Monday, June 17, 2019


Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (中華民國), is an island state in East Asia.  It is the biggest state, and the largest economy, not recognised as a country by the UN.  Taiwan is south-east of China, south-west of Japan, and north of the Philippines.
The island is about the size of Maryland and Rhode Island combined.  Taiwan is home to more than 23,5 million people.  Taipei is the capital and its largest city.

Indigenous people settled the island about 6.000 years ago.  In 1542, Portuguese sailors passed by the island.  They never stopped by noted it on their maps as Ilha Formosa, ("beautiful island"), and up to the early 20th century many Europeans refereed to it as Formosa.

In 1683 the island was annexed by the Qing dynasty until 1895 when it was ceded to Japan.  Taiwan was a Japanese island for 50 years until the end of WWII in 1945 when it was then given to the Republic of China (which overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1911.

There was a civil war in China between the Nationalists and the Communists that was interrupted by WWII.  It continued after the war until the Communists took the mainland in 1949 and two million Nationalists fled to Taiwan.  Beijing declared itself the capital of the People's Republic of China and Taipei became the temporary capital of the Republic of China.  Both insisting to be the one and only true China.

©Test Tube News

©ABC News

The Nationalist Kuomintang government declared martial law in 1949 and it remained in place until 1987.  This time is referred to as the "White Terror" when 140.000 people were arrested, tortured, and/or killed for being perceived as either anti-nationalist or pro-communist.  Since then Taiwan has moved from a single-party military dictatorship to a multi-party democracy with a semi-presidential system.  In 2016 Tsai Ing-wen became the first female president.

In 1971, the UN recognised the PRC as China and Taiwan lost its seat.  Taiwan has official diplomatic relations with only 14 of the 193 UN countries, plus the Holy Sea.  These countries are Eswatini, Belize, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands.  Not exactly the most powerful countries.  That's because the PRC claims Taiwan as part of China and it refuses to have diplomatic relations with countries that recognise Taiwan.

So Taiwan has to maintain unofficial relations via Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Offices which function as de facto embassies and consulates.  In most international organisations like the World Health Organization, where China participates, Taiwan ends up being called Chinese Taipei.
Chinese Taipei, 中華台北is the name the country competes under at the Olympics.

Mandarin Chinese is the official language.  However, the traditional Chinese charters are used whereas China uses the simplified characters.  Meaning that someone from Beijing and someone from Taipei could speak with each other but would have problems reading a letter from each other.

Taiwan has an industrialised economy and is the 21st largest in the world.  The New Taiwan Dollar, NT$, is the official currency.

On 24 May 2019, same-sex marriage became legal.  This makes Taiwan the first country in Asia to recognise gay marriage.

The biggest problem Taiwan has is China's claim on the island.  I can understand that both sides can't continue to claim to be the sole legitimate China.  In my humble opinion enough time has gone by that the PRC is China and Taiwan is Taiwan.  It seems odd to me that China lays claim to the island when it had only been a part of mainland China from 1945 to 1949.  Here's a video I found out on YouTube about how powerful Taiwan is.

©Test Tube News

Czechland has unofficial relations with Taiwan.  Zdeněk Hřib is the mayor of Prague who, when he was studying to become a doctor, did his medical training internship in Taiwan.  He doesn't always get along with Miloš Zeman, the Czech President, who is a big supporter of China.

Update: In October Prague ended its sister city agreement with Beijing over a dispute.  On 12 December 2019, Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib signed a new sister city agreement with Taipei. 

Update 2022:  Here's a bit more on cooperation between Czechland and Taiwan.

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