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Taiwan is the largest island of China in East Asia. It is located east of the Taiwan Strait, off the southeastern coast of mainland China.

Map of TaiwanSeparated from the Asian continent by the 180-kilometre-wide Taiwan Strait, the main island of the group is 394 kilometres (245 mi) long and 144 kilometres (89 mi) wide. To the northeast are the main islands of Japan, and the southern end of the Ryukyu Islands of Japan is directly to the east; the Philippines lie to its south. The mountainous island spans across the Tropic of Cancer and is covered by tropical and subtropical vegetation. Other minor islands and islets of the group include the Pescadores, Green Island, and Orchid Island as well as the Diaoyutai Islands which have been controlled by Japan since the 1970s and are known as the Senkaku-shoto.

The island group has been governed by the Republic of China (ROC) since 1945 when the ROC acquired Taiwan from Japan as a result of World War II. Four years later the ROC lost the Chinese Civil War to the Communist Party of China and retreated to Taiwan. The political status of Taiwan is complex because it is claimed by the People's Republic of China (PRC) which was established in 1949 on mainland China and considers itself the successor state to the ROC. Japan had originally annexed Taiwan from the Qing Empire in 1895. At the end of World War II, Japan had agreed to give up sovereignty over Taiwan to the Republic of China.

Taiwan's rapid economic growth in the decades after World War II has transformed it into an advanced economy as one of the Four Asian Tigers.  This economic rise is known as the Taiwan Miracle. It is categorized as an advanced economy by the IMF and high-income economy by the World Bank. Its technology industry plays a key role in the global economy. Taiwanese companies manufacture a large portion of the world's consumer electronics, although most of them are made in their factories in mainland China.

-Prehistory and early settlements
Evidence of human settlement in Taiwan dates back 30,000 years, although the first inhabitants of Taiwan may have been genetically distinct from any groups currently on the island. About 4,000 years ago, ancestors of current Taiwanese aborigines settled in Taiwan. These aborigines are genetically related to Malay and maternally to Polynesians, and linguists classify their languages as Austronesian. It is thought likely that Polynesian ancestry may be traceable throughout Taiwan.

Records from ancient China indicate that the Han Chinese might have known of the existence of the main island of Taiwan since the Three Kingdoms period (third century, 230 A.D.), having assigned offshore islands in the vicinity names like Greater Liuqiu and Lesser Liuqiu (etymologically, but perhaps not semantically, identical to Ryūkyū in Japanese), though none of these names has been definitively matched to the main island of Taiwan. The Ming Dynasty admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He) visited Taiwan in 1430.

Han Chinese began settling in the Penghu islands in the 1200s, but Taiwan's hostile tribes and its lack of the trade resources valued in that era rendered it unattractive to all but "occasional adventurers or fishermen engaging in barter" until the 16th century.

-European settlement
1600 drawing of Dutch ships in Taiwan.In 1544, a Portuguese ship sighted the main island of Taiwan and named it Ilha Formosa, which means "Beautiful Island."

In 1624, the Dutch established a commercial base on Taiwan and began to import workers from Fujian and Penghu (Pescadores) as laborers, many of whom settled. The Dutch made Taiwan a colony with its colonial capital at Tayoan City (present day Anping, Tainan). Both Tayoan and the island name Taiwan derive from a word in Sirayan, one of the Formosan languages.

The Dutch military presence was concentrated at a stronghold called Castle Zeelandia. The Dutch colonists also started to hunt the native Formosan Sika deer (Cervus nippon taioanus) that inhabited Taiwan, contributing to the eventual extinction of the subspecies on the island. Furthermore, this attributed to the consequential identification of native tribes.

In 1626, the Spanish landed on and occupied northern Taiwan (Keelong and Tanshui) as a base to extend its commercial trading. The colonial period lasted 16 years until 1642.

-Koxinga and Qing rule
Chinese naval and troop forces of Southern Fujian defeated the Dutch in 1662, subsequently expelling the Dutch government and military from the island. They were led by Koxinga. Following the fall of the Ming Dynasty, Koxinga retreated to Taiwan as a self-styled Ming loyalist and established the Kingdom of Tungning (1662–83). Koxinga established his capital at Tainan and he and his heirs, Zheng Jing, who ruled from 1662–82, and Zheng Keshuang, who served less than a year, continued to launch raids on the south-east coast of mainland China well into the Qing Dynasty, attempting to recapture mainland China.

