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Taiwan Info (statistics and history)

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臺灣

INTRO:

Taiwan is not commonly on the minds of the average continental American / European / African / Middle Easterner, Australian etc. Even much of Asia doesn’t oft regard Taiwan. To the rest of the world, Taiwan has become a small spot of land located underneath (literally and figuratively) the great up-and-coming world player, China. Thus, many people often mistake the name of “Taiwan” for “Thailand,” because they sound similar. This is quite embarrassing! Don’t do that!

Taiwan is a great place! The little island was dubbed “Ilha Formosa” by Portuguese sailors in 1544, which means “Beautiful Island.” The main island Taiwan is quite beautiful and mountainous, filled with thick and lush greenery. Even the main city of Taipei has vegetation, trees and plants everywhere, and it is never more than a half hour away to the nearest hiking trail up into a mountain.

Taiwanese culture has been noted for its extraordinary friendliness to strangers and foreigners. However!, before delving into the culture of a country/society/etc., one should be familiar with a bit of their statistics and history. For this, I have turned to a well-revered and trustworthy source: the Internet!!

The main island Taiwan has quite an interesting history. But, before we get into that, I also think it’s important to read up on some of the basics.

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SIZE AND LOCATION OF TAIWAN

Taiwan is an island located about 180 kilometers off the southeastern coast of mainland China, across the Taiwan Strait. The size of the island is about 35,801 km2 (or 13,822 miles2). This is slightly bigger than Belgium, or about equal to the size of the US states Delaware and Maryland combined. Located south of Taiwan are the Phillipines and to its northeast lies the wonderful crazy island of Japan. The climate of Taiwan is marine tropical, which means the weather is generally humid. Rainfall occurs quite often here (however, the locals here tell me that there is a shortage of usable water).

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WEATHER IN TAIWAN

As for the seasons, Taiwan experiences a short mild winter with temperatures averaging around 10 degrees Celsius. The winter is usually slightly damp and characterized with gray skies. Sometimes it rains for a whole week long (usually the week of Chinese New Years, much to my dismay).

Springtime is a bit longer, but is characterized with variable weather. Temperatures range from 12 deg C to 35 deg C.

Regarding spring, the people in Taiwan have a saying, 春天後母心 (pinyin: Chūntiān hòu mǔ xīn), which translates to, “the springtime is like a step-mother’s heart.” It’s a reflection of the weather here – in that, one day it can be clear and sunny in the morning, cloudy and cold in the afternoon, and raining after dark. Weather prediction is kind of like a game here. Many older women will walk around with umbrellas, which have guaranteed uses throughout each day. The umbrellas are used as canes in the nice weather, protection from the strong sun during some point in the day, and protection from the inevitable rainfall that will occur in the next few hours.

The summer takes form after May-June with the monsoon season of seemingly perpetual rain. Then the hot and humid weather expected of a tropical region fully takes form. The days are unrelentingly hot and extremely humid. I’ve been told that the humidity index approaches 100%! Compared to my experiences in the Washington, D.C. area during summertime, where I though a humidity index of 80% was impressive, I’m not quite looking forward to walking to school during the summer daytime in Taiwan….

Typhoon season occurs at the end of the summer and into the early fall (late August through October). Taiwan is hit by typhoons every year. On 4 March 2010 at about 01:20 UTC, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan. The epicenter was located in the mountainous area of Kaohsiung County, in southern Taiwan. It was the most powerful earthquake in this area since 1900. The story was covered by Peter Enav (my wonderful family friend/host in Taipei) for the AP:  here

Autumn is considered the most favorable of the seasons, with blue skies and warm dry days.

Also, here is the Central Weather Bureau website for Taiwan.

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TAIWAN’S POPULATION (STATISTICS)

Taiwan’s population is estimated currently to be 22,920,946, most of whom reside on the main island of Taiwan. About 98% of the population is of Han Chinese ethnicity. Of these, 86% are descendants of early Han Chinese immigrants known as 本省人 (pinyin: Běnshěng rén), or the “home-province people.”

