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Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook


Taiwan is an island in East Asia located off the coast of mainland China, south of Japan, and north of the Philippines. "Taiwan" is commonly used to refer to the government of the Republic of China (ROC), which currently governs Taiwan, as well as the smaller outlying island groups of Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu.

The main island of Taiwan, also known as Formosa (Portuguese sailors called it Ilha Formosa, which means "beautiful island"), is bounded to the east by the Pacific Ocean, to the south by the South China Sea, to the west by the Taiwan Strait, and to the north by the East China Sea. The island is 394 miles long and 144 miles wide and consists of steep mountains covered by tropical and subtropical vegetation.


From 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was a Japanese colony, a concession by the Chinese empire after it lost the first Sino-Japanese War. After Japan's defeat at the end of World War II in 1945, Taiwan was turned over to the Republic of China and governed under a military administration. In 1949, upon losing the Chinese Civil War to the Communist Party of China, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) retreated from mainland China and moved the ROC government to Taipei, Taiwan's largest city, while continuing to claim sovereignty over all of China and Mongolia. On the mainland, the Communists established the People's Republic of China, claiming to be the successor state of both the mainland and Taiwan and portraying the ROC government on Taiwan as an illegitimate entity.

Under the KMT administration, Taiwan was transformed from a largely agrarian society into a major industrialized economy and is often touted as one of the East Asian Tigers. Meanwhile, political reforms beginning in the late 1970s through the 1980s and early 1990s liberalized Taiwan from an authoritarian one-party state into a localized multiparty democracy that in 1991, for all practical purposes ended its claims over mainland China. The consolidation of multiparty democracy culminated in 2000 when the KMT's monopoly on power was removed after the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party won the ROC presidency. Besides supporters of the current government and the PRC, a Taiwan independence movement has grown prominent, seeking to establish a Taiwanese republic. The competing claims over the future of Taiwan have made and continue to make its political status a contentious issue.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Taiwan".