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In 1895, military defeat forced China's Qing Dynasty to cede Taiwan to Japan. Taiwan came under Chinese Nationalist control after World War II. Following the communist victory on the mainland in 1949, 2 million Nationalists fled to Taiwan and established a government under the 1947 constitution drawn up for all of China. Beginning in the 1950s, the ruling authorities gradually democratized and incorporated the local population within the governing structure. This process expanded rapidly in the 1980s, and Taiwan held its first direct presidential election in 1996. In 2000, Taiwan underwent its first peaceful transfer of power from the Nationalist (Kuomintang or KMT) 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 management of sensitive relations between Taiwan and China - specifically the question of Taiwan's eventual status - as well as domestic priorities for economic reform and growth.



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

Geographic coordinates

23.30° N, 121.00° E

Area 139/257

total: 35,980 sq km

land: 32,260 sq km

water: 3,720 sq km

note: includes the Pescadores, Matsu, and Quemoy islands

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Maryland and Delaware combined

Land boundaries

0 km


1,566.3 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


tropical; marine; rainy season during southwest monsoon (June to August); persistent and extensive cloudiness all year


eastern two-thirds mostly rugged mountains; flat to gently rolling plains in west


mean elevation:

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, asbestos, arable land

Land use

agricultural land: 22.7%

arable land 16.9%; permanent crops 5.8%; permanent pasture NA

forest: NA

other: 77.3% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land


Total renewable water resources

67 cu km (2011)

Natural hazards

earthquakes; typhoons

volcanism: Kueishantao Island (elev. 401 m), east of Taiwan, is its only historically active volcano, although it has not erupted in centuries

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

Environment - international agreements

party to: none of the selected agreements because of Taiwan's international status

Geography - note

strategic location adjacent to both the Taiwan Strait and the Luzon Strait

People and Society


noun: Taiwan (singular and plural)

note: example - he or she is from Taiwan; they are from Taiwan

adjective: Taiwan (or Taiwanese)

Ethnic groups

Taiwanese (including Hakka) 84%, mainland Chinese 14%, indigenous 2%


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


mixture of Buddhist and Taoist 93%, Christian 4.5%, other 2.5%

Population 54/238

23,415,126 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 13.52% (male 1,632,763/female 1,531,895)

15-24 years: 13.36% (male 1,606,940/female 1,521,617)

25-54 years: 47.06% (male 5,505,063/female 5,513,395)

55-64 years: 13.59% (male 1,556,205/female 1,625,436)

65 years and over: 12.48% (male 1,348,686/female 1,573,126) (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 39.7 years

male: 39 years

female: 40.4 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 181/233

0.23% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 216/224

8.47 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 129/225

7.11 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 65/222

0.89 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Major urban areas - population

TAIPEI (capital) 2.666 million; Kaohsiung 1.523 million; Taichung 1.225 million; Tainan 815,000 (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.07 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female

total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 184/224

total: 4.44 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 4.84 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 4.01 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 40/224

total population: 79.98 years

male: 76.85 years

female: 83.33 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 222/224

1.12 children born/woman (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths



Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Taiwan

local long form: none

local short form: Taiwan

former: Formosa

Government type

multiparty democracy


name: Taipei

geographic coordinates: 25.02° N, 121.31° E

time difference: UTC+8 (13 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

includes main island of Taiwan plus smaller islands nearby and off coast of China's Fujian Province; Taiwan is divided into 13 counties (xian, singular and plural), 3 cities (shi, singular and plural), and 6 special municipalities directly under the jurisdiction of the Executive Yuan

counties: Changhua, Chiayi, Hsinchu, Hualien, Kinmen, Lienchiang, Miaoli, Nantou, Penghu, Pingtung, Taitung, Yilan, Yunlin

cities: Chiayi, Hsinchu, Keelung

special municipalities: Kaohsiung (city), New Taipei (city), Taichung (city), Tainan (city), Taipei (city), Taoyuan (city)

note: Taiwan uses a variety of romanization systems; while a modified Wade-Giles system still dominates, the city of Taipei has adopted a Pinyin romanization for street and place names within its boundaries; other local authorities use different romanization systems

National holiday

Republic Day (Anniversary of the Chinese Revolution), 10 October (1911)


previous 1912, 1931; latest adopted 25 December 1946, promulgated 1 January 1947, effective 25 December 1947; revised several times, last in 2005 (2015)

