Taiwan Facts

 

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Taiwan is a state in East Asia. Neighbors include the People’s Republic of China (PRC, commonly known as “China”) to the west, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. Taiwan is the most populous state that is not a member of the United Nations, and the one with the largest economy.

The island of Taiwan was mainly inhabited by Taiwanese aborigines before the 17th century, when Dutch and Spanish colonies opened the island to Han Chinese immigration. After a brief rule by the Kingdom of Tungning, the island was annexed by the Qing dynasty, the last dynasty of China. The Qing ceded Taiwan to Japan in 1895 after the Sino-Japanese War. While Taiwan was under Japanese rule, the Republic of China (ROC) was established on the mainland in 1912 after the fall of the Qing dynasty. Following the Japanese surrender to the Allies in 1945, the ROC took control of Taiwan. However, the resumption of the Chinese Civil War led to the ROC’s loss of the mainland to the Communists, and the flight of the ROC government to Taiwan in 1949. Although the ROC continued to claim to be the legitimate government of “all of China” until 1991, its effective jurisdiction since 1949 has been limited to Taiwan and its surrounding islands, with the main island making up 99% of its de facto territory.

In the early 1960s, Taiwan entered a period of rapid economic growth and industrialization, creating a stable industrial economy. In the 1980s and early 1990s, it changed from a one-party military dictatorship dominated by the Kuomintang to a multi-party democracy with universal suffrage. Taiwan is the 21st-largest economy in the world, and its high-tech industry plays a key role in the global economy. It is ranked highly in terms of freedom of the press, health care, public education, economic freedom, and human development.

The ROC continued to represent China at the United Nations until 1971, when the PRC assumed China’s seat, causing the ROC to lose its UN membership. The PRC has consistently claimed sovereignty over Taiwan, and refused diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes the ROC. Today only a few smaller nations recognize the ROC as the sole legal representative of China, but many other states maintain unofficial ties through representative offices and institutions that function as de facto embassies and consulates. Though entirely self-governing, Taiwan is barred from many international organizations, or allowed to participate only as a non-state actor. Internally, the major division in politics is between the aspirations of eventual Chinese unification or Taiwanese independence, though both sides have moderated their positions to broaden their appeal. The PRC has threatened the use of military force in response to any formal declaration of independence by Taiwan or if PRC leaders decide that peaceful unification is no longer possible.

Capital     :     Taipei

Currency :     New Taiwan dollar or Taiwan Dollar (NT$ or TWD)

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Population:   23,415,126

Total Area :   13,892 Square Miles 35,980 Square Kilometers

Languages

Chinese: Mandarin (official), Taiwanese (Min), Hakka dialects

Mandarin is the official national language and is spoken by the vast majority of the population of Taiwan. It has been the primary language of instruction in schools since the end of Japanese rule. As in Hong Kong and Macau, Traditional Chinese is used as the writing system in Taiwan.

The 70% of the population belonging to the Hoklo ethnic group speak Taiwanese Hokkien (a variant of the Min Nan speech of Fujian province) as their mother tongue, in addition to Mandarin, and many others have some degree of understanding. The Hakka ethnic group (15% of the population) use Hakka Chinese. Most waishengren speak primarily Mandarin. Although Mandarin is the language of instruction in schools and dominates television and radio, non-Mandarin Chinese varieties have undergone a revival in public life in Taiwan, particularly since restrictions on their use were lifted in the 1990s.

Taiwan’s indigenous languages, the Formosan languages, do not belong to the Chinese or Sino-Tibetan language family, but rather to the Austronesian language family. Their use among Taiwan’s aboriginal minority groups has been in decline as usage of Mandarin has risen. Of the 14 extant languages, five are considered moribund.

Geography

The total area of the current jurisdiction of the Republic of China is 36,193 km2 (13,974 sq mi), making it the world’s 137th-largest country/dependency, smaller than Switzerland and larger than Belgium.

The island of Taiwan lies some 180 kilometres (110 mi) off the southeastern coast of mainland China, which lies across the Taiwan Strait, and has an area of 35,883 km2 (13,855 sq mi). The East China Sea lies to the north, the Philippine Sea to the east, the Bashi Channel of the Luzon Strait directly to the south, and the South China Sea to the southwest. All are arms of the Pacific Ocean. The shape of the main island of Taiwan is similar to a sweet potato or tobacco leaf seen in a south-to-north direction, and therefore, Taiwanese (especially Min Nan speakers) often call themselves “children of the Sweet Potato.”

The island 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 Chianan Plains in the west that are also home to most of Taiwan’s population. Taiwan’s highest point is Yu Shan (Jade Mountain) at 3,952 metres (12,966 ft); Taiwan is the world’s fourth-highest island.

