Taiwan, the “prodigal son of China,” offers its own little
charms. The Portuguese sailors called the island “Formosa”
(Portuguese: “beautiful”) and were not exaggerating. The mountains
of Taiwan rise to over 3000m, with valleys and gorges in between.
The few plains are crossed by wide riverbeds, which fill completely
in just a few hours during the dreaded typhoons. In addition to the
Chinese immigrants from various times, there are also a few
descendants of the Malayo-Polynesian indigenous population who have
begun to emphasize their cultural peculiarities again in recent
The official name of Taiwan is the Republic of China (R.O.C.). The island also has the name Formosa. This comes from the Portuguese sailors who were the first Europeans to travel the waters and called Taiwan “Ilha Formosa” (beautiful island). Formosa fell to Japan after the Sino-Japanese War in 1895. After World War II, Japan had to cede Formosa back to China, and the National Chinese (Kuomintang, KMT) took control of the island. When they lost in the civil war against Mao's communists in 1949, the national Chinese government fled to the island of Taiwan. Until the 1970s, this government was the official representative of all of China at the United Nations, until it was finally expelled from the UN in favor of the government in Beijing. Currently, 23 countries recognize Taiwan as an independent country and have official diplomatic relations with Taipei. The German-speaking countries have no embassies in Taiwan. Germans and Austrians are looked after by offices (German Cultural Center) in their countries; their embassy in Beijing is responsible for Swiss citizens.
The People's Republic of China views Taiwan as a breakaway province, while the Taiwanese population is divided on the issue. A large proportion now supports independence from China, but the proportion who support reunification (under different political circumstances) is also large. Western states pursue a “One China policy” and see Taiwan as an official part of China. Nevertheless, the USA has assured Taiwan of its support should the People's Republic attempt to re-incorporate Taiwan by force. Germany also supplies weapons to Taiwan.
Taiwan's democratic constitution was adopted on December 25, 1947, but was suspended by martial law for 40 years. While the president as head of state was previously elected by the National Assembly, since a constitutional change in 1992, citizens have been able to elect the president directly. The term is limited to two consecutive four-year periods. The first freely elected president, Lee Teng-Hui, was sworn in on May 20, 1996.
There are around 100 political parties in Taiwan - but in 2003, the country's four major parties accounted for 87% of legislative seats. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, “green faction”) won the 2000 presidential election; the second strongest party was the Kuomintang National Party (KMT, “blue faction”). The People First Party (PFP) was the third strongest and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) was the fourth largest political party. The 2008 elections brought the Kuomintang back to power.
The culture in Taiwan is influenced by Chinese. The visual contrasts between modern glass facades and old houses, the street markets, the friendliness of the people and the very good infrastructure make traveling worthwhile and easy. Taiwan is particularly suitable for beginners in Asia. At 36,179 km², the island is about the size of Baden-Württemberg and can be easily traveled on a round trip along the coast of 14 to 21 days. The bus and train network is very well developed. There is a lot to discover in terms of cuisine and fans of Asian temple complexes will certainly not miss out. The east coast with the Taroko National Park and the center of the island attract with a lot of nature; likewise the south. In the west one city is lined up next to the other, and in the north of the island the metropolis of Taipei dominates. The tallest building in the world until 2007 was the Taipei Financial Center, also called “Taipei 101” because of its 101 floors.
Citizens of all EU states, Swiss and Liechtenstein residents do not
need a visa for a stay in Taiwan of up to 90 days. To enter the country
you only need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months upon entry.
Holders of a “temporary passport” receive a “visa on arrival.”
HIV-positive people who want to stay in the province for longer than
three months are not permitted.
The international airport Taiwan Taoyuan International (IATA: TPE, until 2006: “Chiang Kai-Shek International”) in the north is served by many airlines. There are direct flight connections several times a week from Frankfurt am Main to Taipei with China Airlines and from Munich and Vienna (the latter with a stopover in Bangkok) with EVA Air. There are connections to practically all surrounding Asian countries, to the USA and to Australia. The airport is about an hour's drive outside of Taipei. Bus transportation to Taipei city center and major hotels is offered by several competing bus companies. The Taoyuan Metro's only line to date runs from the airport to Taipei Central Station in around 40 minutes at a cost of 160 TWD (around EUR 4.50, as of June 2019). You should make sure to choose one of the express trains with fewer stops. If you like it more convenient, you can also take a taxi for around five to eight times the price (approx. 1000 TWD/25 euros, as of 2012).
The second international airport is in Kaoshiung in southern Taiwan - the city center can be reached by taxi or KMRT in around 15 minutes.
Taiwan has very large container cargo ports at Kaoshiung in the south, Taichung in central Taiwan and Keelung in the north. There has been a weekly ferry connection to/from Xiamen between China and the Taiwanese islands of Kinmen and Keelung since 2010 (Chinese booking website).