Legal system

civil law system

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Taiwan

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


20 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President MA Ying-jeou (since 20 May 2008); Vice President WU Den-yih (since 20 May 2012)

head of government: Premier MAO Chi-kuo (President of the Executive Yuan) (since 8 December 2014); Vice Premier CHANG San-cheng, Vice President of the Executive Yuan (since 8 December 2014); note Mao took a leave of absence 18 January 2016 and CHANG became Acting Premier effective 1 February 2016

cabinet: Executive Yuan - ministers appointed by president on recommendation of premier

elections/appointments: president and vice president directly elected on the same ballot by simple majority popular vote for a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 14 January 2012 (next to be held in January 2016); premier appointed by the president; vice premiers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the premier

election results: TSAI Ingo-wen elected president; percent of vote - Tsai Ing-wen (DPP) 56.1%, Eric CHU Li-lun (KMT) 31.0%, James SOONG Chu-yu (PFP) 12.8%; TSAI is the first woman elected President of Taiwan

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislative Yuan (113 seats; 73 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote, 34 directly elected in a single islandwide constituency by proportional representation vote, and 6 directly elected in multi-seat aboriginal constituencies by proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms)

elections: Legislative Yuan - last held on 16 January 2016 (next to be held in January 2020)

election results: Legislative Yuan - percent of vote by party - DPP 44.1%, KMT 26.9%, PFP 6.5%, NPP 6.1%, other 16.4%; seats by party - DPP 68, KMT 35, NPP 5, PFP 3, NPSU 1, independent 1

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court (consists of the court president, vice president, and approximately 100 judges organized into 8 civil and 12 criminal divisions, each with a division chief justice and 4 associate justices); Constitutional Court (consists of the court president, vice president, and 13 justices)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court justices appointed by the president; Constitutional Court justices appointed by the president with approval of the Legislative Yuan; Supreme Court justices appointed for life; Constitutional Court justices appointed for 8-year terms with half the membership renewed every 4 years

subordinate courts: high courts; district courts; hierarchy of administrative courts

Political parties and leaders

Democratic Progressive Party or DPP [TSAI Ing-wen]

Kuomintang or KMT (Nationalist Party) [Eric Chu Li-lun]

New Power Party or NPP [HUANG Kuo-chang]

Non-Partisan Solidarity Union or NPSU [LIN Pin-kuan]

People First Party or PFP [James SOONG Chu-yu]

Taiwan Solidarity Union or TSU [HUANG Kun-huei]

Political pressure groups and leaders

other: environmental groups; independence movement; various business groups

note: debate on Taiwan independence has become acceptable within the mainstream of domestic politics; public opinion polls consistently show most Taiwanese support maintaining Taiwan's status quo for the foreseeable future; advocates of Taiwan independence oppose the stand that the island will eventually unify with mainland China; advocates of eventual unification predicate their goal on the democratic transformation of the mainland

International organization participation

ADB, APEC, BCIE, ICC (national committees), IOC, ITUC (NGOs), SICA (observer), WTO

Flag description

red field with a dark blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a white sun with 12 triangular rays; the blue and white design of the canton (symbolizing the sun of progress) dates to 1895; it was later adopted as the flag of the Kuomintang Party; blue signifies liberty, justice, and democracy; red stands for fraternity, sacrifice, and nationalism, white represents equality, frankness, and the people's livelihood; the 12 rays of the sun are those of the months and the twelve traditional Chinese hours (each ray equals two hours)

National symbol(s)

white, 12-rayed sun on blue field; national colors: blue, white, red

National anthem

name: "Zhonghua Minguo guoge" (National Anthem of the Republic of China)

lyrics/music: HU Han-min, TAI Chi-t'ao, and LIAO Chung-k'ai/CHENG Mao-Yun

note: adopted 1930; also the song of the Kuomintang Party; it is informally known as "San Min Chu I" or "San Min Zhu Yi" (Three Principles of the People); because of political pressure from China, "Guo Qi Ge" (National Banner Song) is used at international events rather than the official anthem of Taiwan; the "National Banner Song" has gained popularity in Taiwan and is commonly used during flag raisings


Economy - overview

Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy with gradually decreasing government guidance of investment and foreign trade. Exports, led by electronics, machinery, and petrochemicals have provided the primary impetus for economic development. This heavy dependence on exports exposes the economy to fluctuations in world demand. Taiwan's diplomatic isolation, low birth rate, and rapidly aging population are other major long-term challenges.

Free trade agreements have proliferated in East Asia over the past several years. Following the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed with China in June 2010, Taiwan in July 2013 signed a free trade deal with New Zealand - Taipei’s first-ever with a country with which it does not maintain diplomatic relations - and, in November, inked a trade pact with Singapore. However, follow-on components of the ECFA, including a signed agreement on trade in services and negotiations on trade in goods and dispute resolution, have stalled. In early 2014, the government bowed to public demand and proposed a new law governing the oversight of cross-Strait agreements, before any additional deals with China are implemented; the legislature has yet to vote on such legislation, leaving the future of ECFA up in the air as President MA enters his final full year in office. MA has portrayed ECFA as Taiwan’s key to greater participation in East Asia’s free trade networks.

