Taiwan [Country Flag of Taiwan]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Taiwan]



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Location: 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

Map references: Southeast Asia

total: 35,980 sq km
land: 32,260 sq km
water: 3,720 sq km
note: includes the Pescadores, Matsu, and Quemoy

Area—comparative: slightly smaller than Maryland and Delaware combined

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 1,448 km

Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

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

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

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: Yu Shan 3,997 m

Natural resources: small deposits of coal, natural gas, limestone, marble, and asbestos

Land use:
arable land: 24%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 5%
forests and woodland: 55%
other: 15%

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: earthquakes and typhoons

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
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements


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Population: 21,908,135 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 22% (male 2,543,524; female 2,367,077)
15-64 years: 69% (male 7,730,185; female 7,472,525)
65 years and over: 9% (male 963,797; female 831,027) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.94% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 14.79 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 5.42 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: -0.02 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.16 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 6.34 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 76.82 years
male: 73.82 years
female: 80.05 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.77 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Chinese (singular and plural)
adjective: Chinese

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%

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

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 86%
male: 93%
female: 79% (1980 est.)
note: literacy for the total population increased to 92.65% in 1997


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Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Taiwan
local long form: none
local short form: T'ai-wan

Data code: TW

Government type: multiparty democratic regime headed by popularly elected president

National capital: Taipei

Administrative divisions: since in the past the authorities claimed to be the government of all China, the central administrative divisions include the provinces of Fu-chien (some 20 offshore islands of Fujian Province including Quemoy and Matsu) and Taiwan (the island of Taiwan and the Pescadores islands); note—the more commonly referenced administrative divisions are those of Taiwan Province - 16 counties (hsien, singular and plural), 5 municipalities* (shih, singular and plural), and 2 special municipalities** (chuan-shih, singular and plural); Chang-hua, Chia-i, Chia-i*, Chi-lung*, Hsin-chu, Hsin-chu*, Hua-lien, I-lan, Kao-hsiung, Kao-hsiung**, Miao-li, Nan-t'ou, P'eng-hu, P'ing-tung, T'ai-chung, T'ai-chung*, T'ai-nan, T'ai-nan*, T'ai-pei, T'ai-pei**, T'ai-tung, T'ao-yuan, and Yun-lin; the provincial capital is at Chung-hsing-hsin-ts'un
note: Taiwan uses the Wade-Giles system for romanization

National holiday: National Day, 10 October (1911) (Anniversary of the Chinese Revolution)

Constitution: 1 January 1947, amended in 1992, 1994, and 1997

Legal system: based on civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage: 20 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President LEE Teng-hui (succeeded to the presidency following the death of President CHIANG Ching-kuo 13 January 1988, elected by the National Assembly 21 March 1990, elected by popular vote in the first-ever direct elections for president 23 March 1996); Vice President LIEN Chan (since 20 May 1996)
head of government: Premier (President of the Executive Yuan) Vincent SIEW (since 1 September 1997) and Vice Premier (Vice President of the Executive Yuan) LIU Chao-shiuan (since 10 December 1997)
cabinet: Executive Yuan appointed by the president
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms; election last held 23 March 1996 (next to be held NA 2000); premier appointed by the president; vice premiers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the premier
election results: LEE Teng-hui elected president; percent of vote—LEE Teng-hui 54%, PENG Ming-min 21%, LIN Yang-kang 15%, and CHEN Li-an 10%

Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Yuan (164 seats—128 elected by popular vote, 36 indirectly elected on the basis of proportional representation; members serve three-year terms; note—in 1997, the National Assembly passed an amendment to increase the membership of the Legislative Yuan to 225 seats, of which 168 are to be elected by popular vote, 41 by proportional representation, and 16 from aboriginal and Chinese groups) and unicameral National Assembly (334 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: Legislative Yuan—last held 2 December 1995 (next to be held NA December 1998); National Assembly—last held 23 March 1996 (next to be held NA 2000)
election results: Legislative Yuan—percent of vote by party—KMT 46%, DPP 33%, CNP 13%, independents 8%; seats by party—KMT 85, DPP 54, CNP 21, independents 4; note—since the election, there has been a change in the distribution of seats, the new distribution is as follows—KMT 81, DPP 46, CNP 19, independents 8, other 5, vacant 5; National Assembly—percent of vote by party—KMT 55%, DPP 30%, CNP 14%, other 1%; seats by party—KMT 183, DPP 99, CNP 46, other 6

Judicial branch: Judicial Yuan, justices appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly

Political parties and leaders: Kuomintang (KMT, Nationalist Party), LEE Teng-hui, chairman; Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), HSU Hsin-Liang, chairman; Chinese New Party (CNP), leader NA; Taiwan Independence Party (TAIP), HSU Shih-Kai; other various parties

Political pressure groups and leaders: Taiwan independence movement, various environmental groups
note: debate on Taiwan independence has become acceptable within the mainstream of domestic politics on Taiwan; political liberalization and the increased representation of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan's legislature have opened public debate on the island's national identity; advocates of Taiwan independence, including within the DPP, oppose the ruling party's traditional stand that the island will eventually reunify with mainland China; goals of the Taiwan independence movement include establishing a sovereign nation on Taiwan and entering the UN; other organizations supporting Taiwan independence include the World United Formosans for Independence and the Organization for Taiwan Nation Building

International organization participation: APEC, AsDB, BCIE, ICC, IOC, WCL, WTrO (applicant)

Diplomatic representation in the US: none; unofficial commercial and cultural relations with the people of the US are maintained through a private instrumentality, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) with headquarters in Taipei and field offices in Washington and 12 other US cities