The break-down is as follows:

  • There are two sub-groups of the Han Chinese in Taiwan, together comprising roughly 85% of the population:
    • about 70% of the total population are ethnic Southern Fujianese (also known as “Hokkien,” “Hokkienese,” “Min-Nan,” “Fukien,” or “Fujianese”). They migrated from the coastal Southern Fujian (language dialect: Min-Nan) region in the southeast of mainland China beginning in the 17th century (information on Fujian province)
    • about 15% of the total population are Hakka. They originally migrated south to the Guangdong province in mainland China, its surrounding areas and Taiwan.

Fujian Province in south of China

Guangdong Province in south of China

(Here is a list of China’s provinces and respective maps)

  • 12% of the population are known as 外省人 (pinyin: Wàishěng rén),  literally meaning “out-of-province person.” In English, this term refers to the “mainlanders” who immigrated to Taiwan from mainland China. This group includes any people directly from the mainland or descending from mainland Chinese immigrants who arrived after WWII.
    • Mostly, however, this term refers to  those who fled mainland China in 1949 following the Kuomintang defeat in the Chinese Civil War. For political reasons, the mainlanders are also called 新住民 (pinyin: Xīn zhùmín), or “new residents.” This term is considered offensive by many of the mainlanders.
  • About 2% of Taiwan’s population are classified as indigenous peoples – the Taiwanese aborigines. These are officially divided into 14 major groups, as recognized by the ROC (Republic of China – Taiwan’s government)  as of May 2008: Amis, Atayal, Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat, Sakizaya, Seediq, Truku, Tsou, Thao, and Yami (Tao) (Until recently, Seediq and Truku were formerly classified as Atayal). There are many more tribes than these 14, but they are not officially recognized. The aborigines in Taiwan are genetically related to the Malay and Polynesians; their languages are classified as Austronesian.

Distribution of many aborigine tribes throughout Taiwan

Traditional dance of an aborigine tribe

Traditional wear of an aborigine tribe

  • The rest of the population is comprised of foreginers from all over the world. Many are long time residents, having married a local Taiwanese. Many are short-term residents for work or travel. As of April 2009[update], there were about 343,000 documented foreign workers.

(Also, if you’re interested in reading up on Taiwanese people in Wiki format)

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LANGUAGES OF TAIWAN

The majority of the population (about 70%) are Hoklo or Min-Nan; the Hoklo are Taiwanese people who have Han Chinese background. Most of these people communicate in Standard Mandarin. Mandarin is officially recognized by the ROC as the national language of Taiwan.  Standard Mandarin is the primary language of instruction in schools. However, many also speak Taiwanese Hokkien, commonly known as “Taiwanese,” which is a variant of the Min Nan language spoken in Fujian province of mainland China. In the north of Taiwan, you will mostly hear Standard Mandarin. In the south of Taiwan, you will mostly hear Taiwanese.

The Hakka, about 15% of the population, have a distinct Hakka dialect and cultural presence here in Taiwan. (Also, Wiki on Hakka)

Aboriginal minority groups still speak their native languages, although most also speak Mandarin. Most aboriginal groups in Taiwan have their own traditional languages, which belong to the Austronesian language family (unlike Taiwanese or Hakka, which descend from the Chinese language family).

Luckily enough for many foreigners, English is a common second language. There are many large private English language schools, called “Buxibans.” From elementary school onwards, the English language is compulsory in the students’ curriculum. Taiwan’s education exams all feature a section on the English language. Taiwanese students are quite adept at rote memory learning and test-taking. The schools here focus on drills and tests – thus the students are accustomed to learning under pressure from early childhood. Many of the Taiwanese youths have at least a basic level of English language reading, writing and listening comprehension. Their teachers are usually Taiwanese who know English as a second language, and therefore they hardly get proper instruction in pronunciation and native spoken grammar rules. This is great for native English speakers like myself; we are in high demand as teachers and private tutors!

