Taiwan (; Taiwanese: Tâi-oân) is an island nation in in East Asia located off the coast of mainland China in the Pacific Ocean. It is also known by its Portuguese name Ilha Formosa, which means "beautiful island."
Political Status of Taiwan
Main articles: Republic of China, political status of Taiwan
Taiwan is democratically governed by the Republic of China, which also controlled mainland China from 1912 to 1949. In particular, the geographical island of Taiwan contains the following provincial-level divisions of the ROC: Taipei City, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan Province (which is not to be confused with the PRC's view that all of Taiwan is a renegade province), and Fu-chien Province. Since the ROC is almost wholly composed of Taiwan island, the word "Taiwan" is commonly used synonymously with the Republic of China, while the word "China" is used to refer to areas under the control of the People's Republic of China.
Because the ROC has its roots in the former government of mainland China before its 1949 defeat by the Communist Party of China, while maintaining authoritarian one-party rule, the ruling Kuomintang claimed the Republic of China to be the legitimate government of all of China and established Taipei as its provisional capital. Since the early 1990s, the claim over mainland China is no longer pursued, especially after the end of KMT one-party rule and the promotion of democratic elections and localization. Jhongsing Village in central Taiwan near the city of Taichung is the capital of Taiwan province.
The political status of Taiwan is a controversial issue. Since Japan formally renounced all right, claim, and title to Formosa (Taiwan) and the Pescadores (Peng-hu) in the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 and the Treaty of Taipei of 1952, the sovereignty of Taiwan is highly debated. Although Taiwan enjoys de facto independence, the People's Republic of China considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory and the Republic of China a defunct, and therefore illegitimate entity. The position of the Chen Shui-bian administration is that Taiwan is synonymous with the Republic of China, and therefore an independent and sovereign state whose legitimacy lies in popular sovereignty. In addition, a vocal independence movement exists on Taiwan either rejecting the legality of ROC or calling for the creation of a Republic of Taiwan in place of the ROC. Additionally, there are people in Taiwan who favor eventual Chinese reunification. The overwhelming majority of the citizens of the Republic of China (whether they regard themselves as Taiwanese or Chinese) support the continuation of the status quo, which itself is ambiguous. The KMT (which is pro-unification in the long run) supports the status quo for the indefinite future because unification under the Communist Party is unacceptable to its members and the public. The Democratic Progressive Party (pro-independence in the long run) supports the status quo because the risk of officially declaring independence and provoking the Communist Chinese to try to invade is unacceptable to its members. The numbers who answer favorably toward any particular resolution often changes depending on the particular wording of the question, making it difficult to ascertain an unbiased view of the people's wishes.
Main article: History of Taiwan
An expeditionary force from mainland China discovers the island in 239 during the Three Kingdoms period.
Until Taiwan was colonized by the Dutch in the seventeenth century, attempts by groups other than the Taiwanese aboriginal to settle Taiwan failed.
Taiwan was discovered by the European nations when a Portuguese ship sighted the island and dubbed it "Ilha Formosa", or "Beautiful Island" in Portuguese. The Portuguese made no attempt to colonize Taiwan though.
While it is possible that the Chinese and Japanese attempted to settle it, no such attempts succeeded until the brief period of Dutch control between 1624 and 1662. It was primarily around that period that Taiwan's indigenous population was first joined and intermarried with male traders and seasonal workers from Mainland China. The Dutch made Taiwan a colony with its colonial capital at Tainan.
The Dutch were ousted from the island in 1662 by Cheng Cheng-Kung (also known as Koxinga), a former pirate who styled himself as a Ming loyalist, and who hoped to marshal his troops on the island. Cheng therefore established the Kingdom of Tungning (1662-1683). Creating Tainan as his capital, the Cheng Dynasty launched several raids on the coast of China's Fujian Province, where he tried to liberate China from the Manchu Dynasty installed in 1644 and re-instate the last king of the Ming, who had fled to Burma.
Taiwan was then under the uninterupted control of China for about 212 years between (1683-1895) during the Qing Dynasty. Following the defeat of Cheng's grandson to an armada led by Admiral Shi Lang, Cheng's followers were expatriated to the furthest reaches of the Qing empire, leaving approximately 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 renters of the large plots of 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, where China lost a war to Japan, 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.
