Context of Taiwan

Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia. It is located at the junction of the East and South China Seas in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, with the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the northwest, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. The territories controlled by the ROC consist of 168 islands with a combined area of 36,193 square kilometers (13,974 square miles). The main island of Taiwan, also known as Formosa, has an area of 35,808 square kilometers (13,826 square miles), with mountain ranges dominating the eastern two-thirds and plains in the western third, where its highly urbanised population is concentrated. The capital, Taipei, forms along with New Taipei City and Keelung, the largest metropolitan area in Taiwan. Other major cities include Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. With around 23.9 million inhabitants, Taiwan is among...Read more

Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia. It is located at the junction of the East and South China Seas in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, with the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the northwest, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. The territories controlled by the ROC consist of 168 islands with a combined area of 36,193 square kilometers (13,974 square miles). The main island of Taiwan, also known as Formosa, has an area of 35,808 square kilometers (13,826 square miles), with mountain ranges dominating the eastern two-thirds and plains in the western third, where its highly urbanised population is concentrated. The capital, Taipei, forms along with New Taipei City and Keelung, the largest metropolitan area in Taiwan. Other major cities include Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. With around 23.9 million inhabitants, Taiwan is among the most densely populated countries in the world.

Taiwan has been settled for at least 25,000 years. Ancestors of Taiwanese indigenous peoples settled the island around 6,000 years ago. In the 17th century, large-scale Han Chinese (specifically the Hakkas and Hoklos) immigration to western Taiwan began under a Dutch colony and continued under the Kingdom of Tungning, the first predominantly Han Chinese state in Taiwanese history. The island was annexed in 1683 by the Qing dynasty of China and ceded to the Empire of Japan in 1895. The Republic of China, which had overthrown the Qing in 1911, took control of Taiwan following the surrender of Japan in 1945. Japan would renounce sovereignty over Taiwan in 1952. The immediate resumption of the Chinese Civil War resulted in the loss of the Chinese mainland to Communist forces, who established the People's Republic of China and the flight of the ROC central government to Taiwan in 1949. The effective jurisdiction of the ROC has since been limited to Taiwan, Penghu, and smaller islands.

In the early 1960s, Taiwan entered a period of rapid economic growth and industrialisation called the "Taiwan Miracle". In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the ROC transitioned from a one-party state under martial law to a multi-party democracy, with democratically elected presidents since 1996. Taiwan's export-oriented industrial economy is the 21st-largest in the world by nominal GDP and the 20th-largest by PPP measures, with a focus on steel, machinery, electronics, and chemicals manufacturing. Taiwan is a developed country, ranking 20th on GDP per capita by purchasing power parity (PPP) and 30th by nominal GDP per capita. It is ranked highly in terms of civil liberties, healthcare, and human development.

The political status of Taiwan is contentious. The ROC no longer represents China as a member of the United Nations after UN members voted in 1971 to recognize the PRC instead. The ROC maintained its claim of being the sole legitimate representative of China and its territory, although this has been downplayed since its democratization in the 1990s. Taiwan is claimed by the PRC, which refuses to establish diplomatic relations with countries that recognise the ROC. Taiwan maintains official diplomatic relations with 12 out of 193 UN member states and the Holy See, which governs Vatican City. Many others maintain unofficial diplomatic ties through representative offices and institutions that function as de facto embassies and consulates. International organisations in which the PRC participates either refuse to grant membership to Taiwan or allow it to participate only on a non-state basis under various names. Domestically, the major political contention is between parties favouring eventual Chinese unification and promoting a pan-Chinese identity, contrasted with those aspiring to formal international recognition and promoting a Taiwanese identity; into the 21st century, both sides have moderated their positions to broaden their appeal.

More about Taiwan

Basic information
  • Currency New Taiwan dollar
  • Native name 中華民國
  • Calling code +886
  • Internet domain .tw
  • Mains voltage 110V/60Hz
  • Democracy index 8.94
Population, Area & Driving side
  • Population 23593794
  • Area 36193
  • Driving side right
  • Early settlement (to 1683)
    2,300-year...Read more
    Early settlement (to 1683)
    2,300-year-old jade, unearthed at Beinan Cultural Park

    Taiwan was joined to the Asian mainland in the Late Pleistocene, until sea levels rose about 10,000 years ago.[1] Fragmentary human remains dated 20,000 to 30,000 years ago have been found on the island, as well as later artifacts of a Paleolithic culture.[2][3] These people were similar to the negritos of the Philippines.[4]

    Around 6,000 years ago, Taiwan was settled by farmers, most likely from what is now southeast China.[5] They are believed to be the ancestors of today's Taiwanese indigenous peoples, whose languages belong to the Austronesian language family, but show much greater diversity than the rest of the family, which spans a huge area from Maritime Southeast Asia west to Madagascar and east as far as New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island. This has led linguists to propose Taiwan as the urheimat of the family, from which seafaring peoples dispersed across Southeast Asia and the Pacific and Indian Oceans.[6][7] Trade links with the Philippines subsisted from the early 2nd millennium BC, including the use of jade from eastern Taiwan in the Philippine jade culture.[8] The raw jade from Taiwan which was further processed in the Philippines was the basis for Taiwanese-Philippine commerce with ancient Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Cambodia.[9]

    Han Chinese fishermen had settled on the Penghu Islands by 1171, when a group of "Bisheye" bandits with dark skin speaking a foreign language, a Taiwanese people related to the Bisaya of the Visayas had landed on Penghu and plundered the fields planted by Chinese migrants.[10] The Song dynasty sent soldiers after them and from that time on, Song patrols regularly visited Penghu in the spring and summer. A local official, Wang Dayou, had houses built on Penghu and stationed troops there to prevent depredations from the Bisheye.[11][12][13] In 1225, the Book of Barbarian Nations anecdotally indicated that Penghu was attached to Jinjiang, Quanzhou Prefecture.[14] A group of Quanzhou immigrants lived on Penghu.[15] In November 1281, the Yuan dynasty under Emperor Shizu officially established the Penghu Patrol and Inspection Agency under the jurisdiction of Tong'an County.[14] Hostile tribes, and a lack of valuable trade products, meant that few outsiders visited the main island until the 16th century.[16] During the 16th century, visits to the coast by fishermen and traders from Fujian, as well as Chinese and Japanese pirates, became more frequent.[16]

    Fort Zeelandia, the Governor's residence in Dutch Formosa

    In the 15th century, the Ming ordered the evacuation of the Penghu Islands as part of their maritime ban. When these restrictions were removed in the late 16th century, legal fishing communities, most of which hailing from Tong'an County,[17] were re-established on the Penghu Islands. The Dutch East India Company (the VOC) attempted to establish a trading outpost on the Penghu Islands (Pescadores) in 1622, but was driven off by Ming forces.[18] In 1624, the VOC established a stronghold called Fort Zeelandia on the coastal islet of Tayouan, which is now part of the main island at Anping, Tainan.[19] When the Dutch arrived, they found southwestern Taiwan already frequented by a mostly transient Chinese population numbering close to 1,500.[20] David Wright, a Scottish agent of the VOC who lived on the island in the 1650s, described the lowland areas of the island as being divided among 11 chiefdoms ranging in size from two settlements to 72. Some of these fell under Dutch control, including the Kingdom of Middag in the central western plains, while others remained independent.[19][21] The VOC encouraged farmers to immigrate from Fujian and work the lands under Dutch control.[22] By the 1660s, some 30,000 to 50,000 Chinese were living on the island.[23] Most of the farmers cultivated rice for local consumption and sugar for export.[24] Some immigrants were engaged in commercial deer hunting.[25][26] Deerskins were sold to the Dutch and exported to Japan. Venison, horns and genitals were exported to China where the products were used as food or medicine.