Although Mandarin is still the language of instruction in schools and dominates television and radio, non-Mandarin languages and dialects have undergone a revival in public life in Taiwan. A large proportion of the population can speak Taiwanese, and many others have some degree of understanding. Some also speak Hakka. People educated during the Japanese period of occupation, from 1895 to 1945, were taught in Japanese, and thus some older people in Taiwan know a basic level of Japanese.  Actually, some of the older generations can only speak the Japanese they learned at school and the Taiwanese they spoke at home, and are thus unable to communicate easily with the younger generations who only speak Mandarin.

Foreign language study is becoming increasingly popular for Taiwanese students. I have seen many college-aged students sitting at coffee shops studying French, German, Italian and Japanese.

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RELIGIONS OF TAIWAN

Over 93% of Taiwanese adhere to a combination of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. These religions have long-standing influences on many traditional cultures of different Asian countries. About 4.5% of Taiwan’s population are Christian. The most common denominations of Christianity in Taiwan include Protestantism, Catholicism and Mormonism (Latter-day Saints). There are many non-denominational Christian groups, as well.

About 2.5% of the population are adherents of other religions, including Islam and Judaism.

The spread of Christianity throughout the world has been quite successful due to the zealous proselytizing of Christian missionary and Christian occupiers throughout history. Taiwan is no exception to this trend, in that, the Dutch occupiers were a huge influence upon Taiwanese aboriginals with regards to this religion. Today, Taiwanese aborigines comprise a notable subgroup among professing Christians. I’ve heard that upwards of 65% identify as Christian. Often, Christian church buildings are obvious markers of aboriginal villages, and serve as distinguishing features (at a distance) from Taiwanese or Hakka villages.

Confucianism is a philosophy based on the teachings of Confucius (pinyin: Kǒngzǐ); he lived from 551 BCE to 479 BCE. His teachings primarily focused on secular moral ethics, emphasising the importance of relationships between people. Confucianism serves as the foundation of Chinese and Taiwanese culture; it also had a strong influence on Japanese and Korean culture that is still apparent today. The majority of Taiwanese people will usually combine the secular moral teachings of Confucianism with whatever other religions they are primarily affiliated with.

Some links on Confucianism:

As of 2009, there were about 15,000 temples in Taiwan (approximately one place of worship per 1,500 residents). About 9,200 of those temples are dedicated to Taoism. In 2008, Taiwan had 3,262 Christian churches.

Chinese New Years (CNY) marks the end / beginning of a new cycle in the Chinese lunar calendar. The 2010 Chinese New Years fell on February 14. Throughout the weeks leading up to CNY in Taiwan, many markets will form, in which people buy and sell special food treats for snacking and gift-giving. The most famous of these is the Dihua Street market.

On the day of CNY, people will flock to local temples for prayer to the gods, asking for help with relationships, school, work, health, etc. in the upcoming lunar year.  One especially important goddess for Taiwanese people is Matsu, who symbolizes the seafaring spirit of Taiwan’s ancestors from Fujian and Guangdong, China.

Chinese Lunar Calendar designations and years


Below are a few photos I took on Chinese New Years day ’99 (2010) at LongShan Temple in Taipei:

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FACTS ON TAIWAN (LIST OF LINKS)

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HISTORY OF TAIWAN

Now, onto the “brief” history of Taiwan!!!

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Early History

Evidence of human settlement in Taiwan dates back about 30,000 years, although it is unknown whether the first inhabitants of this island are genetic ancestors of any peoples currently residing in Taiwan. About 4,000 years ago, the known ancestors of many Taiwanese aborigines settled in Taiwan.

Records from ancient China indicate that the Han Chinese may have known about the existence of the main island Taiwan since the Three Kingdoms period (third century, 230 A.D.).

Han Chinese people from mainland China began to settle in the Penghu islands in the 1200s, but Taiwan’s hostile tribes and its lack of trade resources valued in that era rendered it unattractive to all but “occasional adventurers or fishermen engaging in barter” until the 16th century.

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Dutch rule of Taiwan

In 1624, the main island Taiwan was colonised by the Dutch. This period is known as Dutch Formosa, and technically lasted until 1662. The colonisation of Taiwan was driven by the Dutch East India Company, who wanted to use Taiwan as a base for trade with China and Japan. The Dutch established a commercial base on Taiwan and began to import workers from Fujian, China and the Penghu islands (off the west coast of Taiwan) as laborers, many of whom settled. These imported workers were used mainly for the cultivation of rice and sugar. Along with this, and the large-scale hunting of the Formosan Deer (now extinct), Taiwan saw substantial economic development during this time. The Dutch claimed their colonial capital of Taiwan to be at Tayoan city (presently, the Anping district of Tainan city, in southern Taiwan).

