The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Republic of China

The Republic of China (Traditional Chinese: 中華民國; Simplified Chinese: 中华民国; Wade-Giles: Chung-hua Min-kuo, Tongyong Pinyin: JhongHuá MínGuó, Hanyu Pinyin: Zhōnghuá Mínguó) is a multiparty democratic state that consists of the island groups of Taiwan, the Pescadores, Quemoy, and the Matsu. In English, as in Chinese, the name "Taiwan" is often used synonymously with the Republic of China, while the term "China" usually refers to the People's Republic of China, which controls mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

The Republic of China (ROC) succeeded the Qing Dynasty in 1912, ending 2,000 years of imperial rule in China. Its existence on Mainland China was scarred by warlordism, Japanese invasion, and civil war and ended in 1949 when its Kuomintang-controlled government was overthrown by the Chinese Communists. The ROC government then evacuated to Taiwan where it continued to regard itself as the sole legitimate government of China. Meanwhile, the Communists proclaimed the People's Republic of China and claimed to be the successor state of the ROC over all of China, claiming the Nationalist government in Taiwan to be illegitimate.

Although the National Assembly has not redrawn the national boundaries, the ROC government no longer claims sovereignty over mainland China and Mongolia and the tense standoff of the Cold War era has largely subsided. The political status of Taiwan continues to remain a contentious issue on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Reforms enacted by the national government in the 1980s and 1990s have transformed Taiwan from a one-party state ruled mainly by mainland Chinese into a localized, multi-party democracy. As such, to avoid confusion, the English name used by the current Chen Shui-bian administration on most government documents is Republic of China (Taiwan). Due to objections from the PRC, in some international situations, Taiwan is also represented as Chinese Taipei, such as in the Olympic Games.

This article discusses the Republic of China from its beginnings as the former regime of Mainland China to its current existence on Taiwan today.



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

The Republic of China developed out of the Wuchang Uprising against the Qing Dynasty which began on October 10, 1911. The Republic was declared on January 1, 1912, with Sun Yat-sen elected the first interim president. As part of the agreement to have the last emperor Puyi abdicate, Yuan Shikai was officially elected president in 1913. However, Yuan dissolved the ruling Kuomintang and declared himself emperor in 1915.

In response, Yuan's supporters deserted him, and many provinces declared independence and became warlord states. Yuan Shikai died of natural causes in 1916. This thrust China into a decade of warlordism. Sun Yat-sen, forced into exile, returned to Guangdong province with the help of southern warlords in 1917, and set up a rival government. Sun reestablished the Kuomintang in October 1919.

After Sun's death in 1925, General Chiang Kai-shek gained control of the KMT and, with the help of the Soviet Union, led the successful Northern Expedition which effectively defeated the warlords and united China. However, Chiang soon dismissed his Soviet advisors, and purged communists and leftists from the KMT, catalyzing the Chinese Civil War. The 1930s were a decade of growth for the areas under KMT control, while the Communists were being pushed into the interior as Chiang Kai-shek sought to destroy them.

Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and made massive territorial gains during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). With Japan's surrender in 1945, the Republic of China emerged victorious and became one of the founding members of the United Nations.

The civil war resumed and intensified after the Japanese surrender, and when it ended in the Communist Party of China's favor in 1949, Chiang Kai-shek evacuated the nationalist government to the island province of Taiwan, which Japan had surrendered to the Allied Powers in 1945, and declared Taipei the temporary capital of China, bringing some 2 million people from Mainland China. During the Cold War, the Republic of China was seen by the West as "Free China" and a bastion against Communism, so it was recognized as the sole legitimate government of both Mainland China and Taiwan by the UN and many Western nations until the 1970s.

Taiwan remained under martial law, under the name of "Emergency Decree" and one-party rule for four decades until the late 1980s, when Presidents Chiang Ching-kuo and Lee Teng-hui gradually liberalized and democratized the system.

In 2000, Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected president, becoming the first non-KMT constitutional president of the Republic of China.

See also:


Main article: Politics of the Republic of China

The Republic of China has undergone a drastic process of democratisation and reform since the lifting of martial law. This process continues today as the government continues to reform itself.

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.

One key issue has been the political status of Taiwan itself. With the diplomatic isolation brought about in the 1970s and 1980s, the notion of "recovering the mainland" by force has been completely dropped and the Taiwanese localization movement stengthened. The relationship with the People's Republic of China and the related issues of Taiwan independence and Chinese reunification continue to dominate Taiwanese politics.

The political scene in the ROC is divided into two camps, with the pro-unification and center-right Kuomintang, People First Party, and New Party forming the Pan-Blue Coalition, and the pro-independence and center-left Democratic Progressive Party and centrist Taiwan Solidarity Union forming the Pan-Green Coalition.

