|General background: In 1895, military defeat
forced China to cede Taiwan to Japan, however it 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 1947 constitution drawn up for all of China.
Over the next five decades, the ruling authorities gradually
democratized and incorporated the native population
within its governing structure. This culminated in 2000,
when Taiwan underwent its first peaceful transfer of
power from the Nationalist to the Democratic Progressive
Party. Throughout this period, the island has prospered
to become 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.
Slightly smaller than Maryland and Delaware combined.
Climate: 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.
Population: 22,548,009 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Taiwanese (including Hakka)
84%, mainland Chinese 14%, aborigine 2%
Religions: Mixture of Buddhist, Confucian,
and Taoist 93%, Christian 4.5%, other 2.5%
Language: Mandarin Chinese (official), Taiwanese
(Min), Hakka dialects
Government type: Multiparty democratic regime
headed by popularly elected president and unicameral
Legal system: Based on civil law system; accepts
compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations.
Economic overview: 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 privatised. Real growth
in GDP has averaged about 8% 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 contributes 2% to GDP, down from 35% in
1952. Traditional labour-intensive industries are
steadily being moved offshore and replaced with more
capital- and technology-intensive industries. Taiwan
has become a major investor in China, Thailand, Indonesia,
the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam; 50,000 Taiwanese
businesses are established in 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 1998-99. 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. Unemployment
also reached a level not seen since the 1970s oil
Communication/Telephone system: Provides telecommunications
service for every business and private need.
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