During its control of Taiwan, the Dutch East India Company administered the island and its predominantly aboriginal population, setting up a tax system, schools to teach romanized script of aboriginal languages and evangelizing. Although its control was mainly limited to the western plain of the island, the Dutch systems were adopted by succeeding occupiers.

The Dutch East India Company's trading routes in the 17th Century

(About the VOC Trade Network )

The government also attempted to convert the aboriginal inhabitants to Christianity and suppress some cultural activities they found disagreeable (such as forced abortion and habitual nakedness), in other words, to “civilise” the inhabitants of the island. However, they were not universally welcomed and uprisings by both aborigines and recent Han Chinese arrivals were crushed brutally by the Dutch military on more than one occasion.

In addition, the Dutch were at-odds with Portuguese and Spanish traders in East Asia; in 1626, the Spanish occupied northern Taiwan (Keelong and Danshui) as a base to extend its commercial trading.

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Kingdom of Tungning

The Kingdom of Tungning was the first Han Chinese government to rule Taiwan.

In 1661, after the fall of the Ming Dynasty in China, a Ming loyalist named Koxinga fled the mainland and forced a landing at Luerhmen in Taiwan. In less than a year, he captured Fort Zeelandia and negotiated a treaty with the Dutch governor, in which the Dutch surrendered their fortress and left all the goods and property of the Dutch East India Company behind. In return, all Dutch officials, soldiers and civilians were allowed to leave Taiwan with their personal belongings and supplies to go back to Batavia. This marked the end of 38 years of Dutch colonial rule on Taiwan.

Koxinga proceeded to devote himself to building Taiwan into an effective base for anti-Qing Dynasty sympathizers who wanted to restore the Ming Dynasty to power. The motto of the Kingdom of Tungning was 反清復明 (“Oppose the Qing, restore the Ming”).

Koxinga established his capital in Tainan city; he and his heirs attempted to recapture mainland China by continuing to launch raids on the south-east coast, well into the Qing Dynasty.

Some pictures from Wikipedia on Koxinga:

Extent of territories held by Koxinga

Old portait of Koxinga

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Qing Dynasty rule over Taiwan

(For further reading on China’s dynastic history timeline, go here)

In 1683, following the defeat of Koxinga’s grandson by an armada led by Admiral Shi Lang of Southern Fujian, the Qing formally annexed Taiwan, placing it under the jurisdiction of Fujian province, China. The early Qing Dynasty ruled Taiwan passively.

In 1885, the Qing upgraded Taiwan’s status from prefecture of Fujian to a full province, the twentieth in the country, with its capital at Taipei city. This was accompanied by a modernization drive that included building Taiwan’s first railroad and starting a postal service.

Qing Dynasty flag (I think this flag is quite awesome)

Sidenote:

Northern Taiwan and the Penghu Islands were the scene of an important subsidiary campaign in the Sino-French War (August 1884 to April 1885). The French occupied Keelung from 1 October 1884 to 22 June 1885 and the Penghu Islands from 31 March to 22 July 1885. Ultimately, the efforts of the French Campaigns for Keelung and the Penghu archipelago ended in stalemates, and they evacuated both these areas at the end of the war.

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Qing China vs Japan over Taiwan

The following information regards how the Japanese came to colonise the island of Taiwan for 50 years! It’s very interesting, I think….