Taiwan's total fertility rate of just over one child per woman is among the lowest in the world, raising the prospect of future labor shortages, falling domestic demand, and declining tax revenues. Taiwan's population is aging quickly, with the number of people over 65 expected to account for nearly 20% of the island's total population by 2025.

The island runs a trade surplus, largely because of its surplus with China, and its foreign reserves are the world's fifth largest, behind those of China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland. In 2006 China overtook the US to become Taiwan's second-largest source of imports after Japan. China is also the island's number one destination for foreign direct investment. Taiwan since 2009 has gradually loosened rules governing Chinese investment on the island and has also secured greater market access for its investors in the mainland. In August 2012, the Taiwan Central Bank signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cross-Strait currency settlement with its Chinese counterpart. The MOU allows for the direct settlement of Chinese RMB and the New Taiwan dollar across the Strait, which has helped Taiwan develop into a local RMB hub.

Closer economic links with the mainland bring greater opportunities for Taiwan’s economy but also pose new challenges as the island becomes more economically dependent on China at a time when political differences remain unresolved. During 2014, the press paid increasing attention to domestic economic issues, while pushing aside the debates over trade liberalization that were a hallmark of MA’s tenure. The media focused on the divide between Taiwan’s “haves” and “have nots,” providing extensive coverage of public frustration with stagnant wages, skyrocketing housing prices, and the difficulty of finding decent entry-level jobs.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 21/230

$1.114 trillion (2015 est.)

$1.089 trillion (2014 est.)

$1.05 trillion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$518.8 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 136/225

2.2% (2015 est.)

3.8% (2014 est.)

2.2% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 28/230

$47,500 (2015 est.)

$46,500 (2014 est.)

$44,800 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 8/179

33.7% of GDP (2015 est.)

34.7% of GDP (2014 est.)

33.4% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 53%

government consumption: 14.1%

investment in fixed capital: 21.2%

investment in inventories: 0.3%

exports of goods and services: 64.7%

imports of goods and services: -53.3%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 1.9%

industry: 34.8%

services: 63.2% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

rice, vegetables, fruit, tea, flowers; pigs, poultry; fish


electronics, communications and information technology products, petroleum refining, chemicals, textiles, iron and steel, machinery, cement, food processing, vehicles, consumer products, pharmaceuticals

Industrial production growth rate 138/202

1.2% (2015 est.)

Labor force 50/233

11.6 million (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 5%

industry: 36.1%

services: 58.9% (2014 est.)

Unemployment rate 32/207

3.7% (2015 est.)

4% (2014 est.)

Population below poverty line

1.5% (2012 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 6.4%

highest 10%: 40.3% (2010)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 99/144

33.8 (2012)

32.6 (2000)


revenues: $78.36 billion

expenditures: $83.46 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 191/219

15.1% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 53/220

-1% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 134/176

32.8% of GDP (2015 est.)

33.4% of GDP (2014 est.)

note: data for central government

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 32/226

-0.2% (2015 est.)

1.2% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 118/156

1.88% (31 March 2015)

1.88% (31 December 2011)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 170/184

2.9% (31 December 2015 est.)

2.88% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 12/192

$467.6 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$451.2 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 16/193

$1.249 trillion (31 December 2014 est.)

$1.186 trillion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 18/191

$762.4 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$739.8 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares 18/121

$831.9 billion (31 December 2012)

$784.1 billion (31 December 2011)

$738.3 billion (31 December 2010)

Current account balance 7/197

$64.12 billion (2015 est.)

$65.42 billion (2014 est.)

Exports 21/224

$262.6 billion (2015 est.)

$311.4 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

semiconductors, petrochemicals, automobile/auto parts, ships, wireless communication equipment, flat display displays, steel, electronics, plastics, computers

Exports - partners

China 27.1%, Hong Kong 13.2%, US 10.3%, Japan 6.4%, Singapore 4.4% (2012 est.)

Imports 19/223

$221.2 billion (2015 est.)

$269.9 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

oil/petroleum, semiconductors, natural gas, coal, steel, computers, wireless communication equipment, automobiles, fine chemicals, textiles

Imports - partners

Japan 17.6%, China 16.1%, US 9.5% (2012 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 6/170

$425.3 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$423.9 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 37/206

$177.9 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$170.1 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home 51/120

$69.09 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$66.29 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad 23/105

$271.9 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$258.6 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Exchange rates

New Taiwan dollars (TWD) per US dollar -

31.91 (2015 est.)

