First inhabited by Austronesian people, Taiwan became home to Han immigrants beginning in the late Ming Dynasty (17th century). In 1895, military defeat forced China's Qing Dynasty to cede Taiwan to Japan, which governed Taiwan for 50 years. Taiwan came under Chinese Nationalist control after World War II. In the four years leading to the communist victory on the mainland in 1949, 2 million Nationalists fled to Taiwan and established a government under the 1947 constitution drawn up for all of China. The Nationalist government established authoritarian rule under martial law in 1948. Beginning in the late 1970s, the ruling authorities gradually democratized and incorporated the local population within the governing structure. This process expanded rapidly in the 1980s, with the founding of the first opposition party (the Democratic Progressive Party or DPP) in 1986 and the lifting of martial law in 1987. Taiwan held its first direct presidential election in 1996. In 2000, Taiwan underwent its first peaceful transfer of power from the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) to the DPP. Throughout this period, the island prospered and became one of East Asia's economic "Tigers." The dominant political issues continue to be management of sensitive relations between Taiwan and China - specifically the question of Taiwan's sovereignty - as well as domestic priorities for economic reform and growth.
Eastern Asia, islands bordering the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, South China Sea, and Taiwan Strait, north of the Philippines, off the southeastern coast of China
small deposits of coal, natural gas, limestone, marble, asbestos, arable land
Population - distribution
distribution exhibits a peripheral coastal settlement pattern, with the largest populations on the north and west coasts
Mandarin Chinese (official), Taiwanese (Min), Hakka dialects
TAIPEI (capital) 2.666 million; Kaohsiung 1.523 million; Taichung 1.225 million; Tainan 815,000 (2015)
- Conventional long form
- Conventional short form
- Local long form
- Local short form
- Geographic coordinates
- 25 02 N, 121 31 E
- Time difference
- UTC+8 (13 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy that is driven largely by industrial manufacturing, and especially exports of electronics, machinery, and petrochemicals. This heavy dependence on exports exposes the economy to fluctuations in global demand. Taiwan's diplomatic isolation, low birth rate, rapidly aging population, and increasing competition from China and other Asia Pacific markets are other major long-term challenges.
- Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
- Real Interest Rate
- Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
- Current Account Balance
- Labor Force, Total
- Employment in Agriculture
- Employment in Industry
- Employment in Services
- Unemployment Rate
- Imports of goods and services
- Exports of goods and services
- Total Merchandise Trade
- FDI, net inflows
- Commercial Service Exports
rice, vegetables, fruit, tea, flowers; pigs, poultry; fish
electronics, communications and information technology products, petroleum refining, chemicals, textiles, iron and steel, machinery, cement, food processing, vehicles, consumer products, pharmaceuticals
- semiconductors, petrochemicals, automobile/auto parts, ships, wireless communication equipment, flat display displays, steel, electronics, plastics, computers
- China 27.1%, Hong Kong 13.2%, US 10.3%, Japan 6.4%, Singapore 4.4% (2012 est.)
- oil/petroleum, semiconductors, natural gas, coal, steel, computers, wireless communication equipment, automobiles, fine chemicals, textiles
- Japan 17.6%, China 16.1%, US 9.5% (2012 est.)
- Country Risk Rating
- Changes in generally good but somewhat volatile political and economic environment can affect corporate payment behavior. A basically secure business environment can nonetheless give rise to occasional difficulties for companies. Corporate default probability is quite acceptable on average.
- Business Climate Rating
- The business environment is good. When available, corporate financial information is reliable. Debt collection is reasonably efficient. Institutions generally perform efficiently. Intercompany transactions usually run smoothly in the relatively stable environment rated A2.
- Robust external financial position
- R&D supported by public spending
- Consensus on democratic achievements
- World’s 4th largest electronics producer
- External trade too concentrated on Mainland China and the United States
- Massive relocations weakening the employment market
- Services sector’s lack of competitiveness
- Infrastructures lagging behind those of other advanced Asian economies
After slowing sharply in 2015, growth stabilized in 2016. This trend is expected to continue in 2017. The level of economic activity will remain seriously constrained by the slowdown in continental China. On top of this, since President Tsai Ing-wen took office, diplomatic and economic relations between the two neighbors have deteriorated. Electronic products account for almost 40% of the island’s exports and its export trade is likely to remain static as a quarter of Taiwanese exports go to mainland China. The slowdown in the US economy will not help in sustaining export demand. The weak performances of the country’s exporting companies will also hold back investment.
The growth in household consumption, the main driving force of activity, is expected to remain slow. Despite the continuing low levels of unemployment and inflation, the virtual stagnation of wages could undermine consumer confidence and lead to reduced spending. The increase in the minimum wage (+5% in 2017) and improvements to the healthcare cost system should however help prevent any collapse in household demand.
The numbers of tourists from continental China are likely to continue to decline which will hit the services sector. The arrival in power of the Democratic Progressive Party, less favorable to any rapprochement with Beijing, has resulted in a falling off in tourists from mainland China.
Finally, with the signing of free-trade agreements with Singapore and New Zealand in 2013, the island is making efforts to maintain the dynamic of opening up. The problems in creating free-trade areas will however slow its economic expansion.
The contraction in the budget deficit should continue in 2017, with the government continuing its budget consolidation policy despite the poor health of the economy. The extension of the social protection system will be financed by higher taxes on tobacco and a reform of the inheritance tax regime. In this context, the public debt, already at a sustainable level, will continue to shrink.
The current account surplus is expected to contract but will remain at a high level. This is mainly thanks to a strong trade surplus but also a positive balance of services. However, the depressed state of global demand is likely to result in a slight deterioration in the foreign trade and services balances.
Taiwan’s external position remains strong: the island is one of the world’s leading creditors and the level of reserves will remain high (almost 18 months’ imports in 2017). Supported by a large current account surplus, the Taiwanese dollar is likely to hold steady against the US dollar. Monetary policy is expected to remain relaxed in order to bolster activity, limit any rise in the currency and maintain the price-competitiveness of exports.
The presidential and parliamentary elections in January 2016 resulted in the victory of the opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The President, Tsai Ing-wen, has a majority in parliament and came to power on 20 May.
Whilst the KMT and the previous President had been in favour of a policy of rapprochement, in particular economic, with mainland China, the DPP has adopted a harder stance and refuses to the support the “1992 consensus” which governs the relations between Taiwan and China. Mainland China has suspended its official communications with Taiwan. No progress can be made in terms of bilateral relations as long as the dialogue process is suspended.
Whilst the policy of rapprochement with China was initially well received by the Taiwanese people, they do not seem inclined to extend this collaboration into the political sphere. In March 2014, the “Sunflower” student movement, opposed to the TISA (Trade in Services Agreement) project and more generally the increasing influence of China over Taiwan, resulted in a 3 week occupation of the Parliament. These demonstration highlighted the fear of increased economic dependence and the start of unification talks.
By upsetting China, Taiwan has also reduced the likelihood of the implementation of other regional integration projects that would be subject to Beijing’s goodwill.
Finally, the business climate in Taiwan is extremely positive.