Facts about Taiwan

World Facts Index > Taiwan > Kaohsiung, Taipei

Buddhist temple in Taipei, TaiwanIn 1895, military defeat forced China to cede Taiwan to Japan. Taiwan reverted to Chinese control after World War II. Following the Communist victory on the mainland in 1949, 2 million Nationalists fled to Taiwan and established a government using the 1946 constitution drawn up for all of China. Over the next five decades, the ruling authorities gradually democratized and incorporated the local population within the governing structure. In 2000, Taiwan underwent its first peaceful transfer of power from the Nationalist to the Democratic Progressive Party. Throughout this period, the island prospered and became one of East Asia's economic "Tigers." The dominant political issues continue to be the relationship between Taiwan and China - specifically the question of eventual unification - as well as domestic political and economic reform.

Geography of Taiwan

Eastern Asia, islands bordering the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, South China Sea, and Taiwan Strait, north of the Philippines, off the southeastern coast of China
23 30 N, 121 00 E
total: 35,980 sq km
note: includes the Pescadores, Matsu, and Quemoy
water: 3,720 sq km
land: 32,260 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than Maryland and Delaware combined
Land boundaries:
0 km
1,566.3 km
Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
tropical; marine; rainy season during southwest monsoon (June to August); cloudiness is persistent and extensive all year
eastern two-thirds mostly rugged mountains; flat to gently rolling plains in west
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: Yu Shan 3,952 m
Natural resources:
small deposits of coal, natural gas, limestone, marble, and asbestos
Natural hazards:
earthquakes and typhoons
Environment current issues:
air pollution; water pollution from industrial emissions, raw sewage; contamination of drinking water supplies; trade in endangered species; low-level radioactive waste disposal
Geography - note:
strategic location adjacent to both the Taiwan Strait and the Luzon Strait

Population of Taiwan

22,920,946 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 19.4% (male 2,330,951/female 2,140,965)
15-64 years: 70.8% (male 8,269,421/female 8,040,169)
65 years and over: 9.8% (male 1,123,429/female 1,131,152)
Median age:
34.6 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
6.29 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.43 years
male: 74.67 years
female: 80.47 years
Fertility rate:
1.57 children born/woman
noun: Chinese/Taiwanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Chinese/Taiwanese
Ethnic groups:
Taiwanese (including Hakka) 84%, mainland Chinese 14%, aborigine 2%
mixture of Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist 93%, Christian 4.5%, other 2.5%
Mandarin Chinese (official), Taiwanese (Min), Hakka dialects
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96.1%


Country name:
conventional short form: Taiwan
local short form: T'ai-wan
former: Formosa
Government type:
multiparty democratic regime headed by popularly-elected president and unicameral legislature
Administrative divisions:
includes central island of Taiwan plus numerous smaller islands near central island and off coast of China's Fujian Province; Taiwan is divided into 18 counties (hsien, singular and plural), 5 municipalities (shih, singular and plural), and 2 special municipalities (chuan-shih, singular and plural)
National holiday:
Republic Day (Anniversary of the Chinese Revolution), 10 October (1911)
25 December 1946; amended in 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2005
Legal system:
based on civil law system
20 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President MA Ying-jeou (since 20 May 2008); Vice President Vincent SIEW (since 20 May 2008)
head of government: Premier (President of the Executive Yuan) LIO Chao-shiuan (since 20 May 2008); Vice Premier (Vice President of Executive Yuan) Paul CHIU (CHANG-hsiung) (since 20 May 2008)
cabinet: Executive Yuan - (ministers appointed by president on recommendation of premier)
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms (eligible for a second term); premier appointed by the president; vice premiers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the premier.
Legislative branch:
Legislative Yuan (225 seats - 168 elected by popular vote, 41 elected on basis of proportion of islandwide votes received by participating political parties, eight elected from overseas Chinese constituencies on basis of proportion of island-wide votes received by participating political parties, eight elected by popular vote among aboriginal populations; members serve three-year terms); National Assembly (300 seat nonstanding body; delegates nominated by parties and elected by proportional representation six to nine months after Legislative Yuan calls to amend Constitution, impeach president, or change national borders) - see note
note: as a result of constitutional amendments approved by National Assembly in June 2005, number of seats in legislature will be reduced from 225 to 113 beginning with election in 2007; amendments also eliminated National Assembly thus giving Taiwan a unicameral legislature
Judicial branch:
Judicial Yuan (justices appointed by the president with consent of the Legislative Yuan)
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Taiwan independence movement, various business and environmental groups
note: debate on Taiwan independence has become acceptable within the mainstream of domestic politics on Taiwan; political liberalization and the increased representation of opposition parties in Taiwan's legislature have opened public debate on the island's national identity; a broad popular consensus has developed that Taiwan currently enjoys de facto independence and - whatever the ultimate outcome regarding reunification or independence - that Taiwan's people must have the deciding voice; advocates of Taiwan independence oppose the stand that the island will eventually unify with mainland China; goals of the Taiwan independence movement include establishing a sovereign nation on Taiwan and entering the UN; other organizations supporting Taiwan independence include the World United Formosans for Independence and the Organization for Taiwan Nation Building.


Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy with gradually decreasing guidance of investment and foreign trade by the authorities. In keeping with this trend, some large, state-owned banks and industrial firms are being privatized. Exports have provided the primary impetus for industrialization. The island runs a large trade surplus, and its foreign reserves are among the world's largest. Despite restrictions on cross-strait links, China has overtaken the US to become Taiwan's largest export market and its second-largest source of imports after Japan. China is also the island's number one destination for foreign direct investment. Strong trade performance in 2007 pushed Taiwan's GDP growth rate above 5%, and unemployment is below 4%.

$698.6 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.8%
industry: 25.9%
services: 72.3%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
10.6 million
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 6%
industry: 35.8%
services: 58.2%
revenues: $41.67 billion
expenditures: $50.26 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 71.4%
hydro: 6%
other: 0%
nuclear: 22.6%
electronics, petroleum refining, chemicals, textiles, iron and steel, machinery, cement, food processing
rice, corn, vegetables, fruit, tea; pigs, poultry, beef, milk, fish
computer products and electrical equipment, metals, textiles, plastics and rubber products, chemicals
Export partners:
China 21.6%, US 16.22%, Hong Kong 15.1%, Japan 7.7%
machinery and electrical equipment 44.5%, minerals, precision instruments
Import partners:
Japan 25.3%, US 11.6%, China 11%, South Korea 7.3%
new Taiwan dollar (TWD)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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