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. The Qing government tried to reduce piracy and vagrancy in the area, issuing a series of edicts to manage immigration and respect aboriginal land rights. Immigrants mostly from Southern Fujian continued to enter Taiwan. The border between taxpaying lands and "savage" lands shifted eastward, with some aborigines 'Sinicizing' while others retreated into the mountains. During this time, there were a number of conflicts between Chinese from different regions of Southern Fujian, and between Southern Fujian Chinese and aborigines.

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. A French attempt to capture Tamsui was defeated at the Battle of Tamsui (8 October 1884). Several battles were fought around Keelung between October 1884 and March 1885 between Liu Ming-ch'uan's Army of Northern Taiwan and Colonel Jacques Duchesne's Formosa Expeditionary Corps. The Keelung Campaign, despite some notable French tactical victories, ended in a stalemate. The Pescadores Campaign was a French victory, but had no long-term consequences. The French evacuated both Keelung and the Penghu archipelago at the end of the war.

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

-Japanese rule
The building currently known as the ROC Presidential Office was originally built as the Office of the Governor-General by the Japanese government.Imperial Japan had sought to control Taiwan since 1592, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi began extending Japanese influence overseas. In 1609, the Tokugawa Shogunate sent Arima Harunobu on an exploratory mission. In 1616, Murayama Toan led an unsuccessful invasion of the island.

In 1871, an Okinawan vessel shipwrecked on the southern tip of Taiwan and the crew of fifty-four was beheaded by the Paiwan aborigines. The Ryūkyū Kingdom kept a tributary relationship with Great Qing, at the same time was subordinate to Satsuma Domain of Japan. When Japan sought compensation from Qing China, it was first rejected because Qing considered the incident an internal affair since Taiwan was a prefecture of Fujian Province of Qing and the Ryūkyū Kingdom was a tributary of Qing. When Japanese foreign minister Soejima Taneomi asked the compensation again claiming four of the victims were Japanese citizens from Okayama prefecture of Japan, Qing officials rejected the demand on the grounds that the "wild" and "unsubjugated" aboriginals were outside its jurisdiction. Such aboriginals were treated extremely harshly; American consul J.W. Davidson described how the Chinese in Taiwan ate and traded in their aboriginal victims' flesh. The open renunciation of sovereignty led to a Japanese invasion of Taiwan. In 1874, an expeditionary force of three thousand troops was sent to the island. There were about thirty Taiwanese and 543 Japanese casualties (twelve in battle and 531 by endemic diseases for the Japanese side).   

Japanese Soldiers Entering Taipei City in 1895 after the Treaty of Shimonoseki.Great Qing was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) and Taiwan and Penghu were ceded in full sovereignty to Japan. Inhabitants wishing to remain Qing subjects were given a two-year grace period to sell their property and move to mainland China. Very few Taiwanese saw this as feasible.

On May 25, 1895, a group of pro-Qing high officials proclaimed the Republic of Formosa to resist impending Japanese rule. Japanese forces entered the capital at Tainan and quelled this resistance on October 21, 1895.

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. Still, the Taiwanese and Aborigines were classified as second- and third-class citizens. Large-scale violence continued in the first decade of rule. 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 and people were taught to see themselves as Japanese. During WWII, tens of thousands of Taiwanese served in the Japanese military.For example, former ROC President Lee Teng-hui's elder brother served in the Japanese navy and died while on duty in February 1945 in the Philippines.

The Imperial Japanese Navy operated heavily out of Taiwan. The "South Strike Group" was based out of the Taihoku Imperial University in Taiwan. Many of the Japanese forces participating in the Aerial Battle of Taiwan-Okinawa were based in Taiwan. Important Japanese military bases and industrial centers throughout Taiwan, like Kaohsiung, were targets of heavy American bombing.

Japan's rule of Taiwan ended after it lost World War II and signed the Instrument of Surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945. But the Japanese rule had long lasting effects on Taiwan and Taiwanese culture. Japanese pop culture is popular in Taiwan, influenced by the 50-year Japanese rule. Significant parts of Taiwanese infrastructure were started under the Japanese rule. The current Presidential Building was also built during that time. In 1938 there were 309,000 Japanese settlers in Taiwan. After World War II, most of the Japanese were repatriated to Japan.