On May 25, 1895, the Republic of Taiwan was formed to resist impending Japanese rule with its capital in Tainan. This resistance was quelled on October 21, 1895, when Japanese forces entered the then capital city of Tainan. During the colonial period, the Japanese used the French model of an occupying power, and were instrumental in the industrialization of the island; they built railroads, a sanitation system, and a public school system, amongst other things. Around 1935, the Japanese began an island-wide assimilation project in order to more firmly bind the island to the Japanese Empire. By 1945, desperate plans were in place to incorporate popular representation of Taiwan in the Diet in order to end military colonial rule of the island.
Following the end of World War II in 1945, under the terms of the Instrument of Surrender of Japan, which is an armistice and Modus Vivendi ending the WWII, Japan provisionally accepted the Potsdam Declaration which referenced the Cairo Declaration under which the island was to be transferred to the Republic of China. The ROC troops were authorized to come to Taiwan to accept the surrender of Japanese military forces in General Order No. 1 issued by General Douglas MacArthur on September 2, 1945, and were later transported to Keelung by the U.S. Navy. The ROC troops were initially hesitant to accept the surrender of the Japanese garrison and undertake military occupation of the island.
The resulting ROC military administration under Chen Yi was extremely corrupt. This, compounded with distrust due to the cultural differences of the natives and the newcomers, quickly led to the loss of popular support for the new administration, culminating in a series of severe clashes between the mainland military administration and native Taiwanese, in turn leading to the bloody 228 incident in which government troops massacred as many as 30,000 protestors. In the San Francisco Peace Treaty which came into force on April 28, 1952 and the Treaty of Taipei which came into force on August 5, 1952, Japan formally renounced all right, claim, and title to Formosa (Taiwan) and the Pescadores (a.k.a. Peng-hu). The treaty remained silent about who the island would be transferred to, in part to avoid taking sides in the ongoing Chinese Civil War. This has been used by advocates of Taiwan independence to justify self-determination.
The Kuomintang (Nationalist Party or KMT), which at the time controlled the government of the ROC, retreated to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War (between the KMT and the Communist Party of China) ended in the Communists' favor in 1949, bringing with them some 2 million refugees from Mainland China. Since then, Taiwan has developed a prosperous and dynamic economy, becoming one of the East Asian Tigers.
Taiwan remained under martial law for four decades until 1987 and one-party rule until 1991 when President Chiang Ching-kuo gradually liberalized and democratized the system. Upon his death, Vice-President Lee Teng-hui succeeded him as President of the ROC and Chairman of the KMT and made great strides in developing democracy in Taiwan. Lee became the first native Taiwanese to become the president during the KMT rule in Taiwan. KMT rule over Taiwan ended with the election of Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party in 2000 and 2004.
Main article: Political divisions of the Republic of China
Taiwan Island contains all but one county of Taiwan Province: 15 counties and all five province-administered cities. Penghu (the Pescadores) is the only county in Taiwan province which is not on Taiwan. Taiwan's two largest cities, Taipei City and Kaohsiung City, although on the island of Taiwan, are not part of the Taiwan Province, but centrally administered municipalities, with the same level as provinces.
Since 1998, the provincial tier of government has been largely eliminated, leaving the county the main division under the central government. Currently, in addition to the main island of Taiwan, the Republic of China also controls the Pescadores, Kinmen (Quemoy), and Matsu islands situated in the Taiwan Strait, plus some Pacific Coast islands (notably the Green and Orchid islands). Furthermore, the ROC also claims some islands in the South China Sea. Some of these outer islands, notably the Spratly (Nansha) islands in the South China Sea and the Senkaku (Diaoyutai) islands in the Pacific Coast, are also simultaneously claimed by several other countries in the region.
Main article: Geography of Taiwan
The island of Taiwan lies some 200 km off the southeastern coast of 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 3,952 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.
Main article: Culture of Taiwan
Taiwan's culture is a blend of traditional Chinese with western and Asian influences. The Taiwanese aboriginals also have a distinct culture. Fine arts, folk traditions, and popular culture embody traditional and modern, Asian, and Western motifs. One of Taiwan's greatest attractions is the National 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, estimated to be a tenth of China's cultural treasures, is so extensive that only 1% is on display at any one time.
Most people in Taiwan speak both Mandarin and Taiwanese. Mandarin is taught in schools, however most spoken media is split between Mandarin and Taiwanese. Speaking Taiwanese under the localization movement has become a way for the majority Taiwanese to distinguish themselves from the Mainlander group. The Hakka, who make about 10 percent of the population, have a distinct Hakka language. The aboriginal minority groups still speak their native languages, but most of them can also speak Mandarin and Taiwanese.
A majority 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 including ancestral worship. 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.
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Last updated: 10-16-2005 08:39:43