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By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 4, 2003, 11:07
The island of Taiwan is located off the coast of Mainland China in the Pacific Ocean. It is also known by its Portuguese name Formosa, which means "beautiful".
Most of the island, along with the Pescadores Islands, is administered as part of the Province of Taiwan by the government of the Republic of China (ROC), which was the former government of mainland China before its 1949 defeat by the Communist Party of China. Taiwan's largest city Taipei serves as the provisional capital of the Republic of China, while Jhongsing Village in central Taiwan near the city of Taichung is the capital of Taiwan province.
Currently, in addition to the main island of Taiwan, the Republic of China also controls the Penghu (Pescadores), Kinmen (Quemoy), and Matsu islands situated in the Taiwan Strait, plus some Pacific Coast islands (notably the Green and Orchid islands). Furthermore, ROC also claims some islands in the South China Sea. Some of these outer islands, notably the Spratly (Nansha) islands in the South China Sea and the Senkaku (Diaoyutai) islands in the Pacific Coast, are also simultaneously claimed by several other countries in the region. Due to Taiwan island's status of composing most of the ROC's current jurisdiction, the word "Taiwan" is commonly used synonymously with the Republic of China, while the word "China" is used to refer to areas under the control of the People's Republic of China.
The political status of Taiwan is a controversial issue. The People's Republic of China considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory and the Republic of China a defunct (and therefore illegitimate) entity. The current position of the Chen Shui-bian administration is that Taiwan is synonymous with the Republic of China, and therefore an independent and sovereign state. An independence movement exists on Taiwan calling for the creation of a Republic of Taiwan in place of the ROC. At the same time, there are also people in Taiwan who favour Chinese reunification.
Taiwan's indigenous population was first joined and intermarried with male traders and seasonal workers from Mainland China primarily during a brief period of Dutch control between 1624 and 1662. The Dutch were ousted from the island in 1662 by Cheng Cheng-Kung (also known as Koxinga), a former pirate who styled himself as a Ming loyalist, who hoped to marshal his troops on the island. Following the defeat of Cheng's grandson to an armada led by Admiral Shi Lang, Cheng's followers were expatriated to the furthest reaches of the Qing empire leaving approximately 7000 Chinese on Taiwan. The Qing government wrestled with its Taiwan policy to reduce piracy and vagrancy in the area, which led to a series of edicts to manage immigration and respect aboriginal land rights. Illegal immigrants continued to enter Taiwan as renters of the large plots aboriginal lands under contracts that usually involved marriage, while the border between tax paying lands and "savage" lands expanded east. Following the Sino-Japanese War in 1895, China was forced to cede Taiwan to Japan in perpetuity allowing a grace period for those wishing to remain Chinese subjects to sell their property and return to the mainland.
Following the end of World War II in 1945, under the terms of the Instrument of Surrender of Japan, Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration which referenced the Cairo Declaration under which the island was to be transferred to China. The ROC troops were authorized to come to Taiwan to accept the surrender of Japanese military forces in General Order No. 1 issued by General Douglas MacArthur on September 2, 1945, and were later transported to Keelung by the U.S. Navy. The ROC troops and were initially hesitant to accept the surrender of the Japanese garrison and undertake military occupation of the island.
A series of severe clashes between a mainland military administration under Chen Yi and native Taiwanese then led to the bloody 228 incident in which government troops massacred 30,000 protestors. In the San Francisco Peace Treaty which came into force on April 28, 1952 and the Treaty of Taipei which came into force on August 5, 1952, Japan formally renounced all right, claim, and title to Formosa (Taiwan) and the Pescadores (a.k.a. Peng-hu). The treaty remained silent about who the island would be transferred to, in part to avoid taking sides in the ongoing Chinese Civil War. This has been used by advocates of Taiwan independence to justify self-determination.
The Kuomintang (Nationalist Party), which at the time controlled the government of the ROC, retreated to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China ended in the Communists' favor in 1949, bringing with them some 2 million refugees from Mainland China. Since then, Taiwan has developed a prosperous and dynamic economy, becoming one of the East Asian Tigers.
Taiwan remained under martial law for 4 decades until 1987 and one-party rule until 1991 when President Chiang Ching-kuo gradually liberalized and democratized the system. Upon his death, Vice-President Lee Teng-hui succeeded him as President of the ROC and Chairman of the KMT and made great strides in developing democracy in Taiwan. Lee became the first native Taiwanese to become the president during the KMT rule in Taiwan. KMT rule over Taiwan ended with the election of Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party in 2000.
Taiwan Island contains all but one county of Taiwan Province: 15 counties and all five province-administered cities. Outside of the provincial boundary, Taiwan also contains two municipalities -- Kaohsiung City and Taipei City -- which are administered directly by the central government. Penghu (the Pescadores) is the only county in Taiwan province which is not on Taiwan.
The island of Taiwan lies some 200 km off the southeastern coast of Mainland China across the Taiwan Strait, with the East China Sea to the north, the Philippine Sea to the east, the Luzon Strait directly to the south and the South China Sea to the southwest. The island is characterised by the contrast between the eastern two-thirds that consist mostly of rugged mountains, running in five ranges from the northern to the southern tip of the island, and the flat to gently rolling plains in the west that are also home to most of Taiwan's population. Taiwan's highest point is the Yu Shan at 3,952 m.
Taiwan's climate is marine tropical. The rainy season lasts from June to August during the southwest monsoon, though cloudiness is persistent and extensive all year. Natural hazards include typhoons and earthquakes.
Taiwan's culture is a blend of its traditional Chinese heritage and Western influences. Fine arts, folk traditions, and popular culture embody traditional and modern, Asian, and Western motifs. One of Taiwan's greatest attractions is the National Palace Museum, which houses over 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting, and porcelain. This collection was moved from the mainland in 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party (KMT) fled to Taiwan. The collection is so extensive that only 1% is on display at any one time.
Most people on Taiwan speak Mandarin, which has been the medium of instruction in the schools for more than four decades. About 70 percent of the people on Taiwan also speak Taiwanese, a variety of Min-nan. The Hakka, who make about 10 percent of the population, have a distinct Hakka language. Between 1895 and 1945, under Japanese rule, the official language on Taiwan was Japanese, and many older residents still speak that language fluently. The aboriginal minority groups still speak their native languages, but most of them can also speak Mandarin and Taiwanese.
About half of the Taiwanese population can be considered religious believers, most of whom identify themselves as Buddhists or Taoists. At the same time there is a strong belief in folk religion throughout the island. These are not mutually exclusive, and many people practice a combination of the three. Confucianism also is an honoured school of thought and ethical code. Christian churches have been active on Taiwan for many years, a majority of which are Protestant and with Presbyterians playing a particularly significant role.
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