-Kuomintang martial law period
The Cairo Conference from November 22 to 26, 1943 in Cairo, Egypt was held to address the Allied position against Japan during WWII and made decision about postwar Asia. One of the three main clauses of the Cairo Declaration is that "all the territories Japan has stolen from China, including Manchuria, Taiwan and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China'. This ultimatum was accepted when Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender.

On October 25, 1945, ROC troops representing the Allied Command accepted the formal surrender of Japanese military forces in Taipei (then called Taihoku). The ROC Government, led by Chiang Kai-shek, announced that date as "Taiwan Retrocession Day". The ROC under Chen Yi was strained by social and political instabilities, which were compounded by economic woes, such as hyperinflation. Furthermore, cultural and linguistic differences between the Taiwanese and the mainland Chinese, quickly led to the loss of popular support for the new government. This culminated in a series of severe clashes between the ROC government and the Taiwanese, in turn leading to the 228 incident and the reign of White Terror.

In 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, the Kuomintang (KMT), led by Chiang Kai-shek, retreated from mainland China and the ROC government fled from Nanjing (then romanised as "Nanking") to Taipei, Taiwan's largest city, while continuing to claim sovereignty over all China, which the ROC defines to include mainland China, Taiwan, Outer Mongolia and other areas. In mainland China, the victorious Communists established the PRC, claiming to be the sole representative of China (which it claimed included Taiwan) and portraying the ROC government as an illegitimate entity.

-Modern democratic era
Chiang Kai-shek's eventual successor, his son Chiang Ching-kuo, began to liberalize Taiwan's political system. In 1984, the younger Chiang selected Lee Teng-hui, an ethnically Taiwanese technocrat, to be his vice president. In 1986, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was formed and inaugurated as the first opposition party in Taiwan to counter the KMT. A year later Chiang Ching-kuo lifted martial law.

After the 1988 death of Chiang Ching-Kuo, President Lee Teng-hui became the first ethnically Taiwanese president of the ROC. 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 in contrast to earlier KMT policies which had promoted a Chinese identity. Lee's reforms included printing banknotes from the Central Bank rather than the Provincial Bank of Taiwan, and streamlining the Taiwan Provincial Government with most of its functions transferred to the Executive Yuan. Under Lee, the original members of the Legislative Yuan and National Assembly, elected in 1947 to represent mainland Chinese constituencies and having taken the seats without re-election for more than four decades, were forced to resign in 1991. The previously nominal representation in the Legislative Yuan was brought to an end, to reflect the reality that the ROC government had no jurisdiction over mainland China. Restrictions on the use of Taiwanese Hokkien in the broadcast media and in schools were lifted as well. During later years of Lee's administration, he was involved in corruption controversies relating to government release of land and weapons purchase, although no legal proceedings commenced.

In the 1990s, the ROC continued its democratic reforms, as President Lee Teng-hui was elected by the first popular vote held in Taiwan during the 1996 Presidential election. In 2000, Chen Shui-bian of the DPP, was elected as the first non-KMT President and was re-elected to serve his second and last term since 2004. Polarized politics has emerged in Taiwan with the formation of the Pan-Blue Coalition of parties led by the KMT, favoring eventual Chinese reunification, and the Pan-Green Coalition of parties led by the DPP, favoring an eventual and official declaration of Taiwan independence.

On September 30, 2007, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party approved a resolution asserting separate identity from China and called for the enactment of a new constitution for a "normal country". It also called for 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 voter turnout below the required legal threshold of 50% of all registered voters. The Chen administration was dogged by public concerns over reduced economic growth, legislative gridlock due to a pan-blue, opposition controlled Legislative Yuan, and corruption involving the First Family as well as government officials.