Supporters of the Pan-Green camp tend to favor emphasisizing Taiwan as being distinct from China. Many Pan-Green supporters seek Taiwanese independence and for dropping the title of the Republic of China. However, more progressive members of the coalition, such as current President Chen Shui-bian, claim that it is unnecessary to proclaim independence because Taiwan is already "an independent, sovereign country" and that the Republic of China is the same as Taiwan. Some members take a much more extreme view about Taiwan's status, claiming that the ROC is nonexistent and calling for the establishment of an independent Republic of Taiwan. Supporters of this idea have even gone as far as issuing passports for their republic.

While the Pan-Green camp favors Taiwan having an identity separate from that of China, Pan-Blue members seem to be strongly supportive of the concept of the Republic of China, which remains an important symbol of their links with China.

For its part, the PRC has indicated that it finds a Republic of China far more acceptable than an independent Taiwan, and ironically, though it views the ROC as an illegitimate entity, it has made it clear that any effort on Taiwan to formally abolish the ROC or formally renounce its claim over the Mainland would result in a strong and possibly military reaction.

Political divisions

Main article: Political divisions of the Republic of China

Current jurisdiction of the Republic of China
Current jurisdiction of the Republic of China

The Republic of China retains administration of all of one, and a small part of a second, of the historical provinces of China, and centrally administers two municipalities:

The Republic of China also administers the Dongsha Islands, which are part of the disputed South China Sea Islands (official part of Hainan, which is part of Guangdong province under the ROC borders).

Additionally, the ROC has not officially renounced sovereignty over Mainland China (including Tibet), outer Mongolia, and Tuva, although in 1991 it stated that it does not challenge the right of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to rule those areas, and it has made some statements that can be interpreted as renouncing sovereignty over the Mainland. One reason the ROC has never officially dropped these claims is fear that the PRC would view such actions as an attempt to separate Taiwan from China, something that Beijing is strongly opposed to, and has even said separatist actions would result in war.

The DPP government under Chen Shui-bian has made moves to ignore such claims (though calling the National Assembly to formally change them has not been proposed), including removing outer Mongolia from the ROC's official maps and the establishment of a representative office in Ulan Bator. Note: Although the ROC government does not actively claim mainland China, the number of provinces on its official maps show 35 provinces, instead of 23 shown on the maps from the PRC. The DPP government has dropped regulations that require Taiwanese map makers to depict the official boundaries.

Foreign relations

Main article: Foreign relations of the Republic of China

The Republic of China continues to be officially recognized by 25 nations, mostly small countries in Central America and Africa but also including the Holy See. The People's Republic of China has a policy of not having diplomatic relations with any nation which recognizes the Republic of China and insists that all nations with which it has diplomatic relations make a statement which recognizes its claims to Taiwan. In practice, most major nations maintain unofficial semi-diplomatic relations with Taiwan and the statement which is required by the PRC is couched in extremely carefully worded ambiguity. In some major nations who do not recognize it, the ROC has representative offices called the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office or the "Taipei Representative Office" for short. Vice-versa, these nations do have trade or economic offices in the ROC like the American Institute in Taiwan, which is the de facto embassy of the United States in the ROC.

The Republic of China was in the United Nations as one of its founding members and held China's seat on the Security Council until 1971, when it was expelled by General Assembly 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. (See China and the United Nations)

Besides the dispute with the PRC over the mainland, the ROC also has a controversial relationship with Mongolia. Until 1945, the ROC claimed jurisdiction over Mongolia, but under Soviet pressure, it recognized Mongolian independence. Shortly thereafter, it repudiated this recognition and continued to claim jurisdiction over Mongolia until recently. Since the late 1990s, the relationship with Mongolia has become a controversial topic. Any move to renounce sovereignty over Mongolia is controversial because it is widely seen as a prelude for renouncing ROC sovereignty over Mainland China thereby declaring Taiwan independence.


Main article: Military of the Republic of China

The Republic of China maintains a large military establishment, mainly as defense against invasion by the People's Republic of China, which is seen as the predominant threat and which has not renounced the use of force against the ROC. Until the 1970s, the military's primary mission was to "retake the mainland."

The ROC's armed forces number approximately 300,000, and reserves reportedly total 3,870,000. The ROC begun its implementation of a force reduction program to scale down its military from a level of 430,000 in the 1990s, and is drawing to a close by 2005. Conscription remains universal for qualified males reaching age 18, but as a part of the reduction effort many are redirected to government agencies or defense related industries.

A significant amount of military hardware is bought from the United States, though in the past the ROC has also purchased hardware from France and the Netherlands.


Main article: Economy of Taiwan

The Republic of China is a member of governmental trade organizations such as the World Trade Organization and APEC under the name Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (台灣、澎湖、金門及馬祖個別關稅領域).