Recreational sailors must register their arrival at each port in the Maritime Port Bureau (航港局, MOTC) online system. There you can also find out details about the paperwork. For the formalities of the first arrival you have to go to one of the major international ports. It is expected that you will contact the harbor masters by radio about 10 nautical miles out (VHF 16). Direct arrival from mainland China, Macau or Hong Kong special economic zones is not permitted.
The railway system in Taiwan is well developed. The big cities can be
reached via direct connections, smaller cities have to be reached by
changing trains. At all stations there are machines and counters for
selling tickets for the same day and at other counters for later days.
The trains are generally clean. You need a valid ticket to access the
platform. This must be shown and handed in when leaving the destination
station. The staff is friendly. At the train stations there are waiting
areas and a mini market, usually from the 7-Eleven chain. The Taiwanese
railway has a very good website in Chinese and English. The routes can
be planned and tickets can be reserved online. There are three fare
classes for three different train categories. Conventional trains
(comparable to a regional train in Germany) are the cheapest and stop at
every station. Express trains skip some stations and are slightly more
expensive, and trains in the "Limited Express" category correspond to
the European InterCity/EuroCity trains and are the most expensive (about
twice the price of simple trains), but seat reservations are also
possible here (but not mandatory, although recommended - the
reservations are not written on the seats, so you have to expect to be
chased away from your seat at any time by newly boarded passengers with
The High Speed Rail (THSR), which has been in operation since 2007, connects the north-south axis between Taipei and Zuoying (Kaohsiung) in around 2 hours and costs around 1490 TWD in 2nd class, the trains that require reservations with just 3 stops you can do it in 90 minutes for the same price. Since a large part of the route had to be built on stilts to be earthquake-proof, this route is one of the most expensive railway projects in the world. Except in Taipei and Kaohsiung, these stations are not particularly well connected to the city centers in terms of transport. However, it is possible to use free shuttle buses that take you to the center. As a traveler it is recommended to travel business class (1st class), it only costs a little more, but you have more space, peace and quiet and you get free water, coffee and a little something to nibble on to complete the journey at an average speed of 300km/h enjoy. All rows of seats on high-speed trains are generally located in the direction of travel (the rows are rotated by staff at the end stations) and have their own window.
Train tickets can also be purchased in mini markets (e.g. 7-Eleven). You first print out a voucher for the selected connection from a machine (which also offers various other functions, such as purchasing tickets and money transfers), then pay at the market's cash desk and receive the ticket there .
There are three types of rail passes (2021 prices):
3 consecutive days for THSR, NT$2200
2 days within 7 for THSR, NT$2500
5 days for the Chu-Kuang Express and all cheaper trains, on 2 days within the validity the THSR can also be used, NT$ 2800
The cities are also connected by bus. The intercity buses from
“Ubus”, “FreeGo”, “HoShin” and others offer an alternative to traveling
by train. The buses are modern and comfortable. The sales points are
often located near the train station or airport. A trip between the
metropolises of Taipei and Kaoshiung in a luxury bus costs around 600
TWD (13 EUR; 04/2007) and takes around four hours with favorable traffic
There are flight connections between the big cities sometimes even every 15 minutes. Except on some public holidays, you generally don't need a reservation and you can even buy tickets up to a few minutes before departure. A flight between the metropolises of Taipei and Kaoshiung costs around 1800 TWD (40 euros; 08/2007) and takes less than an hour. While Kaoshiung International Airport is directly connected to the City Airport, Taipei International Airport is just under an hour's drive from Taipei City Airport.
Taxis are yellow and easy to find in major cities. They are metered and are quite cheap. If you don't speak Chinese, you definitely need the name of the destination in Chinese writing. For example, hotels always have a Chinese name; very few taxi drivers know the English names of the hotels.
Even though foreign driving licenses for two-wheelers are not valid in Taiwan (!), scooters can be rented easily and cheaply in some tourist areas and large cities. Heavy motorcycles have been allowed in Taiwan for several years, but two-wheelers are generally not allowed on the highway.
When renting cars, international car driving licenses are recognized depending on the country of origin. The transport routes outside the cities are usually very well signposted, including in English. In large cities, traffic is often extremely dense and confusing. A toll of 40 TWD (as of April 2007) must be paid on the motorways for each section of approx. 30km. Speed limits are monitored in many places and traffic lights are often equipped with cameras. Parking fees are recorded on a piece of paper and stuck under the windshield wiper - the fees can then be purchased in a mini-market such as. B. Pay 7-Eleven. If the car is towed, you will often find the license plate number and a telephone number written in chalk at the location - a taxi driver can use this telephone number to take you to the relevant police parking lot.
There are restrictions on highways on some days during Chinese New Year. In general, the volume of traffic on such public holidays is extremely high and there are often hardly any free spaces on public transport.