The KMT increased its majority in the Legislative Yuan in the January 2008 legislative elections, while its 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. Part of the rationale for campaigning for closer economic ties with the PRC stem from the strong economic growth China attained since joining the World Trade Organization. However, some analysts say that despite the election of Ma Ying-jeou, military tensions with the PRC have not been reduced

The island of Taiwan lies some 180 kilometers off the southeastern coast of China, across the Taiwan Strait, and has an area of 35,801 km2 (13,822.8 sq mi). The East China Sea lies 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 characterized by the contrast between the eastern two-thirds, consisting 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 Yu Shan at 3,952 meters, and there are five other peaks over 3,500 meters. This makes it the world's fourth-highest island. Taroko National Park, located on the mountainous eastern side of the island, has good examples of mountainous terrain, gorges and erosion caused by a swiftly flowing river.

The shape of the main island of Taiwan is similar to a sweet potato seen in a south-to-north direction, and therefore, Taiwanese, especially the Min-nan division, often call themselves "children of the Sweet Potato." There are also other interpretations of the island shape, one of which is a whale in the ocean (the Pacific Ocean) if viewed in a west-to-east direction, which is a common orientation in ancient maps, plotted either by Western explorers or the Great Qing.

The island of Taiwan lies in a complex tectonic area between the Yangtze Plate to the west and north, the Okinawa Plate on the north-east, and the Philippine Mobile Belt on the east and south. The upper part of the crust on the island is primarily made up of a series of terranes, mostly old island arcs which have been forced together by the collision of the forerunners of the Eurasian Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate. These have been further uplifted as a result of the detachment of a portion of the Eurasian Plate as it was subducted beneath remnants of the Philippine Sea Plate, a process which left the crust under Taiwan more buoyant.

The east and south of Taiwan are a complex system of belts formed by, and part of the zone of, active collision between the North Luzon Trough portion of the Luzon Arc and South China, where accreted portions of the Luzon Arc and Luzon forearc form the eastern Coastal Range and parallel inland Longitudinal Valley of Taiwan respectively.

The major seismic faults in Taiwan correspond to the various suture zones between the various terranes. These have produced major quakes throughout the history of the island. On September 21, 1999, a 7.3 quake known as the "921 earthquake" occurred. The seismic hazard map for Taiwan by the USGS shows 9/10 of the island as the highest rating (most hazardous).

Taiwan's climate is marine tropical. The Northern part of the island has a rainy season that lasts from January to late March during the northeast monsoon, and also experiences meiyu in May. The entire island succumbs to hot humid weather from June until September, while October to December are arguably the most pleasant times of year. The middle and southern parts of the island do not have an extended monsoon season during the winter months. Natural hazards such as typhoons and earthquakesare common in the region.

Taiwan is a center of bird endemism; see Endemic birds of Taiwan for further information.

Ethnic groups
Taiwan's population was estimated in 2005 at 22.9 million, most of whom are on the 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 the "home-province people" (Chinese pinyin: Běnshěng rén; literally "home-province person"). This group contains two subgroups: the Southern Fujianese or "Hokkien" or "Min-nan" (70% of the total population), who migrated from the coastal Southern Fujian (Min-nan) region in the southeast of mainland China; and the Hakka (15% of the total population), who originally migrated south to Guangdong, its surrounding areas and Taiwan. 12% of population are known as waishengren (Chinese pinyin: Wàishěng rén; literally "out-of-province person") or "mainlanders" in English and are composed of and descend from mainland Chinese immigrants who arrived after the Second World War. This group mostly includes those who fled mainland China in 1949 following the Kuomintang defeat in the Chinese Civil War. For political reasons, the mainlanders are also called xin zhùmín (Chinese), or "new residents", although the term is considered offensive by many of the mainlanders themselves. As of April 2009, there were 343,000 foreign workers.

The other 2% of Taiwan's population, numbering about 458,000, are listed as the Taiwanese aborigines, divided into 13 major groups: Ami, Atayal, Paiwan, Bunun, Rukai, Puyuma, Tsou, Saisiyat, Tao (Yami), Thao, Kavalan, Truku and Sakizaya.

About 70% of the people in Taiwan belong to the Hoklo ethnic group and speak both Standard Mandarin (officially recognized by the ROC as the National Language) and Taiwanese Hokkien (commonly known as "Taiwanese"; a variant of Min Nan spoken in Fujian province). Standard Mandarin is the primary language of instruction in schools. The Hakka, about 15% of the population, have a distinct Hakka dialect. Aboriginal minority groups still speak their native languages, although most also speak Mandarin. English is a common second language, with some large private schools providing English instruction. English is compulsory in students' curriculum once they enter elementary school. English as a school subject is also featured on Taiwan's education exams.

