group. In 1895, a weakened Imperial China ceded Taiwan to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki following the first Sino-Japanese war.
During its 50 years (1895-1945) of rule, Japan expended considerable effort in developing Taiwan's economy. At the same time, Japanese rule led to the "Japanization" of the island, including compulsory Japanese education and forcing residents of Taiwan to adopt Japanese names.
At the end of World War II in 1945, Taiwan reverted to Chinese rule. During the immediate postwar period, the Nationalist Chinese (KMT) administration on Taiwan was repressive and corrupt, leading to local discontent. Anti-mainlander violence flared on February 28, 1947, prompted by an incident in which a cigarette seller was injured and a passerby was shot to death by Nationalist authorities. The island-wide rioting was brutally put down by Nationalist Chinese troops, who killed thousands of people. As a result of the February 28 Incident, the native Taiwanese felt a deep-seated bitterness toward the mainlanders. For 50 years the KMT authorities suppressed accounts of this episode in Taiwan history. In 1995 a monument was dedicated to the victims of the "2-28 Incident," and for the first time, Taiwan's leader, President Lee Teng-hui, publicly apologized for the Nationalists' brutality.
Starting before World War II and continuing afterwards, a civil war was fought on the mainland between Chiang Kai-shek's KMT government and the Chinese Communist Party led by Mao Zedong. When the civil war ended in 1949, 2 million refugees, predominately from the Nationalist government, military, and business community, fled to Taiwan. In October 1949 the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) was founded on the mainland by the victorious communists. Chiang Kai-shek established a "provisional" KMT capital in Taipei in December 1949. During the 1950s, the KMT authorities implemented a far-reaching and highly successful land reform program on Taiwan. They redistributed land among small farmers and compensated large landowners with commodities certificates and stock in state-owned industries. Although this left some large landowners impoverished, others turned their compensation into capital and started commercial and industrial enterprises. These entrepreneurs were to become Taiwan's first industrial capitalists.
Since then Taiwan has started to thrive.
Taiwan -- Economy --
Through over five decades of hard work and sound economic management, Taiwan has transformed itself from an underdeveloped, agricultural island to an economic power that is a leading producer of high-technology goods.Taiwan has developed steadily into a major international trading power with $427 billion in two-way trade (2006). Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2002 has expanded its trade opportunities and further strengthened its standing in the global economy. Tremendous prosperity on the island has been accompanied by economic and social stability. Taiwan is now a creditor economy, holding the world's fourth-largest stock of foreign exchange reserves ($261 billion as of August 2007).Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy with gradually decreasing guidance of investment and foreign trade by the government. In keeping with this trend, some large, government-owned banks and industrial firms are being privatized.
The country has a GDP of $681.8 billion and a real growth rate in GDP of 4,7%. Major industries are electronics, petroleum refining, armaments, chemicals, textiles, iron and steel, etc.
Taiwan -- Culture --
The culture of Taiwan is a hybrid blend of Confucianist Han Chinese cultures, Japanese, European, American, global, local and indigenous influences, which are often perceived in both traditional and modern understandings. Reflecting the continuing controversy surrounding the political status of Taiwan, politics continues to play a role in the conception and development of a Taiwanese cultural identity, especially in the prior dominant frame of a Taiwanese-Mainlander dualiism. In recent years, the concept of Taiwanese multiculturalism has been proposed as a relatively apolitical alternative view.
One of Taiwan's greatest attractions is the Palace Museum, which houses over 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting, and porcelain. This collection was moved from the mainland in 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party (KMT) fled to Taiwan. The collection is so extensive that only 1% is on display at any one time.
Taiwan -- Political system, law and government --
The controversy regarding the political status of Taiwan hinges on whether Taiwan, including the Pescadores (Penghu), should remain the effective territory of the Republic of China (ROC), become unified with the territories now governed by the People's Republic of China (PRC), or become the Republic of Taiwan. The controversy over the political status of the Republic of China hinges on whether its existence as a state is legitimate and recognized. In addition, the situation can be confusing because of the different parties and the effort by many groups to deal with the controversy through a policy of deliberate ambiguity. The political solution that is accepted by many of the current groups is the following perspective of the status quo: that is, to unofficially treat Taiwan as a state and at a minimum, to officially declare no support for the government of this state making a formal declaration of independence.
Until 1986, Taiwan's political system was effectively controlled by one party, the Kuomintang (KMT), the chairman of which was also Taiwan's President. Then new political parties were created : The DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) - membership is made up largely of native Taiwanese and its platform includes outspoken positions on some of the most sensitive issues in Taiwan politics; The People First Party (PFP) is composed of former KMT members. PFP and KMT subsequently formed the "Pan-Blue" Alliance to oppose the DPP government. Former KMT President Lee Teng-hui, in turn, broke with the KMT and formed the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) in 2001. The TSU, which advocates changing Taiwan's official name and completely replacing the 1947 constitution, allied itself with the DPP as part of the ruling "Pan-Green" alliance.
The constitution, which was adopted on 25 December 1946, went into effect on 25 December 1947 and was amended in 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2005.