30.36 (2014 est.)

30.36 (2013 est.)

29.62 (2012 est.)

29.47 (2011 est.)


Electricity - production 20/220

233.7 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 17/219

224.3 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 208/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 212/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 22/214

48.48 million kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 102/214

72.5% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 16/214

12.5% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 124/214

6.3% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 43/212

8.7% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Crude oil - production 99/214

196 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 200/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 15/214

885,000 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 97/215

2.38 million bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 24/214

911,800 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 22/212

975,400 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 24/214

337,200 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 21/213

315,700 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 72/216

379.4 million cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 40/215

16.21 billion cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - exports 198/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 21/214

17.69 billion cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 87/212

6.229 billion cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 21/212

307.1 million Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 18/219

total subscriptions: 14.04 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 60 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 43/217

total: 30.4 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 130 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: provides telecommunications service for every business and private need

domestic: thoroughly modern; completely digitalized

international: country code - 886; roughly 15 submarine fiber cables provide links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and the US; satellite earth stations - 2 (2011)

Broadcast media

5 nationwide television networks operating roughly 75 TV stations; about 85% of households utilize multi-channel cable TV; national and regional radio networks with about 170 radio stations (2008)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 21, FM 143, shortwave 1 (2008)

Television broadcast stations

76 (5 television networks with 46 digital and 30 analog stations) (2007)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 18/232

6.272 million (2012)

Internet users 36/217

total: 16.1 million

percent of population: 70.0% (2009)


Airports 107/236

37 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 35

over 3,047 m: 8

2,438 to 3,047 m: 7

1,524 to 2,437 m: 10

914 to 1,523 m: 8

under 914 m: 2 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 2

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

under 914 m: 1 (2013)


31 (2013)


condensate 25 km; gas 802 km; oil 241 km (2013)

Railways 79/136

total: 1,597 km

standard gauge: 345 km 1.435-m gauge (345 km electrified)

narrow gauge: 1,102 km 1.067-m gauge (692 km electrified); 150 km 0.762-m gauge

note: the 0.762-gauge track belongs to three entities: the Forestry Bureau, Taiwan Cement, and TaiPower (2014)

Roadways 85/223

total: 42,520 km

paved: 42,078 km (includes 1,348 km of highways and 737 km of expressways)

unpaved: 442 km (2013)

Merchant marine 47/156

total: 112

by type: bulk carrier 35, cargo 20, chemical tanker 1, container 31, passenger/cargo 4, petroleum tanker 12, refrigerated cargo 7, roll on/roll off 2

foreign-owned: 3 (France 2, Vietnam 1)

registered in other countries: 579 (Argentina 2, Cambodia 1, Honduras 1, Hong Kong 25, Indonesia 1, Italy 10, Kiribati 2, Liberia 94, Marshall Islands 8, Panama 328, Philippines 1, Sierra Leone 7, Singapore 77, South Korea 1, Thailand 1, UK 11, Vanuatu 1, unknown 8) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Chilung (Keelung), Kaohsiung, Hualian, Taichung

container port(s) (TEUs): Chilung (Keelung) (1,749,388), Kaohsiung (9,363,289), Taichung (1,383,578)

LNG terminal (import): Yung An (Kaohsiung), Taichung

Military and Security

Military branches

Army, Navy (includes Marine Corps), Air Force, Coast Guard Administration, Armed Forces Reserve Command, Combined Service Forces Command, Armed Forces Police Command

Military service age and obligation

18-35 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; 1-year service obligation; women may enlist; women in Air Force service are restricted to noncombat roles; reserve obligation to age 36 (Army); the Ministry of Defense is in the process of implementing a voluntary enlistment system over the period 2010-2015, although nonvolunteers will still be required to perform alternative service or go through 4 months of military training (2012)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

involved in complex dispute with Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam over the Spratly Islands, and with China and the Philippines over Scarborough Reef; the 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" has eased tensions but falls short of a legally binding "code of conduct" desired by several of the disputants; Paracel Islands are occupied by China, but claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam; in 2003, China and Taiwan became more vocal in rejecting both Japan's claims to the uninhabited islands of the Senkaku-shoto (Diaoyu Tai) and Japan's unilaterally declared exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea where all parties engage in hydrocarbon prospecting

Illicit drugs

regional transit point for heroin, methamphetamine, and precursor chemicals; transshipment point for drugs to Japan; major problem with domestic consumption of methamphetamine and heroin; rising problems with use of ketamine and club drugs