The Penghu Islands, 50 km (31.1 mi) west of the main island, have an area of 126.9 km2 (49.0 sq mi). More distant islands controlled by the Republic of China are the Kinmen, Wuchiu and Matsu Islands off the coast of Fujian, with a total area of 180.5 km2 (69.7 sq mi), and the Pratas Islands and Taiping Island in the South China Sea, with a total area of 2.9 km2 (1.1 sq mi) and no permanent inhabitants.

Climate

Taiwan lies on the Tropic of Cancer, and its general climate is marine tropical. The northern and central regions are subtropical, whereas the south is tropical and the mountainous regions are temperate. The average rainfall is 2,600 mm per year for the island proper; the rainy season is concurrent with the onset of the summer East Asian Monsoon in May and June. The entire island experiences hot, humid weather from June through September. Typhoons are most common in July, August and September. During the winter (November to March), the northeast experiences steady rain, while the central and southern parts of the island are mostly sunny.

Religion

The Constitution of the Republic of China protects people’s freedom of religion and the practices of belief. There are approximately 18,718,600 religious followers in Taiwan as of 2005 (81.3% of total population) and 14–18% are non-religious. According to the 2005 census, of the 26 religions recognized by the ROC government, the five largest are: Buddhism (8,086,000 or 35.1%), Taoism (7,600,000 or 33%), Yiguandao (810,000 or 3.5%), Protestantism (605,000 or 2.6%), and Roman Catholicism (298,000 or 1.3%).

The CIA World Factbook reports that over 93% of Taiwanese are adherents of a combination of the polytheistic Chinese popular religion, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism; 4.5% are adherents of Christianity, which includes Protestants, Catholics, and other, non-denominational, Christian groups; and less than 2.5% are adherents of other religions. Taiwanese aborigines comprise a notable subgroup among professing Christians: “…over 64% identify as Christian… Church buildings are the most obvious markers of Aboriginal villages, distinguishing them from Taiwanese or Hakka villages.”

Confucianism is a philosophy that deals with secular moral ethics, and serves as the foundation of both Chinese and Taiwanese culture. The majority of Taiwanese people usually combine the secular moral teachings of Confucianism with whatever religions they are affiliated with.

As of 2009, there were 14,993 temples in Taiwan, approximately one place of worship per 1,500 residents. 9,202 of those temples were dedicated to Taoism. In 2008, Taiwan had 3,262 Churches, an increase of 145.

Public health

Health care in Taiwan is managed by the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI).

The current program was implemented in 1995, and is considered to be a form of social insurance. The government health insurance program maintains compulsory insurance for citizens who are employed, impoverished, unemployed, or victims of natural disasters with fees that correlate to the individual and/or family income; it also maintains protection for non-citizens working in Taiwan. A standardized method of calculation applies to all persons and can optionally be paid by an employer or by individual contributions.

BNHI insurance coverage requires co-payment at the time of service for most services unless it is a preventative health service, for low-income families, veterans, and children under three years old, or in the case of catastrophic diseases. Low income households maintain 100% premium coverage by the BNHI and co-pays are reduced for disabled or certain elderly peoples.

According to a recently published survey, out of 3,360 patients surveyed at a randomly chosen hospital, 75.1% of the patients said they are “very satisfied” with the hospital service; 20.5% said they are “okay” with the service. Only 4.4% of the patients said they are either “not satisfied” or “very not satisfied” with the service or care provided.

Taiwan has its own Center for Disease Control, and during the SARS outbreak in March 2003 there were 347 confirmed cases. During the outbreak the Centers for Disease Control and local governments set up monitored stations throughout public transportation, recreational sites and other public areas. With full containment in July 2003, there has not been a case of SARS since.

Culture

The cultures of Taiwan are a hybrid blend of various sources, incorporating elements of traditional Chinese culture, attributable to the historical and ancestry origin of the majority of its current residents, Japanese culture, traditional Confucianist beliefs, and increasingly Western values.

After their move to Taiwan, the Kuomintang imposed an official interpretation of traditional Chinese culture over Taiwan. The government launched a program promoting Chinese calligraphy, traditional Chinese painting, folk art, and Chinese opera.

The status of Taiwanese culture is debated. It is disputed whether Taiwanese culture is a regional form of Chinese culture or a distinct culture. 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 and Chinese dualism. In recent years, the concept of Taiwanese multiculturalism has been proposed as a relatively apolitical alternative view, which has allowed for the inclusion of mainlanders and other minority groups into the continuing re-definition of Taiwanese culture as collectively held systems of meaning and customary patterns of thought and behavior shared by the people of Taiwan. 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 and music.

