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Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, is a state in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China now governs the island of Taiwan (formerly known as Formosa), which makes up over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu, and other minor islands. Neighboring states include the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east and northeast, and the Philippines to the south. Taipei is the capital city and economic and cultural center of the country, while New Taipei is the most populous city.

Taiwan Flag

Taiwan Flag

The earliest evidence of Taiwan being inhabited is from the late Paleolithic era. The island of Taiwan was mainly inhabited by Taiwanese aborigines before being colonized in the 17th century by the Dutch as Dutch Formosa in 1624 and the Spanish as Spanish Formosa in 1626. The Spanish were expelled from the island in 1644 by the Dutch. The first Han Chinese polity on Taiwan began when Koxinga's troops defeated Dutch forces and established the Kingdom of Tungning. The island was subsequently ruled by the Qing Dynasty after the kingdom's defeat in the Battle of Penghu in 1683, a period that lasted for over 200 years. Following Japan's victory over the Qing Dynasty in the first Sino-Japanese war, Taiwan was ceded to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895.

Taiwan Emblem

Taiwan Emblem

The Republic of China was established in mainland China in 1912 and governed varying amounts of territory on the mainland until 1949. At the end of World War II in 1945, Japan surrendered Taiwan and associated islands to ROC forces. Following the Chinese civil war in the last three years, the Communist forces took control of mainland China and founded the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the ROC government moved to Taiwan. Since the founding of the PRC, international recognition of the ROC has gradually eroded as most countries switched recognition to the PRC. In 1971, the PRC assumed China's seat at the United Nations. Only 22 UN member states and the Holy See currently recognize the ROC as a sovereign state and maintain formal diplomatic relations with it, though it has informal ties with many other states.

Officially, the ROC government has claimed sovereignty over all of "China", in a definition that includes mainland China and Mongolia, as well as Taiwan, via the ROC Constitution but has not made retaking the mainland a political goal since 1992. However, the government's stance on whether "retaking" or "reuniting" with China is desired or whether Taiwan and China are separate countries or are regions of one country depends on which administration is in power. Meanwhile, the PRC also officially asserts itself to be the sole legal representation of China and actively claims Taiwan to be under its sovereignty, denying the status and existence of ROC as a sovereign state. It has threatened the use of military force as a response to any formal declaration of Taiwanese independence, or if it deems peaceful reunification no longer possible. Cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China as well as issues of national identity within the country are important factors in Taiwanese politics and a cause of social and political division among political parties and their respective supporters.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Taiwan evolved into a multi-party democracy with universal suffrage. Building on the infrastructure and education improvements initiated during the Japanese era, Taiwan has experienced rapid economic growth and industrialization during the latter half of the 20th century and is now an advanced industrial economy. It is one of the Four Asian Tigers and a member of the WTO and APEC. The 19th-largest economy in the world, its advanced technology industry plays a key role in the global economy. Taiwan is ranked highly in terms of freedom of the press, health care, public education, economic freedom, and human development.

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