In 1871, when a Japanese Okinawan vessel was forced to land on the southern tip of Taiwan due to strong winds, the crew of 69 was met with violence by the Paiwan aborigines; many of the Japanese sailors were beheaded. In 1872 and 1873, when Japan sought compensation from the headquarters of the Qing Dynasty in China, it was first rejected on the grounds that Qing considered the incident to be an “internal affair” between the prefecture of the Fujian Province of Qing and the Japanese Ryūkyū Kingdom, a smaller kingdom that dominated the southern Ryukyu islands off the main island of Japan. When Japanese foreign minister Soejima Taneomi asked a second time for compensation, claiming that four of the victims were Japanese citizens from the Okayama prefecture of the main island of Japan, Qing officials again rejected the demand, arguing that the “wild” and “unsubjugated” aboriginals, referred to as 台灣生番 (simplified Chinese: 台湾生番; pinyin: Táiwān shēngfān), were outside of its jurisdiction. (At the time, the aboriginals of Taiwan were treated quite harshly by the Chinese. American consul J.W. Davidson described how the Chinese in Taiwan ate and traded in their aboriginal victims’ flesh.)

The First Sino-Japanese War broke out between Qing Dynasty China and Japan in 1894 following a dispute over the sovereignty of Korea. Following its defeat, China ceded the islands of Taiwan and Penghu to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, signed on April 17, 1895. According to the terms of the treaty, Taiwan, Penghu, and regions between 119˚E-120˚E and 13˚N-14˚N were to be ceded to Japan in perpetuity. Both governments were to send representatives to Taiwan immediately after signing to begin the transition process, which was to be completed in no more than two months.

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The (short-lived) Republic of Formosa

The Republic of Formosa (also known as: 台湾民主国 – Democratic State of Taiwan,  the Formosan Republic, Taiwan Republic, or Republic of Taiwan) was a short-lived republic that existed on the island of Taiwan in 1895.

After news of the Treaty of Shimonoseki’s contents reached Taiwan, a number of notables from central Taiwan, led by Chiu Feng-chia (丘逢甲), decided to resist the transfer of Taiwan to Japanese rule. On May 23, 1895, these men declared independence from Taipei, proclaiming the establishment of a free and democratic Republic of Formosa. The Republic was extinguished on October 21, 1895, when the Republican capital, Tainan, was taken over by Japanese troops.

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The Japanese occupation of Taiwan (Wiki link)

The new Japanese colonial government gave inhabitants two years to choose whether to accept their new status as Japanese subjects, or leave Taiwan. The Japanese occupation has been divided into 3 periods:

(i) Early years (1895-1915)
(ii) Dōka: “Integration” (1915-1937)
(iii) Kōminka: “Subjects of the Emperor” (1937-1945)

As Taiwan was Japan’s first overseas colony, Japanese intentions were to turn the island into a showpiece “model colony”. As a result, much effort was made to improve the island’s economy, industry, public works and culture. The Japanese were instrumental in the industrialization of the island; they extended the railroads and other transportation networks, built an extensive sanitation system and revised the public school system. During this period, both rice and sugarcane production greatly increased. By 1939, Taiwan was the seventh greatest sugar producer in the world.

However, Japanese rule of Taiwan also had a negative side, as the Japanese viewed the Taiwanese as lower-class citizens. They forced the many Taiwanese women into prostitution, as “comfort women.” Large-scale violence continued throughout the first decade of occupation. Actually, Japan launched over 160 battles to destroy Taiwan’s aboriginal tribes during its 51-year rule of the island. Around 1935, the Japanese began an island-wide assimilation project to bind the island more firmly to the Japanese Empire; people were taught to see themselves as Japanese.

Japan’s rule of Taiwan ended after it lost World War II and signed the Instrument of Surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945. The Japanese rule lasted about 50 years and thus has had long lasting effects on Taiwanese culture and identity. I’ve met quite a few local Taiwanese people who are middle-aged and have Japanese grandparents. The language is not so prevalent anymore – people over the age of 65 may know some Japanese or be part-Japanese. Even so, the youth in Taiwan have a strong attraction to Japanese pop culture. However, this may or may not be directly due to the Japanese influence here in the early 1900′s, as much of East Asia and the United States has also adopted a fondness for quirky Japanese pop culture. As for the Taiwanese lifestyle, significant parts of the current infrastructure were started under the Japanese rule. The current Presidential Building was also built during that time.