Diplomatic representation from the US: none; unofficial commercial and cultural relations with the people on Taiwan are maintained through a private institution, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which has its headquarters in Rosslyn, Virginia (telephone: [1] (703) 525-8474 and FAX: [1] (703) 841-1385) and offices in Taipei at #7 Lane 134, Hsin Yi Road, Section 3, telephone [886] (22) 709-2000, FAX [886] (22) 702-7675, and in Kao-hsiung at #2 Chung Cheng 3d Road, telephone [886] (7) 224-0154 through 0157, FAX [886] (7) 223-8237, and the American Trade Center at Room 3207 International Trade Building, Taipei World Trade Center, 333 Keelung Road Section 1, Taipei 10548, telephone [886] (22) 720-1550, FAX [886] 757-7162

Flag description: red with a dark blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a white sun with 12 triangular rays


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Economy—overview: Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy with gradually decreasing guidance of investment and foreign trade by government authorities and partial government ownership of some large banks and industrial firms. Spillover from the Asian financial crisis hit Taiwan in the fourth quarter of 1997, wreaking havoc on the stock and currency markets. While the economy remains sound (the government forecasts 6% GDP growth for 1998), the New Taiwan Dollar depreciated 20% in 1997. Real growth in GDP has averaged about 8.5% a year during the past three decades. Export growth has been even faster and has provided the impetus for industrialization. Inflation and unemployment are low. Agriculture contributes only 3% to GDP, down from 35% in 1952. Traditional labor-intensive industries are steadily being moved off-shore and replaced with more capital- and technology-intensive industries. Taiwan has become a major investor in China, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The tightening of labor markets has led to an influx of foreign workers, both legal and illegal.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$308 billion (1997 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 6.8% (1997 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$14,200 (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 3.3%
industry: 35.7%
services: 61% (1996)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 0.9% (1997)

Labor force:
total: 9.4 million (1997)
by occupation: services 52%, industry 38%, agriculture 10% (1996 est.)

Unemployment rate: 2.7% (1997)

revenues: $40 billion
expenditures: $55 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (1998 est.)

Industries: electronics, textiles, chemicals, clothing, food processing, plywood, sugar milling, cement, shipbuilding, petroleum refining

Industrial production growth rate: 7% (1997)

Electricity—capacity: 23.763 million kW (1996)

Electricity—production: 124.973 billion kWh (1996)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 5,500 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: rice, wheat, corn, soybeans, vegetables, fruit, tea; pigs, poultry, beef, milk; fish

total value: $122.1 billion (f.o.b., 1997)
commodities: machinery and electrical equipment 21.7%, electronic products 14.8%, information/communications 11.8%, textile products 11.6% (1997)
partners: US 24.2%, Hong Kong 23.5%, Europe 15.1%, Japan 9.6% (1997)

total value: $114.4 billion (c.i.f., 1997)
commodities: machinery and electrical equipment 16.5%, electronic products 16.3%, chemicals 10.0%, precision instrument 5.6% (1997)
partners: Japan 25.4%, US 20.3%, Europe 18.9%, Hong Kong 1.7% (1997)

Debt—external: $80 million (1997 est.)

Economic aid: $NA

Currency: 1 New Taiwan dollar (NT$) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: New Taiwan dollars per US$1—32.45 (yearend 1997), 27.5 (1996), 27.4 (1995), 26.2 (1994), 26.6 (1993), 25.4 (1992)

Fiscal year: 1 July—30 June


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Telephones: 10,010,614 (1996)

Telephone system:
domestic: extensive microwave radio relay trunk system on east and west coasts
international: satellite earth stations—2 Intelsat (1 Pacific Ocean and 1 Indian Ocean); submarine cables to Japan (Okinawa), Philippines, Guam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, Middle East, and Western Europe

Radio broadcast stations: AM 91, FM 23, shortwave 0

Radios: 8.62 million

Television broadcast stations: 15 (repeaters 13)

Televisions: 10.8 million (1996 est.)


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total: 4,600 km (498 km electrified); note—1,108 km belongs to the Taiwan Railway Administration and the remaining 3,492 km is dedicated to industrial use
narrow gauge: 4,600 km 1.067-m

total: 19,701 km
paved: 17,238 km (including 447 km of expressways)
unpaved: 2,463 km (1996 est.)

Pipelines: petroleum products 615 km; natural gas 97 km

Ports and harbors: Chi-lung (Keelung), Hua-lien, Kao-hsiung, Su-ao, T'ai-chung

Merchant marine:
total: 193 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 5,621,906 GRT/8,583,808 DWT
ships by type: bulk 49, cargo 30, combination bulk 2, container 81, oil tanker 18, refrigerated cargo 11, roll-on/roll-off cargo 2 (1997 est.)

Airports: 40 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 36
over 3,047 m: 8
2,438 to 3,047 m: 12
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 6
under 914 m: 5 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
under 914 m: 2 (1997 est.)

Heliports: 1 (1997 est.)


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Military branches: Army, Navy (includes Marines), Air Force, Coastal Patrol and Defense Command, Armed Forces Reserve Command, Combined Service Forces

Military manpower—military age: 19 years of age

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 6,476,878 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 4,978,865 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—reaching military age annually:
males: 206,975 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $11.5 billion (FY96/97)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 3.6% (FY96/97)

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: involved in complex dispute over the Spratly Islands with China, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, and possibly Brunei; Paracel Islands occupied by China, but claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan; claims Japanese-administered Senkaku-shoto (Senkaku Islands/Diaoyu Tai), as does China

Illicit drugs: considered an important heroin transit point; major problem with domestic consumption of methamphetamines and heroin