Country profile: Taiwan
Taiwan is the island which
has for all practical purposes been independent for half a century, but
which China regards as a rebel region that must be reunited with the
mainland - by force if necessary.
China has claimed
sovereignty over Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949,
when the defeated Nationalist government fled to the island as the
Communists, under Mao Zedong, swept to power.
Long-standing tension with the mainland has eased since the
China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office in March 2008. In
July 2009 the leaders of China and Taiwan exchanged direct messages for
the first time in more than 60 years.
The capital's Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world
Mr Ma's predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, had angered China with moves
towards formal independence, and relations had been severely strained.
the recent thaw, Taiwanese officials complain that Beijing has kept
increasing the number of short-range missiles aimed at Taiwan.
the past the military threat from the mainland has been partly offset
by the pivotal relationship between Taipei and Washington, which is the
main weapons supplier to the island - one of the world's biggest buyers
China insists that nations cannot have official
relations with both China and Taiwan, with the result that Taiwan has
formal diplomatic ties with only two dozen countries - Pacific, South
American and African states in the main.
Taiwan has no seat at
the United Nations, having lost it to China in 1971. Repeated attempts
to regain representation at the UN have been blocked.
its diplomatic isolation, Taiwan has become one of Asia's big traders.
It is considered to have achieved an economic miracle, becoming one of
the world's top producers of computer technology.
Taoism followers see in the Lunar New Year in Taipei
And past tensions notwithstanding, Taiwan and China enjoy healthy trade links. China is Taipei's number one export market.
decades, the island was an authoritarian one-party state ruled by the
Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT), which under President Chiang
Kai-shek controlled much of China before the Communists' rise to power
In the early 1990s, however, Taiwan made the
transition to democracy and the KMT's monopoly on power ended
completely in 2000, with the election of President Chen Shui-bian of
the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
KMT, which seeks a united, non-Communist China, Mr Chen was a
passionate supporter of complete secession, straining relations with
Although he won a second term in 2004, persistent
corruption allegations surrounding the president and his family
undermined Mr Chen's popularity, and contributed to the DPP's loss to a
resurgent KMT in the 2008 presidential election.
- Formal name: Republic of China (ROC)
- Population: 23 million (Tourism Bureau, Republic of China, 2009)
- Capital: Taipei
- Area: 36,188 sq km (13,972 sq miles)
- Major languages: Mandarin Chinese (official), Min Nan Chinese (Taiwanese)
- Major religions: Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity
- Life expectancy: 73 years (men), 79 years (women) (government statistics)
- Monetary unit: New Taiwan dollar (NT$)
- Main exports: Computer equipment, textiles, basic metals, equipment, plastic and rubber products, vehicles
- GNI per capita: US $17,230 (World Bank, 2006)
- Internet domain: .tw
- International dialling code: +886
President Ma Ying-jeou
Ma Ying-jeou has cultivated an incorruptible image
Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) candidate Ma Ying-jeou beat the
Democratic Progressive Party's Frank Hsieh in the March 2008
presidential election and was sworn in on 20 May, ending eight years of
Democratic Progressive Party rule.
A lawyer by education, Mr Ma rose through the ranks of the Kuomintang to become the youngest ever cabinet minister in 1988.
justice minister in 1993-1996 he acquired a reputation for combating
corruption, and won back Taipei from the Democratic Progressive Party
in the mayoral elections of 1998.
He led the Kuomintang in
2005-2007, scoring significant wins in the 2005 local elections. He
stepped down from this and the mayoral post in order successfully to
contest allegations of misuse of funds in 2007.
Mr Ma's conciliatory manner has won him respect among opponents in the rough-and-tumble world of Taiwanese politics.
presidential campaign focused on improving relations with mainland
China and helping Taiwan's financial services industry establish itself
In 2009, his policy of rapprochement with Beijing
yielded its first fruits, with the two sides agreeing to facilitate
investment in the island from the mainland, and to start talks on a
far-ranging trade pact.
The media environment in Taiwan is among the freest in Asia, and extremely competitive.
Terrestrial TV networks compete with multichannel operators
There are hundreds of newspapers, all privately-owned and reflecting
a wide range of views. Laws which prohibit the promotion of
independence from China or communism are not generally enforced.
major terrestrial TV networks command the lion's share of viewing and
tend to be politically partisan. The take-up of multichannel cable TV -
about 85% - is the highest in the region.
More than 170 radio
stations are on the air on the island, many of them carrying specific
music formats. Phone-in programmes are particularly popular.
The government has taken steps to end government, military and political party ownership of the broadcast media.
More than 70% of households are connected to the internet.