Because the Japanese were so diligent about instituting advanced infrastructure in Taiwanese cities, there is a huge difference between Taipei and mainland Chinese cities such as Shanghai. The best way to describe the feeling of Taipei is that it is a well-developed city, as opposed to the still developing infrastructure in Shanghai. The public transportation system is one of the best in the world, and the city is clean and well-maintained.

In 1938, there were about 309,000 Japanese settlers in Taiwan. After WWII, most of the Japanese were repatriated to Japan, leaving behind their influence in the infrastructure of Taiwanese cities and in the bloodlines of many Taiwanese who reside here today.

Map of Japanese territories as of 1939 and when they were captured

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ROC occupation of Taiwan

After the official turnover of Taiwan from the Japanese to General Chen Yi of the Republic of China (ROC) military on October 25, 1945, the ROC began its occupation of Taiwan. Under Chen Yi, the occupation was strained by social, economic and political instabilities. Furthermore, cultural and linguistic conflicts between the Taiwanese and the mainland Chinese quickly led to a loss of popular support for the new government.

Chen Yi (right) accepting the surrender of General Rikichi Andō (left), the last Japanese Governor-General of Taiwan, in Taipei City Hall.

In the 1940′s on mainland China, the ROC’s party in power was called 國民黨, abbreviated as KMT and known as the Chinese Nationalist Party (pinyin: Guó míndǎng, meaning “the people’s party”).  In 1948, during the Chinese Civil War,  the ROC government had instituted a series of temporary constitutional provisions, called the “Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion.” These provisions enabled President Chiang Kai-shek and his Vice President to be exempted from the two-term limit.

The Chinese Civil War began April 1927 between the KMT and the Communist Party of China (CPC). In December 1949, the Republic of China (ROC) government retreated from Nanjing, China to Taipei, Taiwan (Taiwan’s largest city). On the mainland, the victorious Communists established the People’s Republic of China (PRC), claiming the ROC to no longer exist and the People’s Republic of China to be the sole and only China. The PRC claimed that their jurisdiction included Taiwan.

As a result, about 2 million people consisting mainly of soldiers, KMT party members and intellectual and business elites were evacuated from mainland China to Taiwan. The ROC government members took with them many national treasures of China, including gold reserves and foreign currency reserves. Today, most of these national treasures are on display at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. (You can get in for free after 5pm on weekends!)

During this time, the ROC government remained a de facto one-party state under martial law. The lack of popularity for the ROC during Chen Yi’s occupation had led to increased tensions between the government and the people after it’s headquarters were relocated to Taipei, Taiwan. This culminated in a series of severe clashes between the ROC occupiers and the native Taiwanese. The worst of these clashes are known as the 228 incident (which took place on February 28, 1947), not long before the ROC officially relocated to Taiwan. There were many riots and public uprisings as a result of this incident, and these led to a period of harsh government control on the grounds of anti-communism. This period is referred to as the reign of White Terror. During the White Terror, around 140,000 Taiwanese were imprisoned or executed for their real or perceived opposition to the KMT government led by Chiang Kai-shek. Many Taiwanese are still very sensitive about these incidents.

Actually, one of my students, a native Taiwanese, told me recently that she was reminded of the White Terror period of history in Taiwan when reading the famous novel by George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four.


228 Memorial statue in Taipei


228 Memorial Park - you can see the statue in the middle of the Park

(Wiki on 228 Park)

During the 1960s and 1970s, Taiwan began to develop into a prosperous, industrialized and developed society with a strong and dynamic economy. Taiwan is referred to as one of the Four Asian Tigers (along with Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea). During the Cold War, most Western nations and the United Nations regarded the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China. However, in 1970s, most nations began switching recognition to the PRC.

Skyline of Taipei 101 district at night

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Democratisation of the ROC - present

(additional source)

Chiang Kai-shek’s eventual successor was his son Chiang Ching-kuo. During his presidency, Chiang Ching-kuo lifted martial law. Chiang selected Lee Teng-hui, an ethnic Taiwanese technocrat, to be his vice president in 1984. After Chiang Ching-Kuo’s death in 1988, President Lee Teng-hui became the first ethnically Taiwanese president of the ROC. Lee was in support of liberalising and democratising Taiwan’s government; this attitude created much tension within the KMT party.

