|Official: Republic of China, not internationally recognized|
|Official language||Chinese (Mandarin)|
|Form of government||Parliamentary republic|
|Currency||New Taiwan dollars|
|Time zone||UTC +8 = CET +7 (no daylight saving time)|
|Telephone area code||00886 (Source: ALLCITYCODES)|
The island of Taiwan (officially: Republic of China, not internationally recognized) is located in the western Pacific and is separated from the Chinese mainland by Formosa Street (distance approx. 160 km). The country consists of the main island of Taiwan, the Penghu Islands (also known as the Pescadores Islands, 127 km²), the Quemoy Islands (150 km²) and the Matsu Islands (29 km²). In total, the country covers 85 islands and an area of 36,000 km². The main island of Taiwan is also known under the name Formosa (Ilha Formosa = beautiful island), which was given to it by Portuguese sailors.
The island of Taiwan consists of three quarters of mountains, the rest is lowland, which is mainly in the west of the island. The coastal plain in western Taiwan is between eight and 45 km wide and merges to the east in the hilly country. The east and the center of the island are occupied by three almost parallel mountain ranges of volcanic origin, which rise to heights of over 3,000 m. Numerous cross valleys break up the mountains. In the Chungyang Mountains, which adjoin the slowly rising hills in the west, there is the highest elevation in the country, the Yu Shan (Jadeberg) with a height of 3,997 m.
The Taitung Trench separates the Chungyang Mountains from the Haian Mountains further to the east (up to approx. 1,600 m). This falls in steep steps to the Pacific, on the east coast there are cliffs up to 700 m high. The capital, Taipei, is in the north of the island on the coast. A large number of rivers originate in the mountains, but only the 160 km long Tanshui in the north of the country is navigable.
Taiwan lies in the transition area from the subtropical to the tropical climate. Hot summers and warm winters are characteristic, with temperatures rising slightly from north to south: The average January temperatures in the coastal plain are around 15 °C in the north and around two degrees more in the south. In the capital, Taipei, in the north of the country, they are also around 15 °C in January. It is correspondingly cooler at high altitudes in the mountains, in areas in the Chungyang Mountains there is permanent frost in winter. In July the average values in Taipei and in the south of the coastal area are at 28 °C. The annual rainfall in the north averages 2,200 mm, in the mountains the values can be significantly higher. The rain falls mostly in the summer months. In the south, quantities of around 1,800 mm are measured annually, it hardly rains here in winter. In Taiwan, hurricanes (typhoons) can occur in summer.
Flora and fauna
Around 55% of Taiwan’s land area is forested. Mangrove forests grow directly on the coast in the west; bamboo, palm and acacia forests follow up to a height of approx. 800 m. Subtropical evergreen forests, for example with Japanese feather and camphor trees, grow at altitudes between approx. 1,000 and 1,800 m. Above 2,000 m there is a mixed forest zone with beech, elm and maple that changes into a coniferous forest zone (from approx. 2,600 m). Grass and cushion plants can be found above 3,000 m.
Although Taiwan is very densely populated, the island is rich in wildlife. Several national parks and protected areas have been set up to protect them. However, many of the animal species that have occurred have become rare or threatened with extinction, including, for example, Formosa black bear, Sika deer, Mikadofasan, crested gibbon and rock monkey, which can only be found in remote regions. Over 500 species of birds are known on the island, over half of which are migratory birds.
A total of around 22.7 million people live in Taiwan. The average population density is 631 people per square kilometer, making Taiwan one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Population growth is currently 0.4% and is relatively low compared to other Asian countries. Around 92% of the people of Taiwan live in cities, the capital Taipei is the largest city with 2.62 million residents, followed by Gaoxiong Kaohsiung) with around 1.52 million, Taizhong (1.02 million) and Tainan (750,000). All major cities are located on the western coastal plain, the mountainous interior is hardly populated.
According to COUNTRYAAH, 84% of the population of Taiwan describe themselves as Taiwanese and are descendants of Chinese settlers who immigrated to the island from southern China between the 17th and 19th centuries. Approx. 14% of the population are mainland Chinese, ie they came to Taiwan after 1945. Around 2% belong to the Malay-Polynesian Gaoschan, which can be divided into nine main tribes and which are considered to be descendants of the indigenous people of Taiwan.
Just over 40% of the population of Taiwan are committed to Buddhism, about 48% to the teachings of Confucius and Daoism, both of which are often practiced syncretistically. Christians and Muslims form religious minorities. The official language in Taiwan is Chinese (Mandarin). Taiwanese (a Chinese dialect) and English as the commercial language are also used.
The living standard of the Taiwanese population is high compared to the Asian region. The country has a well-developed social and health system that also applies in rural areas. The average life expectancy is 77 years. The illiteracy rate is given as 4%.
The Republic of China, as Taiwan is officially called, is a parliamentary republic by the 1947 constitution, but has never officially declared itself independent. The head of state is the president directly elected by the people for a term of four years (Ma Ying-jeou since May 2008), who may only be re-elected once. He has extensive powers and appoints the Prime Minister (Jiang Yi-huah since February 2013) to head the government (Executive Yuan).
The highest legislative body in Taiwan is the Legislative Council (Legislative Yuan). Its 113 deputies are elected by the people in a combined majority and proportional representation for a term of four years. The Legislative Council is responsible for passing laws and reviews the government. A total of over 90 political parties are approved in Taiwan, but the two most important by far are the Kuomintang National People’s Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
With few exceptions, Taiwan is not recognized internationally as a representative of China under international law or as an independent state. The People’s Republic of China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has repeatedly threatened military action in the event that Taiwan officially declares independence. In fact, Taiwan meets all the criteria to be considered an independent state.
At the administrative level, the country is divided into five districts (shih), 14 counties and three special districts (chuan-shih).
Taiwan is now one of the most important economies in the world. The country has developed from an agricultural to a modern industrialized country through foreign investments (primarily from the USA) and joint ventures with other countries.
Agriculture still contributed around 35% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the mid-1950s, currently it is less than 2%. Only about 5% of the workforce is employed here. Rice is the main crop, and the favorable climate sometimes allows up to three harvests a year. Sugar cane, cereals, vegetables, fruit and tea are also grown. Pig and poultry farming dominate in livestock farming. Fishing and fish farming (squid, tuna, eel) are important for export.
Industry contributes a good quarter to GDP. In addition to the textile and clothing industry, the metal, chemical and petrochemical industries, as well as vehicle and mechanical engineering are decisive. Since the late 1980s, Taiwan has become one of the leading hardware manufacturers in the computer industry. Tourism plays an important role in Taiwan as a source of foreign exchange.
The PRC was also Taiwan’s most important trading partner in 2013, ahead of Japan, the United States, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The transport system is very well developed in the coastal lowlands in the west of the island. A total of around 38,000 kilometers are available on paved roads. The country’s rail networks have a total length of 1,841 kilometers. A high-speed train connects the two largest cities in Taiwan, Taipei in the north and Kaohsiung in the southwest. The ports of Gaoxiong (Kaohsiung) and Keelung are of great importance. The main international airport is at Taipei.
The currency is the New Taiwan Dollar (= 100 cents).