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 and is considered one of the greatest collections of Chinese art and objects in the world. The KMT moved this collection from the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1933 and part of the collection was eventually transported to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. The collection, estimated to be one-tenth of China’s cultural treasures, is so extensive that only 1% is on display at any time. The PRC had said that the collection was stolen and has called for its return, but the ROC has long defended its control of the collection as a necessary act to protect the pieces from destruction, especially during the Cultural Revolution. Relations regarding this treasure have warmed recently; Beijing Palace Museum Curator Zheng Xinmiao said that artifacts in both Chinese and Taiwanese museums are “China’s cultural heritage jointly owned by people across the Taiwan Strait.”

The classical music culture in Taiwan is highly developed and features artists such as violinist Cho-Liang Lin, pianist Ching-Yun Hu, and the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society Artist Director Wu Han. Karaoke, drawn from contemporary Japanese culture, is extremely popular in Taiwan, where it is known as KTV. KTV businesses operate in a hotel-like style, renting out small rooms and ballrooms varying on the number of guests in a group. Many KTV establishments partner with restaurants and buffets to form all-encompassing elaborate evening affairs for families, friends, or businessmen. Tour buses that travel around Taiwan have several TV’s, equipped not for watching movies, but primarily for singing Karaoke. The entertainment counterpart of a KTV is an MTV, being found much less frequently out of the city. There, movies out on DVD can be selected and played in a private theater room. However, MTV, more so than KTV, has a growing reputation for being a place that young couples will go to be alone and intimate.

Education, research, and academia

The higher education system was established in Taiwan by Japan during the colonial period. However, after the Republic of China took over Taiwan from Japan in 1945, the system was promptly replaced by the same system as in mainland China which mixed with features of the Chinese and American educational systems.

The educational system includes six years of elementary school, three years of middle school, three years of high school, and four years of university. The system has been successful in that pupils in Taiwan boast some of the highest test scores in the world, especially in mathematics and science; However, it has also been criticized for placing excessive pressure on students and eschewing creativity in favor of rote memorization.

Many Taiwanese students attend cram schools, or bushiban, to improve skills and knowledge on problem solving against exams of subjects like mathematics, nature science, history and many others. Courses are available for most popular subjects. Lessons are organized in lectures, reviews, private tutorial sessions, and recitations.

As of 2013, the literacy rate in Taiwan is 97.15%.

Sports

Baseball is Taiwan’s national sport and it is a popular spectator sport. Two of the most famous Taiwanese baseball pitchers are Chien-Ming Wang and Wei-Yin Chen; both are starting pitchers in Major League Baseball. Other notable players playing in the United States include Chin-hui Tsao who played for the Colorado Rockies (2003–2005) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2007), Hong-Chih Kuo, Fu-Te Ni, and Chin-lung Hu. The Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan was established in 1989, and eventually absorbed the competing Taiwan Major League in 2003. As of 2015, the CPBL has four teams with average attendance over 5,000 per game.

Besides baseball, basketball is Taiwan’s major sport. Taekwondo has also become a mature and successful sport in recent years. In the 2004 Olympics, Chen Shih-hsin and Chu Mu-yen won the first two gold medals in women’s flyweight event and men’s flyweight event, respectively. Subsequent taekwondo competitors such as Yang Shu-chun have strengthened Taiwan’s taekwondo culture.

Taiwan participates in international sporting organizations and events under the name of “Chinese Taipei” due to its political status. In 2009, Taiwan hosted two international sporting events on the island. The World Games 2009 were held in Kaohsiung between 16 and 26 July 2009. Taipei hosted the 21st Summer Deaflympics in September of the same year. Furthermore, Taipei will host the Summer Universiade in 2017.

Taiwan is also a major Asian country for Korfball. In 2008, Taiwan hosted the World Youth Korfball Championship and took the silver medal. In 2009, Taiwan’s korfball team won a bronze medal at the World Game.

Yani Tseng is the most famous Taiwanese professional golfer currently playing on the U.S.-based LPGA Tour. She is the youngest player ever, male or female, to win five major championships and had been ranked number 1 in the Women’s World Golf Rankings for 109 consecutive weeks from 2011 to 2013.

Transportation

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications of the Republic of China is the cabinet-level governing body of the transportation network in Taiwan. Taiwan has an extensive highway network, classified into five levels: National highways, provincial highways, county routes, township routes, and special routes, with the first four being common. Taiwan also has an extensive bus network, which are mostly run by private bus companies. There are two rail systems in Taiwan: Taiwan Railway Administration and Taiwan High Speed Rail. The Taipei Metro and the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit serve the Taipei metropolitan area and Kaohsiung, respectively. The Taoyuan Metro and Taichung Metro are currently under construction. Major airports include Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taipei Songshan Airport, Kaohsiung International Airport, and Taichung Airport. The four international seaports are the Port of Keelung, the Port of Kaohsiung, the Port of Taichung, and the Port of Hualien.

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