In 1986, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was formed as the first opposition party in Taiwan to counter the KMT. At this time, however, national law under the Tempory Provisions was still in effect, prohibiting any parties other than the KMT to hold office.

By the 1990s, it had become clear to the ROC that reclaiming the mainland was not possible. Thus, in April 1991, the ROC National Assembly resolved to officially abolish the Temporary Provisions, and President Lee Teng-hui declared the Period of Communist Rebellion to be terminated as of May 1, 1991. This marked the beginning of the democratisation of the Republic of China.

Lee continued to democratize the government and decrease the concentration of government authority in the hands of mainland Chinese. Under Lee, Taiwan underwent a process of localization, in which Taiwanese culture and history were promoted over a pan-China viewpoint. This was in contrast to earlier KMT policies, which had promoted a Chinese identity. Under Lee, there were many changes made to the operations of the ROC, which were a reflection of his attitude regarding Taiwan as having its own identity separate from mainland China. To start, the original members of the Legislative Yuan and National Assembly were forced to resign in 1991. These members had been elected in 1947 to represent mainland Chinese constituencies and had been in office without re-election for more than four decades. Restrictions on the use of Taiwanese Hokkien in the broadcast media and in schools were lifted.

Lee Tung-hui

(Some info on Lee)

Throughout the 1990s, the ROC continued its democratic reforms. In 1996, the first popular vote Presidential election was held, and President Lee Teng-hui was elected. In 2000, Chen Shui-bian of the DPP, was elected as the first non-KMT president. Chen was re-elected in 2004 to serve his second and last term.

Throughout the Period of Communist Rebellion, discussion of anything other than reunification of China under the ROC was taboo. With the advent of democratization, the issue of the political status of Taiwan has resurfaced as a controversial issue.

Polarized politics focusing on this main issue has erupted in Taiwan with the formation of the Pan-Blue Coalition of parties led by the KMT. These parties favor eventual Chinese reunification.  The Pan-Green Coalition of parties, on the other hand, is led by the DPP. They favor an official declaration of Taiwan’s independence.

President Chen was quite a promising politician, having much charisma and a knack for campaigning. During his second term, on September 30, 2007, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party under President Chen approved a resolution asserting separate identity from China and called for the enactment of a new constitution for a “normal country.” The resolution also called for the general use of “Taiwan” as the island’s name, without abolishing its formal name, the Republic of China. The Chen administration also pushed for referendums on national defense and UN entry in the 2004 and 2008 elections, which failed due to low voter turnout.

Nike Shoes with President Chen image! Weird...

Later on, the Chen administration was marked by public concerns over reduced economic growth, legislative gridlock due to opposition control (pan-blue parties) in Legislative Yuan, and corruption (both in the First Family and amongst government officials). In fact, Chen was sentenced to life in prison for embezzling $15 million U.S. during his presidency. His money laundering scheme involved several family members, including his wife and son. The China Post article can found here.

Chen Sui-bian sentenced to life in prison

(RealClearWorld China News Blog)

The KMT increased its majority in the Legislative Yuan in the January 2008 legislative elections. The KMT nominee Ma Ying-jeou went on to win the presidency in March of the same year, campaigning on a platform of increased economic growth, and better ties with the PRC under a policy of “mutual nondenial.” Ma took office on May 20, 2008.

Ma’s campaign for closer economic ties with the PRC was partially based on recognition of the strong economic growth that China has experienced since joining the World Trade Organization. However, many argue that despite the election of Ma Ying-jeou, military tensions with the PRC have not been reduced.

Kind of interesting to read Taiwan’s Government Information Office’s official “History” splurge: here.

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OVERVIEW TIMELINE: HERE


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TAIWAN’S PRESENT / FUTURE

Stay up-to-date with this list of Taiwan news websites:

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Written by one_too

March 31, 2010 at 6:05 pm

One Response

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  1. You have written a detailed, informative and interesting account of Taiwan! You are really getting to understand the culture and people. Kudos to you!

    Debra

    March 31, 2010 at 8:09 pm


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