The Republic of China on 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 privatized. Real growth in GDP has averaged about eight percent during the past three decades. Exports have provided the primary impetus for industrialization. The trade surplus is substantial, and foreign reserves are the world's third largest.

Agriculture costitutes only two percent of the GDP, down from 35 percent in 1952. Traditional labor-intensive industries are steadily being moved offshore and replaced with more capital- and technology-intensive industries. Taiwan has become a major investor in Mainland 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 19981999. 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 mainland China, unemployment also reached a level not seen since the 1970s oil crisis. This became a major issue in the presidential election of 2004.

See also: East Asian Tigers


Main article: Demographics of Taiwan

Taiwan's population was estimated in 2003 as being 22.7 million. About 98 percent of the population is of Han Chinese ethnicity. Of these, 84 percent are early Han immigrants referred to as Bensheng ren, which themselves are broken into two groups. These are the Hakka (15 percent of the total population), who are concentrated in Guangdong Province and surrounding areas throughout Taiwan with extensive intermarriage with Taiwanese aborigines, and the Southern Fujianese (70 percent of the total population), who migrated from the coastal Southern Fujian region in the southeast of mainland China. The remaining 14 percent of Han Chinese are the later immigrants, referred to as Waisheng ren ("Mainlanders"). This group fled mainland China in 1949 following the Nationalist defeat in the Chinese Civil War.

The other two percent of Taiwan's population, numbering about 440,000, is the indigenous people, divided into 11 major groups: Ami , Atayal, Paiwan, Bunun, Puyuma, Rukai, Tsou, Saisiyat, Yami, Thao, and Kavalan.

Almost everyone on Taiwan born after the early 1950s can speak Mandarin, which has been the medium of instruction in the schools for more than four decades. A large fraction of people also speak a Southern Fujianese dialect, Min-nan, also known as Taiwanese. The Hakka have a distinct Hakka dialect. Between 1900 and 1945 Japanese was the medium of instruction and can be fluently spoken by many educated during that period. English is also commonly taught in Taiwanese schools, thus resulting in a completely trilangual population, often with people capable of speaking more languages. Chinese romanisation on Taiwan uses both Tongyong pinyin which has been officially adopted by the national government, and Hanyu pinyin which some localities use. Wade-Giles, used traditionally, is also found. Recently, Ma Ying-jiu, the mayor of Taipei, has succeeded in changing all Taiwan street names to the Hanyu form, although most romanizations are still in Tongyong.

About half of the ROC 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. These are not mutually exclusive, and many people practice a combination of the three. Confucianism also is an honored school of thought and ethical code. Christian churches have been active on Taiwan for many years, a majority of which are Protestant, with Presbyterians playing a particularly significant role.


Main article: Culture of Taiwan

The early years of the Republic of China saw the New Cultural Movement, with the gradual liberalization of society. Old imperial practices such as footbinding were discontinued. In accordance with the tradition of changing the style of dress for successive dynasties, Sun Yat-sen popularized the changshan (the female equivalent is qipao). Mao Zedong would later adapt the upper part of changshan and wear the style become known to westerners as the Mao suit.

After the retreat to Taiwan, the Nationalists took many steps to preserve traditional Chinese culture. The government launched a program promoting Chinese calligraphy, traditional Chinese painting, folk art, and Chinese opera. The National Palace Museum opened in Taipei, housing over 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting, and porcelain moved from the mainland in 1949 and accounting for ten percent of China's known cultural artifacts.

Over the years, Taiwan gradually developed a distinct cultural identity (see Taiwan localization movement). Western ideas began to influence local culture, as western dress became popular and western words entered into the Chinese vocabulary.

Until the 1970s, sports teams from the Republic of China continued to play under the name "China," as the Communists largely stayed away from the international sporting scene, due mainly to the Cultural Revolution. However, along with the switch in diplomatic recognition, the titles of sports teams were also transferred. Today, sports teams from the Republic of China usually play under the name "Chinese Taipei" and fly a specially designed non-political flag in place of the flag of the Republic of China.

Calendrical system

Following the imperial tradition of using the sovereign's Chinese era name and year of reign, official ROC documents and most people in Taiwan still use the Min Guo (Chinese: 民國, pinyin: míngúo, literal meaning: "The Country of the People" or in this case, "Republic") system of numbering years in which year one was 1912, the date of the founding of the Republic of China. For example, Year 2005 is the 94th year of "Min Guo" ("94th year of the Republic") or "Min Guo di 94 (jiu shisi) nian" (民國九十四年) in Chinese. As Chinese era names are traditionally two characters long, Min Guo is employed as an abbreviation of the entire ROC title.

See also: Chinese calendar

Miscellaneous topics

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