During a typhoon it is very dangerous, especially in mountainous regions, as roads or bridges are often torn away by the water.
Taiwanese cuisine is special and very different from that of the
mainland. The offal of pork, beef and poultry, chicken feet, duck
tongues, blood and necks, which are cooked in special spice sauces, are
available everywhere and are considered a special delicacy. Chicken
breast, for example, is considered poor people's food, as can be seen in
the night markets. Killing cats and dogs for food has been banned by law
since mid-2020 and carries comparatively high penalties. People like
being a rat in Chaiyi.
Of course, there are also dishes that are not so foreign to Western Europeans. A lot of fish and seafood are prepared, but also poultry, beef and pork. There are many different soup dishes. The ultimate soup is beef noodle soup. There are two versions: once as a soup and once separately, with the sauce in a separate bowl. You should definitely try the fresh bamboo shoots, which are served raw with mayonnaise.
Of course, in the big cities you can also find all of China's regional cuisines, which were brought to Taiwan by the Kuomintang. Japanese cuisine is also very well represented. Due to the large number of guest workers, there are also many Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, as well as Mongolian, Indian and Western restaurants. As in the rest of the world, there are more and more fast food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's and MOS Burger to be found in Taiwan, and the trend on the streets is towards fried foods.
Taiwan is the birthplace of bubble tea. In comparison to the chemical sugar solutions that you get in Germany, in Taiwan there is still the original product with some very high-quality ololong teas. There are tea shops every few meters, but unfortunately they often only have a Chinese menu. The teas with taro are special, although they take some getting used to, for which Olong tea is mixed with cooked taro (sweet potato) and milk.
If you like sweets, Taiwan is the right place for you. There is white nougat in all flavors (nougat with macadamia nuts is particularly recommended), which is always freshly prepared, especially at the markets. Another specialty that is particularly popular not only with tourists are pineapple pies (Fengli Su), a somewhat dry shortcrust pastry filled with pineapple paste. Here you should pay attention to the quality. Good pineapple cakes cost around one euro each. Known to most people from Japan, Taiwan also has a ton of different mochi (Japanese-style sticky rice cakes). While traditional fillings such as red beans, peanuts, sesame paste and green tea are still dominant, you can now also find milk, strawberry or chocolate. A special feature is Taiwan mochi, which is only available in special shops or pastry shops. This is a wafer-thin layer of mochi filled with sponge cake dough, cream and fruit. Since there is a lot of peanut and sesame cultivation in the southwest of the island, you can also find the corresponding products there. Particularly worth mentioning are caramelized peanut and sesame slices. Dried salty plums in many different variations are also very popular.
Anyone who likes ice cream and fruit will find it difficult to leave Taiwan. Almost everywhere you can get thinly grated water ice, sweetened with syrup and served with fresh fruit. This is the ultimate refreshment, especially in hot weather. In the markets you can also find pureed fruit with milk or water, served in a large cup with ice cubes.
Fruits in Taiwan are of very high quality. If you've always wanted to know what a mango or pineapple really tastes like, you should go to the markets or supermarkets and get the fresh, pre-cut fruit. The disadvantage: You will never want to eat pineapple in Germany again. In addition to the well-known fruits, there are also fruits that are not known in this country, such as the rose apple or fresh guavas. You should also try starfruit, cinnamon apples, cherimoyas, pomelos and, especially in summer, watermelon.
Many places are known for their local culinary specialties. These are often agricultural products such as peanuts and sesame in Peikang, rose apples in Pintung, watermelons in Hsilo, cinnamon apples in Taitung and pomelos in Touliu. But special dishes such as the rooster in the urn in Guanziling and the pressed smoked duck in Ilan or sweets such as mochi in Sanyi also make the respective towns and villages popular excursion destinations.
Taiwan offers a variety of opportunities to go out - especially in
cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung.
All major cities and many smaller ones have at least one night market. For Western visitors, there are many exotic experiences to be had here, especially when it comes to food. The oft-rumored fresh snake soup is a specialty of the tourist-oriented "Snake Alley" market on Huaxi Street near Longshan Temple in Taipei. But that is by no means the only discovery that can be made. Stalls with clothing, toys, snacks, drinks and meals are mixed. Particular attention should be paid to the culinary offerings. Sweet and savory, meat and vegetarian, fruit, seafood, soups and pasta in never-before-seen and tasted variations can be found here.
The most famous night markets include, next to or before Snake Alley, the Shilin and Shimending night markets in Taipei, the Miaokou night market in Keelung and the Liuhe night market in Kaohsiung.
