History, Politics, and Culture
Taiwan is an island state situated 130 kilometres west of the People’s Republic of China. Two thirds of the island are covered by mountain ranges, more than half of it is woodland. Taiwan’s population is currently about 23,5 million, making it the second most densely populated territorial state in the world. About four million people live in the capital Taipei, which is one of six Taiwanese cities with over a million inhabitants. Besides Mandarin, Taiwan’s official and common language, most people speak Taiwanese.
From the late 16th century onwards, Taiwan’s history was shaped by colonialism. Under Dutch rule in the early 17th century, mass immigration of Han Chinese to the sparsely populated island was fostered. Indigenous groups were increasingly assimilated or displaced, which additionally amplified after the annexation by China in 1638. Following China’s defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Taiwan fell under Japanese control. When Japan itself was defeated in the Second World War, China took control of the island again. In 1949, in the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War, the defeated Kuomintang government retreated to Taiwan, from where they operated as the official, non-communist Chinese representative under the name of “Republic of China”. As such it was a founding member of the United Nations, claiming to represent the whole of China. However, it lost its seat to the People’s Republic of China in 1971. Since 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is the majority ruling party and controls the presidency.
Taiwan’s present-day culture is a fusion of indigenous traditions and Chinese culture. Being a former colony of Japan, there is also a noticeable influence of Japanese culture. While most Taiwanese are Buddhists or Taoists, many indigenous groups have converted to Christianity.