    In 1626, the Spanish Empire landed on and occupied northern Taiwan as a trading base, first at Keelung and in 1628 building Fort San Domingo at Tamsui.[27] This colony lasted 16 years until 1642, when the last Spanish fortress fell to Dutch forces.[28] The Dutch then marched south, subduing hundreds of villages in the western plains between their new possessions in the north and their base at Tayouan.[28]

    Following the fall of the Ming dynasty in Beijing in 1644, Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong) pledged allegiance to the Yongli Emperor of Southern Ming and attacked the Qing dynasty along the southeastern coast of China.[29] In 1661, under increasing Qing pressure, he moved his forces from his base in Xiamen to Taiwan, expelling the Dutch in the following year. After being ousted from Taiwan, the Dutch allied with the new Qing dynasty in China against the Zheng regime in Taiwan. Following some skirmishes the Dutch retook the northern fortress at Keelung in 1664.[30] Zheng Jing sent troops to dislodge the Dutch, but they were unsuccessful. The Dutch held out at Keelung until 1668, when aborigine resistance,[31] and the lack of progress in retaking any other parts of the island persuaded the colonial authorities to abandon this final stronghold and withdraw from Taiwan altogether.[32]

    The Zheng regime, known as Kingdom of Tungning, is considered to be loyal to the Ming, while others argue that the regime acted as an independent ruler.[33][34][35][36] However, Zheng Jing's return to China to participate in the Revolt of the Three Feudatories, a rebellion against the Qing court, ruined the regime and paved the way for the Qing invasion and occupation of Taiwan in 1683.[37][38]

    Qing rule (1683–1895)
    Chihkan Tower, originally built as Fort Provintia by the Dutch, was rebuilt under Qing rule

    Following the defeat of Koxinga's grandson by an armada led by Admiral Shi Lang in 1683, the Qing dynasty formally annexed Taiwan in May 1684, making it a prefecture of Fujian province while retaining its administrative seat (now Tainan) under Koxinga as the capital.[39][40][41]

    The Qing government generally tried to restrict migration to Taiwan throughout the duration of its administration because it believed that Taiwan could not sustain too large a population without leading to conflict. After the defeat of the Kingdom of Tungning, most of its population in Taiwan was sent back to the mainland, leaving the official population count at only 50,000: 546 inhabitants in Penghu, 30,229 in Taiwan, 8,108 aborigines, and 10,000 troops. Despite official restrictions, officials in Taiwan solicited settlers from the mainland, causing tens of thousands of annual arrivals from Fujian and Guangdong by 1711. A permit system was officially recorded in 1712 but it likely existed as early as 1684. Restrictions related to the permit system included only allowing those who had property on the mainland, family in Taiwan, and those who were not accompanied by wives or children, to enter Taiwan. Many of the male migrants married local indigenous women. Over the 18th century, restrictions on entering Taiwan were relaxed. In 1732, families were allowed to move to Taiwan, and in 1790, an office to manage cross-strait travel was established.[42][43] By 1811 there were more than two million Han settlers in Taiwan and profitable sugar and rice production industries that provided exports to the mainland.[44][45][46] In 1875, restrictions on entering Taiwan were repealed.[47]

    Three counties nominally covered the entire western plains, but actual control was restricted to a smaller area. A government permit was required for settlers to go beyond the Dajia River at the mid-point of the western plains. Qing administration expanded across the western plains area over the 18th century, however this was not due to an active colonization policy, but a reflection of continued illegal crossings and settlement.[48] The Taiwanese indigenous peoples were categorized by the Qing administration into acculturated aborigines who had adopted Han culture to some degree and non-acculturated aborigines who had not. The Qing did little to administer or subjugate them. When Taiwan was annexed, there were 46 aboriginal villages under its control, likely inherited from the Kingdom of Tungning. During the early Qianlong period there were 93 acculturated villages and 61 non-acculturated villages that paid taxes. The number of acculturated villages remained unchanged throughout the 18th century. In response to the Zhu Yigui uprising, a settler rebellion in 1722, separation of aboriginals and settlers became official policy via 54 stelae used to mark the frontier boundary. The markings were changed four times over the latter half of the 18th century due to continued settler encroachment. Two aboriginal affairs sub-prefects, one for the north and one for the south, were appointed in 1766.[49]

    During the 200 years of Qing rule in Taiwan, the plains aborigines rarely rebelled against the government and the mountain aborigines were left to their own devices until the last 20 years of Qing rule. Most of the rebellions, of which there were more than 100 during the Qing period, were caused by Han settlers.[50][51] More than a hundred rebellions, riots, and instances of civil strife occurred under the Qing administration, including the Lin Shuangwen rebellion (1786–1788). Their frequency was evoked by the common saying "every three years an uprising, every five years a rebellion" (三年一反、五年一亂), primarily in reference to the period between 1820 and 1850.[52][53][54]

    Many officials stationed in Taiwan called for an active colonization policy over the 19th century. In 1788, Taiwan Prefect Yang Tingli supported the efforts of a settler named Wu Sha in his attempt to claim land held by the Kavalan people in modern Yilan County. In 1797, Wu Sha was able to recruit settlers with financial support from the local government but was unable to officially register the land. In the early 1800s, local officials convinced the emperor to officially incorporate the area by playing up the issue of piracy if the land was left alone.[55] In 1814, some settlers attempted to colonize central Taiwan by fabricating rights to lease aboriginal land. They were evicted by government troops two years later. Local officials continued to advocate for the colonization of the area but were ignored.[56]

    Taipei North Gate, constructed in 1884, was part of the Walls of Taipei

    The Qing took on a more active colonization policy after 1874 when Japan invaded aboriginal territory in southern Taiwan and the Qing government was forced to pay an indemnity for them to leave.[57] The administration of Taiwan was expanded with new prefectures, sub-prefectures, and counties. Mountain roads were constructed to make inner Taiwan more accessible. Restrictions on entering Taiwan were ended in 1875 and agencies for recruiting settlers were established on the mainland, but efforts to promote settlement ended soon after.[58] In 1884, Keelung in northern Taiwan was occupied during the Sino-French War but the French forces failed to advance any further inland while their victory at Penghu in 1885 resulted in disease and retreat soon afterward as the war ended. Colonization efforts were renewed under Liu Mingchuan. In 1887, Taiwan's status was upgraded to a province. Taipei became a temporary capital and then the permanent capital in 1893. Liu's efforts to increase revenues on Taiwan's produce were hampered by foreign pressure not to increase levies. A land reform was implemented, increasing revenue which still fell short of expectation.[59][60][61] Modern technologies such as electric lighting, a railway, telegraph lines, steamship service, and industrial machinery were introduced under Liu's governance, but several of these projects had mixed results. The telegraph line did not function at all times due to a difficult overland connection and the railway required an overhaul while servicing only small rolling stock with little freight load. A campaign to formally subjugate the aborigines was launched with 17,500 soldiers but ended with the loss of a third of the army after fierce resistance from the Mkgogan and Msbtunux peoples. Liu resigned in 1891 due to criticism of these costly projects.[62][63][39][64]

    By the end of the Qing period, the western plains were fully developed as farmland with about 2.5 million Chinese settlers. The mountainous areas were still largely autonomous under the control of aborigines. Aboriginal land loss under the Qing occurred at a relatively slow pace due to the absence of state sponsored land deprivation for the majority of Qing rule.[65][66] Qing rule ended after the First Sino-Japanese War when it ceded Taiwan and the Penghu islands to Japan on 17 April 1895, according to the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki.[67]

    Japanese rule (1895–1945)

    Following the Qing defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), Taiwan, its associated islands, and the Penghu archipelago were ceded to the Japan by the Treaty of Shimonoseki, along with other concessions.[68] Inhabitants on Taiwan and Penghu wishing to remain Qing subjects and not to become Japanese had to move to mainland China within a two-year grace period. Very few Formosans saw this as feasible.[69] Estimates say around four to six thousand departed before the expiration of the grace period, and two to three hundred thousand followed during the subsequent disorder.[70][45][71] On 25 May 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 21 October 1895.[72] About 6,000 inhabitants died in the initial fighting and some 14,000 died in the first year of Japanese rule. Another 12,000 "bandit-rebels" were killed from 1898 to 1902.[73][74][75] Several subsequent rebellions against the Japanese (the Beipu uprising of 1907, the Tapani incident of 1915, and the Musha incident of 1930) were all unsuccessful but demonstrated opposition to Japanese colonial rule.

    A sugarcane mill and its railways in Tainan in 1930s

    The colonial period was instrumental to the industrialization of the island, with its expansion of railways and other transport networks, the building of an extensive sanitation system, the establishment of a formal education system, and an end to the practice of headhunting.[76][77] During this period, the human and natural resources of Taiwan were used to aid the development of Japan. The production of cash crops such as sugar greatly increased, especially since sugar cane was salable only to a few Japanese sugar mills, and large areas were therefore diverted from the production of rice, which the Formosans could market or consume themselves.[78] By 1939, Taiwan was the seventh-greatest sugar producer in the world.[79]

    The Han and aboriginal populations were classified as second- and third-class citizens. Many prestigious government and business positions were closed to them, leaving few natives capable of taking on leadership and management roles decades later when Japan relinquished the island.[80] After suppressing Han guerrillas in the first decade of their rule, Japanese authorities engaged in a series of bloody campaigns against the indigenous people residing in mountainous regions, culminating in the Musha Incident of 1930.[81] Intellectuals and labourers who participated in left-wing movements within Taiwan were also arrested and massacred (e.g. Chiang Wei-shui and Masanosuke Watanabe).[82] Around 1935, the Japanese began an island-wide assimilation project to bind the island more firmly to the Japanese Empire.[83] Han culture was to be removed, and Chinese-language newspapers and curriculums were abolished. Taiwanese music and theater were outlawed. A national Shinto religion (國家神道) was promoted in parallel with the suppression of traditional Taiwanese beliefs through the reorganization of their temples and ancestral halls. Starting from 1940, families were also required to adopt Japanese surnames, although only 2% had done so by 1943.[83] By 1938, 309,000 Japanese settlers were residing in Taiwan.[84]

    Burdened by Japan's upcoming war effort, the island was developed into a naval and air base while its agriculture, industry, and commerce suffered.[85][86] Initial air attacks and the subsequent invasion of the Philippines were launched from Taiwan. The Imperial Japanese Navy operated heavily from Taiwanese ports, and its think tank "South Strike Group" was based at the Taihoku Imperial University in Taipei. Military bases and industrial centres, such as Kaohsiung and Keelung, became targets of heavy Allied bombings, which also destroyed many of the factories, dams, and transport facilities built by the Japanese.[87][86] In October 1944, the Formosa Air Battle was fought between American carriers and Japanese forces in Taiwan. During the course of Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II, over 200,000 of Taiwanese served in the Japanese military, with over 30,000 casualties.[88] In addition, over 2,000 women, euphemistically called "comfort women", were forced into sexual slavery for Imperial Japanese troops.[89]

    After Japan's surrender in WWII, most of Taiwan's approximately 300,000 Japanese residents were expelled and sent to Japan.[90]

    Republic of China (1945–present)
    General Chen Yi (right) accepting the receipt of General Order No. 1 from Rikichi Andō (left), the last Japanese Governor-General of Taiwan, in Taipei City Hall

    While Taiwan was still under Japanese rule, the Republic of China was founded on the mainland on 1 January 1912, following the Xinhai Revolution, which began with the Wuchang uprising on 10 October 1911, replacing the Qing dynasty and ending over two thousand years of imperial rule in China.[91] From its founding until 1949 it was based in mainland China. Central authority waxed and waned in response to warlordism (1915–28), Japanese invasion (1937–45), and the Chinese Civil War (1927–50), with central authority strongest during the Nanjing decade (1927–37), when most of China came under the control of the Kuomintang (KMT) under an authoritarian one-party state.[92]

    In the 1943 Cairo Declaration, US, UK, and ROC representatives specified territories such as Formosa and the Pescadores to be restored by Japan to the Republic of China.[93][94] Its terms were later referred to in the 1945 Potsdam Declaration,[95] whose provisions Japan agreed to carry out in its instrument of surrender.[96][97] In September 1945 following Japan's surrender in WWII, ROC forces, assisted by small American teams, prepared an amphibious lift into Taiwan to accept the surrender of the Japanese military forces there, under General Order No. 1, and take over the administration of Taiwan.[98][99] On 25 October, General Rikichi Andō, governor-general of Taiwan and commander-in-chief of all Japanese forces on the island, signed the receipt and handed it over to ROC General Chen Yi to complete the official turnover. Chen proclaimed that day to be "Taiwan Retrocession Day", but the Allies, having entrusted Taiwan and the Penghu Islands to Chinese administration and military occupation, nonetheless considered them to be under Japanese sovereignty until 1952 when the Treaty of San Francisco took effect.[100][101] Due to disagreements over which government (PRC or ROC) to invite, China did not attend the eventual signing of the Treaty of San Francisco, whereby Japan renounced all titles and claims to Formosa and the Pescadores without specifying to whom they were surrendered.[102][103] In 1952, Japan and the ROC signed the Treaty of Taipei, recognizing that all treaties concluded before 9 December 1941 between China and Japan have become null and void.[104] Interpretations of these documents and their legal implications give rise to the debate over the sovereignty status of Taiwan.

    While initially enthusiastic about the return of Chinese administration and the Three Principles of the People, Formosans grew increasingly dissatisfied about being excluded from higher positions, the postponement of local elections even after the enactment of a constitution on the mainland, the smuggling of valuables off the island, the expropriation of businesses into government operated monopolies, and the hyperinflation of 1945–1949.[105][106][107][108] The shooting of a civilian on 28 February 1947 triggered island-wide unrest, which was suppressed by Chen with military force in what is now called the February 28 Incident.[109][110] Mainstream estimates of the number killed range from 18,000 to 30,000. Many native leaders were killed, as well as students and some mainlanders.[111][112][113] Chen was later relieved and replaced by Wei Tao-ming, who made an effort to undo previous mismanagement by re-appointing a good proportion of islanders and re-privatizing businesses.[114]

    The Nationalists' retreat to Taipei

    After the end of World War II, the Chinese Civil War resumed between the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang), led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), led by CCP Chairman Mao Zedong. Throughout the months of 1949, a series of Chinese Communist offensives led to the capture of its capital Nanjing on 23 April and the subsequent defeat of the Nationalist army on the mainland, and the Communists founded the People's Republic of China on 1 October.[115]

    On 7 December 1949, after the loss of four capitals, Chiang evacuated his Nationalist government to Taiwan and made Taipei the temporary capital of the ROC (also called the "wartime capital" by Chiang Kai-shek).[116] Some 2 million people, consisting mainly of soldiers, members of the ruling Kuomintang and intellectual and business elites, were evacuated from mainland China to Taiwan at that time, adding to the earlier population of approximately six million. These people came to be known in Taiwan as "waisheng ren" (外省人), residents who came to the island in the 1940s and 50s after Japan's surrender, as well as their descendants. In addition, the ROC government took to Taipei many national treasures and much of China's gold and foreign currency reserves.[117][118][119] Most of the 3.57 million ounces of gold brought to Taiwan was used to pay soldiers' salaries.[120] 800,000 ounces of the remaining gold was used to issue the New Taiwan dollar, part of a price stabilization program to slow the inflation in Taiwan.[121][122]

    After losing control of mainland China in 1949, the ROC retained control of Taiwan and Penghu (Taiwan, ROC), parts of Fujian (Fujian, ROC)—specifically Kinmen, Wuqiu (now part of Kinmen) and the Matsu Islands and two major islands in the South China Sea (within the Dongsha/Pratas and Nansha/Spratly island groups). These territories have remained under ROC governance until the present day. The ROC also briefly retained control of the entirety of Hainan (an island province), parts of Zhejiang (Chekiang)—specifically the Dachen Islands and Yijiangshan Islands—and portions of Tibet, Qinghai, Sinkiang and Yunnan. The Communists captured Hainan in 1950, captured the Dachen Islands and Yijiangshan Islands during the First Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1955 and defeated the ROC revolts in Northwest China in 1958. ROC forces in Yunnan province entered Burma and Thailand in the 1950s and were defeated by Communists in 1961. Ever since losing control of mainland China, the Kuomintang continued to claim sovereignty over 'all of China', which it defined to include mainland China (including Tibet), Taiwan (including Penghu), Outer Mongolia, and other minor territories.

    Martial law era (1949–1987)
    A Chinese man in military uniform, smiling and looking towards the left. He holds a sword in his left hand and has a medal in shape of a sun on his chest. 
    Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Kuomintang from 1925 until his death in 1975

    Martial law, declared on Taiwan in May 1949,[123] continued to be in effect after the central government relocated to Taiwan. It was also used as a way to suppress the political opposition and was not repealed until 38 years later in 1987.[123][124] During the White Terror, as the period is known, 140,000 people were imprisoned or executed for being perceived as anti-KMT or pro-Communist.[125] Many citizens were arrested, tortured, imprisoned and executed for their real or perceived link to the Chinese Communist Party. Since these people were mainly from the intellectual and social elite, an entire generation of political and social leaders was destroyed.

    Combat between both sides of the Chinese Civil War continued through the 1950s. Following the eruption of the Korean war, US President Harry S. Truman decided to intervene in the context of the Cold War and dispatched the United States Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to prevent hostilities between the ROC on Taiwan and the PRC on the mainland.[126] The United States also passed legislations such as the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty and the Formosa Resolution of 1955, thereby granting substantial foreign aid to the KMT regime between 1951 and 1965.[127] The US foreign aid fully stabilized prices in Taiwan by 1952.[128] The KMT government instituted many laws and land reforms that it had never effectively enacted on mainland China.[129] Economic development was encouraged by American aid and programs such as the Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction, which turned the agricultural sector into the basis for later growth. Under the combined stimulus of the land reform and the agricultural development programs, agricultural production increased at an average annual rate of 4 percent from 1952 to 1959, which was greater than the population growth, 3.6 percent.[130] The government also implemented a policy of import substitution industrialization, attempting to produce imported goods domestically.[131] The policy promoted the development of textile, food, and other labor-intensive industries in the 1950s and continued into the next decade.[132]

    As the Chinese Civil War continued without truce, the government built up military fortifications throughout Taiwan. Within this effort, veterans built the now famous Central Cross-Island Highway through the Taroko Gorge in the 1950s. During the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1958, Taiwan's landscape saw Nike Hercules missiles added, with the formation of missile batteries throughout the island.[133][134] The two sides would continue to engage in sporadic military clashes with seldom publicized details well into the 1960s on the China coastal islands with an unknown number of night raids.

    With Chiang Kai-shek, US president Dwight D. Eisenhower waved to crowds during his visit to Taipei in June 1960.

    During the 1960s and 1970s, the ROC maintained an authoritarian, single-party government under the Kuomintang's Dang Guo system while its economy became industrialized and technology-oriented.[135] This rapid economic growth, known as the Taiwan Miracle, occurred following a strategy of prioritizing agriculture, light industries, and heavy industries in that order.[136] Export-oriented industrialization was achieved by tax rebate for exports, removal of import restriction, moving from multiple exchange rate to single exchange rate system, and depreciation of the New Taiwan dollar.[137] Infrastructure projects such as the Sun Yat-sen Freeway, Taoyuan International Airport, Taichung Harbor, and Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant were launched, while the rise of steel, petrochemical, and shipbuilding industries in southern Taiwan saw the transformation of Kaohsiung into a special municipality on par with Taipei.[138] In the 1970s, Taiwan became the second fastest growing economy in Asia after Japan.[139] Real growth in GDP averaged over 10 percent during the decade.[140] In 1978, the combination of tax incentives and a cheap, well-trained labor force attracted investments of over $1.9 billion from overseas Chinese, the United States, and Japan, especially in the manufacturing of electrical and electronic products.[141] By 1980, foreign trade reached $39 billion per year and generated a surplus of $46.5 million, while the income ratio of the highest to the lowest 20 percent of wage earners dropped from 15:1 to 4:1 between 1952 and 1978, less than even that of the United States.[136] Along with Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea, Taiwan became known as one of the Four Asian Tigers.

    Because of the Cold War, most Western nations and the United Nations regarded the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China until the 1970s. Eventually, especially after the expulsion in the United Nations, most nations switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC. Until the 1970s, the ROC government was regarded by Western critics as undemocratic for upholding martial law, severely repressing any political opposition, and controlling the media. The KMT did not allow the creation of new parties and those that existed did not seriously compete with the KMT. Thus, competitive democratic elections did not exist.[142][143][144][145][146]

    From the late 1970s to the 1990s, Taiwan went through reforms and social changes that transformed it from an authoritarian state to a democracy.[147][148] Chiang Ching-kuo, Chiang Kai-shek's son, served as premier since 1972 and rose to the presidency in 1978. He sought to move more authority to "bensheng ren" (residents of Taiwan before Japan's surrender in World War II and their descendants) instead of continuing to promote "waisheng ren" (residents who came to the island in the 1940s and 50s after Japan's surrender and their descendants) as his father had.[149] Pro-democracy activists Tangwai, literally "outside the party", emerged as the opposition. In 1979, a protest known as the Kaohsiung Incident took place in Kaohsiung to celebrate Human Rights Day. Although the protest was rapidly crushed by the authorities, it is today considered as the main event that united Taiwan's opposition.[150]

    In 1984, Chiang Ching-kuo selected Lee Teng-hui, a Taiwan-born, US-educated technocrat, to be his vice-president. After the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was founded as the first opposition party in Taiwan to counter the KMT in 1986, Chiang announced that he would allow the formation of new parties and intended to lift martial law.[151] On 15 July 1987, Chiang lifted martial law on the main island of Taiwan (martial law was lifted on Kinmen and Matsu later in 1992).[152][153]

    Transition to democracy
    In 1988, Lee Teng-hui became the first president of the Republic of China born in Taiwan and was the first to be directly elected in 1996.

    After the death of Chiang Ching-kuo in 1988, Lee Teng-hui succeeded him and became the first president born in Taiwan.[154] Lee gained control of the KMT and was elected for a full six-year term by the National Assembly in 1990 while a student movement called for democratic reforms.[155][156] The movement called for items such as the dissolution of the National Assembly, which was composed of the first congress members elected mostly in mainland China during 1947 and had held the seats without re-election for more than four decades. In response to the students' protest, Lee promised to hold a National Affairs Conference on constitutional reform and institutional democratization.[157] The Constitution Court also handed down its constitutional interpretation, saying that the first congress members who had not been re-elected should cease exercising their powers by the end of 1991.[158] The interpretation helped pave the way for re-elections of the congress, including the National Assembly and the Legislative Yuan.

    In 1991, the National Assembly resolved to abolish the Temporary Provisions against the Communist Rebellion and introduced the Additional Articles of the Constitution.[159] Seats of the congress were re-allocated to be elected in the Taiwan Area. The nominal representation of mainland China in the congress was ultimately brought to an end in 1992.[160] With reforms continued in the 1990s, more positions were decided by elections. In 1996, Lee Teng-hui was re-elected in the first direct presidential election.[161]

    Under Lee, the Constitution of the ROC was passed from former "constitution of five powers" to be more tripartite.[159][162] Government of Taiwan Province was streamlined and provincial-level elections were suspended.[163] 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.[164] Assimilationist language policy was replaced with support for multiculturalism and official respect for aboriginal languages and other minorities.[165] With democratization, the issue of the political status of Taiwan gradually resurfaced as a controversial issue where, previously, the discussion of anything other than unification under the ROC was a taboo.[166] During the years of Lee's administration, Lee and the KMT were involved in corruption controversies known as "black gold" politics.[167][168][169] The corruption and split of the KMT were considered as factors that contributed to the party's loss in the 2000 presidential election.[163][170][171]

    Chen Shui-bian of the DPP was elected as the first non-KMT president in 2000.[172] However, Chen lacked legistlative majority. The opposition KMT developed the Pan-Blue Coalition with other parties, mustering a slim majority over the ruling DPP-led Pan-Green Coalition in the Legislative Yuan.[173] Polarized politics emerged in Taiwan with the Pan-Blue preference for eventual Chinese unification, while the Pan-Green prefers Taiwanese independence.

    Chen announced in his inauguration speech that he would not declare independence as long as the PRC had no intention to use military force.[174] After a recession in 2001, Chen's reference to the existence of "One Country on Each Side" of the Taiwan Strait undercut cross-Strait relations in 2002.[140][175] He pushed for the first national referendum on cross-Strait relations before he was re-elected by a narrow margin of 0.22 percent in 2004,[176][177] and called for an end to the National Unification Council in 2006.[178] State-run companies began changing their names, dropping "China" references and including "Taiwan" in their official titles.[179] The ruling DPP also passed a resolution supporting a separate identity from China and the enactment of a new constitution for a "normal country".[180] In 2008, referendums were held on the same day as the presidential election asking whether Taiwan should join the UN.[181] In the process, Chen alienated moderate constituents who supported the status quo and those with cross-strait economic ties, as well as creating tension with the mainland and disagreements with the United States.[182] Chen's administration was also dogged by public concerns over reduced economic growth, legislative gridlock due to a pan-blue, opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan, and corruption investigations involving the First Family as well as government officials, lowering his ratings to the 20s near the end of his second term.[183][184][182]

    Student protest in Taipei against a controversial trade agreement with China in March 2014

    In the 2008 legislative elections, the KMT's majority in the Legislative Yuan increased. Its nominee Ma Ying-jeou went on to win the presidency, campaigning on a platform of increased economic growth and better ties with the PRC under a policy of "mutual non-denial".[181] Under Ma, Taiwan and China opened up direct flights and cargo shipments.[185] The PRC government even made it possible for Taiwan to participate in the annual World Health Assembly.[186] Ma also made an official apology for the White Terror; a foundation to compensate the victims had been established by law in 1998 and over 20,000 people were compensated by its cessation in 2014.[187][188] However, closer economic ties with China raised concerns about its political consequences.[189][190] In 2014, a group of university students successfully occupied the Legislative Yuan and prevented the ratification of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement in what became known as the Sunflower Student Movement. The movement gave rise to youth-based third parties such as the New Power Party, and is viewed to have contributed to the DPP's victories in the 2016 presidential and legislative elections.[191] This marked the first time in Taiwanese history that the DPP captured its legislative majority.[192]

    In 2016, Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP became the president. She called on the international community to defend democracy in the face of renewed threats from China and called on the latter to democratize and renounce the use of military force against Taiwan.[193][194] In 2020, Tsai was re-elected and the ruling DPP won a majority in the simultaneous legislative election.[195] In 2020, the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index ranked Taiwan as having the 11th highest democracy score, which was the highest in Asia,[196][197] while the same Index in 2022 gave it the second highest score in the Asia and Australasia region.[198] Freedom House has ranked Taiwan the second freest place in Asia[199][200] while CIVICUS in 2021 rated Taiwan along with New Zealand as the only "open" countries in the Asia-Pacific.[201][202]

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The party first applied Sun's concept of political tutelage by governing through martial law, not tolerating opposition parties, controlling the public media, and using the 1947 constitution drawn up on the China mainland to govern. Thus, much of the world in those years gave the government low scores for democracy and human rights but admitted it had accomplished an economic miracle. ^ Chao, Linda; Ramon Hawley Myers (1997). Democracy's new leaders in the Republic of China on Taiwan. Hoover Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-8179-3802-4. Although this party [the KMT] had initiated a democratic breakthrough and guided the democratic transition, it had also upheld martial law for thirty-six years and severely repressed political dissent and any efforts to establish an opposition party. ... How was it possible that this party, so hated by opposition politicians and long regarded by Western critics as a dictatorial, Leninist-type party, still remained in power? ^ Fung (2000), p. 67: "Nanjing was not only undemocratic and repressive but also inefficient and corrupt. ... Furthermore, like other authoritarian regimes, the GMD sought to control people's mind." ^ Fung (2000), p. 85: "The response to national emergency, critics argued, was not merely military, it was, even more important, political, requiring the termination of one-party dictatorship and the development of democratic institutions." ^ Copper, John Franklin (2005). Consolidating Taiwan's democracy. University Press of America. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7618-2977-5. Also, the "Temporary Provisions" (of the Constitution) did not permit forming new political parties, and those that existed at this time did not seriously compete with the Nationalist Party. Thus, at the national level the KMT did not permit competitive democratic elections. ^ Chou, Yangsun; Nathan, Andrew J. (1987). "Democratizing Transition in Taiwan". Maryland Series in Contemporary Asian Studies. 1987 (3). ^ Ko, Jim W. (2004). "Cold War Triumph – Taiwan Democratized in Spite of U.S. Efforts". Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law. 36 (1): 137–181. S2CID 148945113. ^ Richard Kagan. Taiwan's Statesman: Lee Teng-hui and Democracy in Asia. Naval Institute Press, 2014. p. 91-93. ISBN 9781612517551 ^ "Out with the old". BBC News. 2002. Retrieved 30 October 2009. ^ "Taiwan President to Propose End to Island's Martial Law". The Washington Post. 8 October 1986. Retrieved 12 January 2023. ^ Southerl, Daniel (15 July 1987). "After 38 Years, Taiwan Lifts Martial Law". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 December 2022. ^ "Compensation Act for Wrongful Trials on Charges of Sedition and Espionage during the Martial Law Period". Laws and Regulations Database of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Retrieved 10 December 2022. if the case took place in Kinmen, Matsu, Dongsha and Nansha, the term "martial law period" refers to the period of time from December 10, 1948 to November 6, 1992. ^ "Taiwan Leader Chiang Dies; Pushed Reform". Los Angeles Times. 14 January 1988. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ "The election of President Lee Teng-hui to his first..." UPI. 18 March 1990. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ "Taiwan in Time: Life after the Wild Lily". Taipei Times. 11 March 2018. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ Chiou, C.L. (1993). "The 1990 National Affairs Conference and the future of democracy in Taiwan". Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. 25 (1): 17–33. doi:10.1080/14672715.1993.10408343. ^ "No.261 Terms of Office of the First Congress Members Case". Constitutional Court R.O.C. (Taiwan). 21 June 1990. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ a b Tang, Dennis Te-chung (1999). Constitutional Reforms in Taiwan in tbe 1990s (PDF). 5th World Congress of the International Association of Constitutional Law. Rotterdam: Erasmus University. ^ Leng, Shao-chuan; Lin, Cheng-yi (1993). "Political Change on Taiwan: Transition to Democracy?". The China Quarterly. 136 (136): 805–839. doi:10.1017/S0305741000032343. JSTOR 655592. S2CID 154907110. ^ Richburg, Keith B. (24 March 1996). "China Fails to Sway Election in Taiwan". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ Caldwell, Ernest (2016). "Chinese Constitutionalism: Five-Power Constitution". SSRN. SSRN 2828104. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ a b Lin, Gang (1 April 2000). "KMT Split Handed Chen the Presidential Victory". Wilson Center. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ Chang, Bi-yu (2004). "From Taiwanisation to De-sinification". China Perspectives. 56 (6). doi:10.4000/chinaperspectives.438. ^ Klöter, Henning (2004). "Language Policy in the KMT and DPP eras". China Perspectives. 56 (6). doi:10.4000/chinaperspectives.442. ^ Sun, Lena H. (19 December 1991). "Taiwan Election Focuses on Once Taboo Independence Issue". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ Ching, Heng-wei (22 May 2000). "Lee Teng-hui and the workings of the political machine". Taipei Times. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ Fell, Dafydd (2005). "Political and Media Liberalization and Political Corruption in Taiwan" (PDF). The China Quarterly. 184 (184): 875–893. doi:10.1017/S0305741005000548. JSTOR 20192543. S2CID 153762560. ^ Chung, Lawrence (30 July 2020). "Lee Teng-hui, a controversial figure hailed as Taiwan's "father of democracy"". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ Copper, John F. (2000). "Taiwan's 2000 Presidential and Vice Presidential Election: Consolidating Democracy and Creating a New Era of Politics". Maryland Series in Contemporary Asian Studies. 157. ^ Ling, Yu-Long; Ger, Yeong-Kuang (2000). "The Great Showdown: Taiwan's Presidential Election in the Year 2000". American Journal of Chinese Studies. 7 (1): 1–27. JSTOR 44288614. ^ "39% – A-bian wins – just". Taipei Times. 19 March 2000. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ Huang, Tong-yi (2002). "Taiwan's 2001 Elections and Its Ongoing Democratic Consolidation". American Journal of Chinese Studies. 9 (1): 43–57. JSTOR 44288689. ^ "Taiwan stands up". Taipei Times. 21 May 2000. Retrieved 18 January 2023. ^ Rigger, Shelley (2003). "Taiwan in 2002: Another Year of Political Droughts and Typhoons". Asian Survey. 43 (1): 41–48. doi:10.1525/as.2003.43.1.41. ^ "Controversial victory for Chen". Taipei Times. 21 March 2004. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ "President Chen's Interview by the Washington Post". The Office of the President. 30 March 2004. Retrieved 14 January 2023. ^ "Taiwan scraps unification council". BBC News. 27 February 2006. ^ "State-run firms begin name change". Taipei Times. 10 February 2007. Retrieved 18 January 2023. ^ "Taiwan party asserts separate identity from China". The Associated Press. 30 September 2007. Retrieved 18 January 2023. ^ a b Lam, Willy (28 March 2008). "Ma Ying-jeou and the Future of Cross-Strait Relations". China Brief. 8 (7). Archived from the original on 13 April 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2008. ^ a b Wong, Edward (12 March 2008). "Taiwan's Independence Movement Likely to Wane". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 February 2016. ^ "The Nationalists are back in Taiwan". The Economist. London. 23 March 2008. ^ "Straitened times: Taiwan looks to China". Financial Times. 25 March 2008. ^ "Going Straight Ahead". Taiway Today. 1 December 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2023. ^ "WHO invites "Chinese Taipei" to WHA". Taipei Times. 30 April 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2023. ^ Gluck, Caroline (16 July 2008). "Taiwan sorry for white terror era". BBC News. London. ^ Stolojan, Vladimir; Guill, Elizabeth (2017). "Transitional Justice and Collective Memory in Taiwan: How Taiwanese Society is Coming to Terms with Its Authoritarian Past". China Perspectives. 2017/2 (2 (110)): 27–35. doi:10.4000/chinaperspectives.7327. JSTOR 26380503. ^ Mearsheimer, John J. (25 February 2014). "Say Goodbye to Taiwan". The National Interest. Retrieved 18 January 2023. ^ Ho, Ming-sho (2015). "Occupy Congress in Taiwan: Political Opportunity, Threat, and the Sunflower Movement". Journal of East Asian Studies. 15 (1): 69–97. doi:10.1017/S1598240800004173. ^ Ho, Ming-sho. "The Activist Legacy of Taiwan's Sunflower Movement". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 4 March 2021. ^ Chow, Jermyn (17 January 2016). "Historic change as KMT loses long-held Parliament majority". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2 November 2022. ^ "Taiwan President Calls For International Support To Defend Democracy". 4 January 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2019. ^ "China Must Democratize for Taiwan Progress, President Tsai Says". 5 January 2019. Retrieved 6 January 2019. Tsai called on Beijing to become more democratic and renounce the use of military force if it wants to have any chance of winning over the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese public. ... Chinese President Xi Jinping offered on Wednesday to begin discussions on unification with any parties or individuals that accept Taiwan is part of "one China." Both Tsai and the China-friendly opposition Kuomintang rejected Xi's proposal, saying his "one country, two systems" framework lacks support in Taiwan. ^ "Taiwan election: Tsai Ing-wen wins second presidential term". BBC News. 11 January 2020. ^ Keoni Everington (28 September 2021). "CNN's Fareed Zakaria highlights Taiwan as 'bright spot' for democracy". Taiwan News. Retrieved 16 March 2023. ^ Democracy Index 2020 (PDF). The Economist Intelligence Unit (Report). 2021. The star-performer in this year's Democracy Index, measured by the change in both its score and rank, is Taiwan, which was upgraded from a 'flawed democracy' to a 'full democracy', after rising 20 places in the global ranking from 31st place to 11th ^ Ho, Kelly (3 February 2023). "Hong Kong falls to 88th in int'l democracy index as think tank cites civil service exodus". Hong Kong Free Press. Retrieved 16 March 2023. ^ "Taiwan Provides Powerful Lessons on Democratic Resilience". The Diplomat. 27 January 2022. ^ "China-Taiwan: Joseph Wu defends US Speaker Pelosi's visit". BBC. 5 August 2022. Retrieved 16 March 2023. ^ "'Under attack': Report says repression of rights persists in Asia". Al Jazeera. 8 December 2021. Retrieved 16 March 2023. ^ Ni, Vincent (13 December 2021). "US appears to cut video feed of Taiwanese minister at summit". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
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Stay safe
  • Stay safe
    Travel Warning  WARNING: Taiwan treats drug offenses extremely severely. The death penalty is mandatory for those convicted of trafficking, manufacturing, importing or exporting more than 15 g of heroin, 30 g of morphine, 30 g of cocaine, 500 g of cannabis, 200 g of cannabis resin and 1.2 kg of opium, and possession of these quantities is all that is needed for you to be convicted.

    Unauthorized consumption can result in up to 10 years' jail, or a heavy fine, or both. You can be charged for unauthorized consumption as long as traces of illicit drugs are found in your system, even if you can prove that they were consumed outside the country and you can be charged for trafficking as long as drugs are found in bags that are in your possession or in your room, even if they aren't yours and regardless of whether you're aware of them. Therefore, be vigilant of your possessions.

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    Stay safe
    Travel Warning  WARNING: Taiwan treats drug offenses extremely severely. The death penalty is mandatory for those convicted of trafficking, manufacturing, importing or exporting more than 15 g of heroin, 30 g of morphine, 30 g of cocaine, 500 g of cannabis, 200 g of cannabis resin and 1.2 kg of opium, and possession of these quantities is all that is needed for you to be convicted.

    Unauthorized consumption can result in up to 10 years' jail, or a heavy fine, or both. You can be charged for unauthorized consumption as long as traces of illicit drugs are found in your system, even if you can prove that they were consumed outside the country and you can be charged for trafficking as long as drugs are found in bags that are in your possession or in your room, even if they aren't yours and regardless of whether you're aware of them. Therefore, be vigilant of your possessions.

    A sign at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport warns arriving travellers that drug trafficking is a capital offense in the country.

    Taiwan is very safe for tourists, even for women walking down the street alone at night. This is not to say, however, that there is no crime, and you should always exercise caution. In crowded areas such as night markets or festivals, for example, pickpockets are a known problem. However, it is fair to say that the streets of Taiwan are generally very safe and that violent crime and muggings are very rare.

    In addition, it is also very unusual to see drunks on the street, day or night.

    Like anywhere else in the world, women should be cautious when taking taxis alone late at night. Although they are generally safe, it's a good idea to arrange to have a friend call you when you get home and to be seen making the arrangements for this by the cab driver. It also helps if a friend sees you being picked up as taxis have visible license numbers. As an additional safety precaution, tell taxi drivers just the street name and section instead of your exact address.

    A police station in Taiwan

    Police departments in most jurisdictions have a Foreign Affairs Police unit staffed by English-speaking officers. When reporting a major crime, it is advisable to contact the Foreign Affairs unit in addition to officers at the local precinct. Police stations are marked with a red light above the door and display a sign with the word "Police" clearly printed in English. For more information see the National Police Agency website .