Although Mandarin is still the language of instruction in schools and dominates television and radio, non-Mandarin languages or 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 1900 to 1945 used Japanese as the medium of instruction. Some in the older generations only speak the Japanese they learned at school and the Taiwanese they spoke at home and are unable to communicate with many in the younger generations who only speak Mandarin.

Most aboriginal groups in Taiwan have their own languages which, unlike Taiwanese or Hakka, do not belong to the Chinese language family, but rather to the Austronesian language family.

Four characters on the inscribed board mean "First School in All of Taiwan"Over 93% of Taiwanese are adherents of a combination of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism; 4.5% are adherents of Christianity, which includes Protestants, Catholics, and other non-denominational Christian groups; Latter-day Saints, and 2.5% are adherents of other religions, such as Islam. Taiwanese aborigines comprise a notable subgroup among professing Christians: "...over 64 percent identify as Christian... Church buildings are the most obvious markers of Aboriginal villages, distinguishing them from Taiwanese or Hakka villages."

Confucianism is a philosophy that deals with secular moral ethics, and serves as the foundation of both Chinese and Taiwanese culture. The majority of Taiwanese people usually combine the secular moral teachings of Confucianism with whatever religions they are affiliated with.

One especially important goddess for Taiwanese people is Matsu, who symbolizes the seafaring spirit of Taiwan's ancestors from Fujian and Guangdong.

As of 2009, there are 14,993 temples in Taiwan, approximately one place of worship per 1,500 residents. 9,202 of those temples were dedicated to Taoism. In 2008, Taiwan had 3,262 Churches, an increase of 145

The cultures of Taiwan are a hybrid blend of various sources, incorporating elements of traditional Chinese culture, attributable to the historical and ancestry origin of the majority of its current residents, Japanese culture, traditional Confucianist beliefs, and increasingly globalized values.

After their move to Taiwan, the Kuomintang imposed an official interpretation of traditional Chinese culture over Taiwanese cultures. The government launched a program promoting Chinese calligraphy, traditional Chinese painting, folk art, and Chinese opera.

Since the Taiwan localization movement of the 1990s, Taiwan's cultural identity has enjoyed greater expression. Identity politics, along with the over one hundred years of political separation from mainland China has led to distinct traditions in many areas, including cuisine and music.

The status of Taiwanese culture is debated. It is disputed whether Taiwanese culture is a regional form of Chinese culture or a distinct culture. Speaking Taiwanese as a symbol of the localization movement has become an emblem of Taiwanese identity.

One of Taiwan's greatest attractions is the National Palace Museum, which houses more than 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting and porcelain, and is considered one of the greatest collection of Chinese art and objects in the world.[48] The KMT moved this collection from the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1949 when it fled to Taiwan. The collection, estimated to be one-tenth of China's cultural treasures, is so extensive that only 1% is on display at any time. The PRC had said that the collection was stolen and that it legitimately belongs in China, but Taiwan has long defended its collection as a necessary act to protect the pieces from destruction especially during the cultural revolution. Relations regarding this treasure have warmed recently as the PRC has agreed to lending relics and that that Beijing Palace Museum Curator Zheng Xinmiao said that artifacts in both Chinese and Taiwanese museums are "China's cultural heritage jointly owned by people across the Taiwan Strait."

Popular sports in Taiwan include basketball and baseball.

International Community Radio Taipei is the most listened to International Radio Media in Taiwan.[citation needed]

Karaoke, drawn from contemporary Japanese culture, is extremely popular in Taiwan, where it is known as KTV.

Taiwan has a high density of 24-hour convenience stores, which in addition to the usual services, provide services on behalf of financial institutions or government agencies such as collection of parking fees, utility bills, traffic violation fines, and credit card payments. They even provide the service of mailing packages.

Taiwanese culture has also influenced other cultures. Bubble tea and milk tea are available in Australia, Europe and North America. Taiwan television variety shows are very popular in Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian countries. Taiwanese films have won various international awards at film festivals around the world. Ang Lee, a Taiwanese, has directed critically acclaimed films such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Eat Drink Man Woman, Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, and Lust, Caution. Other famous Taiwanese directors include Tsai Ming-Liang, Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien.