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National flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan)

Taiwan (traditional Chinese 臺灣 or 台灣, simplified Chinese 台湾; pinyin Táiwān) officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia. The main island was previously known as Formosa, from Portuguese, and is located about 60 miles west of the Japanese Ryukyu Islands and about 70 miles from the south-eastern coast of mainland China. The capital is Taipei (台北市 Táiběi Shì).

The 'Republic of China' is not recognised by most countries, but relations are conducted through unofficial channels. The government on Taiwan once held the Chinese seat on the United Nations Security Council, and thus was internationally recognised, but in 1972 the organisation gave it to the People's Republic of China (PRC), the state on mainland China. Taiwan has lost much official recognition since then. The split between the PRC and ROC occurred in 1949 following the communist revolution during the Chinese Civil War; having initially governed much of the country, the nationalist ROC withdrew to Taiwan and its islands. Although the PRC claims Taiwan as its 23rd province, in practice it has never administered the territories, and there is strong support on Taiwan for outright independence. Controversy continues today over the exact status of Taiwan; the view of President Ma Ying-jeou, elected in 2008, is that the mainland and island territories exist in a "special relationship" not of two nations, because neither constitution recognises more than one.[1]

Taiwan's political and economic situation contrasts sharply with mainland China. The island has seen a transition to democracy, with a president elected under popular suffrage and an elected body commonly referred to as a parliament. Taiwanese people are able to travel to most countries on passports bearing the name 'Republic of China'.


Taiwan's economy is one of the so-called 'Asian Tigers', with its own currency, the New Taiwan dollar.


  1. China Post: 'Taiwan and China in 'special relations': Ma'. 4th September 2008.