    Foreign victims of a major crime in Taiwan are also advised to report the matter to their government's representative office in Taipei.

    Also, remember that you call 110 for police in Taiwan, and 119 for fire department or medical help. Most of the public telephone booths allow you to call 110 or 119 for free. See "Emergency Phone Numbers" section below.

    Taiwan is home to many triads (Chinese organized crime syndicates), although they almost never target the average person in the street, and most tourists will not encounter them. Many operate human trafficking rings involving the sale of poor women from Southeast Asia into sex slavery that the government has struggled to tackle. They are also often involved in illegal betting and loansharking, so it is best to be prudent and avoid these.

    Military exercises
    Evacuated streets during Wan-an Exercise.

    The Taiwanese military organizes regular civil-defense exercise, known as Wan-an Exercise (萬安演習). Air raid sirens are activated for 30 minutes during the exercise, and you are required to follow any evacuation orders made by the military and police.

    If you are in a building, you should close all windows and doors and turn off lights. If you are driving, you must pull over your vehicle and make a complete stop. Vehicles must not enter any motorways, but must leave the motorway and pull over your vehicle in exits. Traffic police will give proper instructions to drivers and regulate traffic flow. If you are taking a train/metro, you must not enter the train or leave the station, and should follow evacuation orders given by railway staff, the military and the police.

    Failure to comply with instructions can result in a heavy fine.

    Emergency phone numbers Police: 110 Fire/Ambulance: 119

    The police and fire/ambulance offer service in English.

    For those who need Taiwanese governmental assistance in English, this website has a 24-hour toll-free foreigner service hotline at 0800-024-111, which you may call for assistance.

    Natural hazards

    Taiwan often experiences typhoons (颱風) during the summer months and early fall, especially on the East Coast. Heavy monsoon rainfall also occurs during the summer. Hikers and mountaineers should be sure to consult weather reports before heading into the mountains. A major hazard following heavy rainfall in the mountains is falling rocks (土石流) caused by the softening of the earth and there are occasional reports of people being killed or injured by these.

    Taiwan is also on the Pacific Ring of Fire, which means that earthquakes are a common occurrence. Most earthquakes are barely noticeable, though the effect may be slightly amplified for those in higher buildings. While the local building codes are extremely strict, general precautions should still be observed during an earthquake, including opening the door to prevent it from being jammed, taking cover and checking for gas leaks afterwards. While most newer buildings have been built according to strict codes that enable them to withstand major earthquakes, some of the older buildings were not constructed to such high standards and therefore are vulnerable to serious damage or collapse in the case of a strong tremor.

    Taiwan's wild areas are home to a variety of poisonous snakes, including the bamboo viper, Russel's viper, banded krait, coral snake, Chinese cobra, Taiwan habu, and the so-called "hundred pacer" (百步蛇). Precautions against snake bites include making plenty of noise as you hike, wearing long trousers and avoiding overgrown trails. Most snakes are scared of humans, so if you make noise you will give them time to get away. Walking quietly means that you may suddenly startle them around a corner when you appear, and trigger an attack. The Russel's viper, one of the most dangerous snakes in Taiwan, is an exception: it generally prefers to take a stand against threats.


    Local drivers have a well-deserved reputation for seeming reckless and downright immoral. It is possible (even normal) to obtain a driving license in Taiwan without ever having driven on the roads, and this may be a reason (along with the overcrowded roads) why courteous or defensive driving is definitely not the norm. The guiding principles seem to be that the right of way belongs to the larger vehicle, i.e. trucks have the right-of-way over cars, cars over motorcycles, motorcycles over people, etc. Despite traffic's chaotic appearance, it is viscerally intuitive to yield the right-of-way to a much larger vehicle barreling towards you. It is advisable to use slow and smooth movements over quick or sudden ones. Local drivers regularly cut in front of moving traffic into spaces that seem too small, try to change lanes regardless of the fact their destination is already full, etc. Be aware that during busy traffic (i.e., nearly always) two-lane roads will spontaneously become three-lane, an orange light will be interpreted as 'speed up', and the smallest moment's pause in oncoming traffic will result in everybody that's waiting trying to turn across it. Drivers routinely enter a junction when their exit is blocked, and are therefore frequently still there long after the lights change, blocking traffic traveling in other directions. Many motorcycle riders also have a tendency to zip through any space, no matter how tiny. Also be aware that motorcycles often travel through areas typically considered pedestrian-only spaces, like the night-markets.

    If you drive a car or a motorcycle, the obvious rule is that if someone turns in front of you, you should be the one to adapt. To avoid collisions, drivers need to be extremely vigilant for other vehicles creating hazards and always be willing to adjust speed or direction to accommodate. Do not expect drivers to yield way, or respect traffic lights in many areas, especially in central and southern Taiwan. Sounding the horn is the usual way a Taiwanese driver indicates that they do not intend to accommodate a driver trying to encroach on their lane, etc., and does not necessarily imply the anger or criticism, as it does in other countries. One bright side of Taiwan's chaotic traffic is that drivers tend to have an exceptional awareness of the spatial extents of their vehicle and maneuver well, so that even though it continuously looks like somebody is about to drive straight into you, it's relatively rare that they actually do so.

    Be extra careful when crossing the road, even to the extent of looking both ways on a one-way street. When crossing at a pedestrian crossing at a T-junction or crossroads, be aware that when the little green man lights up and you start crossing, motorists will still try to turn right, with or without a green feeder light. Even on roads where traffic is infrequent and the green light is in your favor, bike riders are still strongly advised to check the opposite lane.


    Taiwan is generally a safe destination for gay and lesbian travellers. There are no laws against homosexuality in Taiwan and unprovoked violence against gays and lesbians is almost unheard of. Same-sex marriage was legalised in Taiwan on 24 May 2019, making it the first Asian country to do so. Taiwan is also the first East Asian country to have enacted anti-discrimination laws on the basis of sexual orientation in the areas of education and employment. There is an annual gay pride event called Taiwan Pride. Taipei is home to a vibrant gay scene, and there are also gay bars in some of Taiwan's other cities like Taichung and Kaohsiung.

    Acceptance among the Taiwanese public tends to be measured, and homosexuality is still considered to be somewhat of a social taboo, particularly by the older generation. Openly displaying your sexual orientation in public is likely to draw stares and whispers from some people. Nevertheless, attitudes are changing and homosexuality tends to be more accepted by the younger people.


    They can be a problem in remote and rural regions, although they are far less numerous than in Thailand and Myanmar. If they get too close to you, picking up a stone or having a big stick is usually a sufficient deterrent. Taiwanese Aboriginals hold dogs in higher regard than Han Chinese do. Many Aboriginal communities have dogs freely running around their communities.

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