Under no circumstances should Taiwan be equated with Southeast Asia
when it comes to hotel prices, even if it is cheaper than, for example,
Hong Kong. In the first half of 2023, you paid an average of NT$4,618
(€143.29) for a hotel, while simpler houses and guesthouses (B&B) charge
NT$2,647 (€82.13). In the higher category in touristy areas such as
Nantou, you will be asked to pay NT$15,449 (€479.37) per night. In many
tourist places such as Kenting or Hualien, prices in some hotels are
almost doubled on the weekends.
Hostels, small hotels and youth hostels offer good alternatives throughout Taiwan. There is a network of youth hostels throughout the country, which are mainly used by local tourists. The small hotels often change their name and owner. Bookings from Germany are possible via the international youth hostel association and a few hotel booking systems.
If you are traveling by car or two-wheeler, you can stay overnight in one of the many motels. Most newer motels are very comfortable and often offer a large whirlpool tub or massage chair in the room (ask for “SPA”). Here you notice that motels primarily serve as places for a romantic tête-à-tête for lovers.
There are campsites with showers, toilets and barbecue facilities in the mountains or on a few beaches.
The national language is Chinese (Mandarin). Many younger people also
speak English. At tourist destinations and in many shops in the city
center, you will be able to communicate in English without any problems.
Older people often speak Japanese as a foreign language instead as a
result of Japan's long occupation.
In addition, Taiwanese, another dialect of Chinese, is very widespread, especially in the southern part of the country. Since there is a certain national pride associated with it - after all, the language was banned during the military dictatorship - there are always people who speak exclusively in Taiwanese.
Caution: Many taxi or bus drivers do not understand English and often do not understand the Latin alphabet. It is an advantage to have a travel guide with city or street names in Chinese or to have hotel addresses or something similar written down. However, one should not forget that the characters are written in traditional notation. So be careful with books or travel guides that you buy abroad.
Mobile phone apps that can, on the one hand, translate texts via the camera and, on the other hand, translate spoken text into writing and speech, are now also very helpful.
The currency of the province is the “new Taiwan dollar” (NT$), which
in business, as with almost all currencies in East Asia, is represented
by the character 元, analogue is 角 ⅒ and 分 or ¢ ⅟100. The central bank
issues notes of NT$100, NT$200, NT$500, NT$1000, NT$2000 (illustrations
of the valid series), with 200 and 2000 notes being rare. Similarly,
cent coins are rarely used; the pieces in circulation are mainly NT$1,
NT$5, NT$10, NT$20 and NT$50.
For one euro you get NT$32.23.
People often associate Taiwan - just like Thailand, for example - with a cheap country, but in reality this is by no means the case. Technical equipment in particular is usually only slightly cheaper than in Europe. Textiles are cheap in the night markets, and we find identical price levels in western department stores. The “fakes” from big brands like “adidas”, which are then quickly called “adidadi”, are entertaining.
Payment in the department stores is possible in cash or with credit cards. Prices are reasonable at the night markets, which offer food, textiles, CDs, pets, jewelry and food.
The most important holidays are Chinese New Year. Since this is based on the lunar calendar (new moon), it is not in sync with our solar calendar - Chinese New Year is in late January or February. The New Year is the only time of year when business in otherwise busy Taiwan almost comes to a standstill for a few days. It is very difficult to get train, bus or plane tickets on Chinese New Year. Extreme traffic jams and parking shortages are to be expected throughout Taiwan. Hotels and restaurants are often hopelessly fully booked and the prices for services (hotels, taxis) can be significantly increased during this time.
Taiwan is considered one of the safest travel destinations in Asia.
Europeans are treated with respect and a lot of curiosity. There are no
attacks on tourists and they are punished harshly by the state. The
country seems to be happy about any “foreigner” who joins the country
R.O.C. - Brings a bit of recognition to Taiwan and breaks isolation.
Visiting the night markets is also safe at any time of the night, apart
from the usual risk of encountering pickpockets in the dense crowds.
Taiwan is an earthquake zone, so tremors and tsunamis are to be expected. The island is also regularly hit by typhoons, which causes severe damage to the infrastructure, including flooding. Earthquakes and storms also cause loose slopes and rocks in the mountains. You should therefore pay attention to mudslides and falling rocks.
Overall, Taiwan is a very safe country. Eating and drinking is
relatively safe. You can now drink tap water without any problems, and
all of the lead pipes that were previously common have been replaced.
However, many residents still prefer bottled water. Medical care in
Taiwan is good and most doctors in major hospitals speak English.
As in all tropical countries, you should protect yourself from strong sunlight in Taiwan, even on cloudy days.
There are several species of venomous snakes in the mountains, but there are actually no reported incidents. You should protect yourself from mosquitoes at night with appropriate clothing or sprays. In rare cases, dengue fever has been transmitted through mosquito bites in Taiwan. Vaccination recommendations can be found on Tropeninstitut.de.
Respect is very important in Taiwan according to the Chinese way of
life. This is especially true in the relationship between younger and
older people. These include honesty, saving face and posture.
One should not leave the chopsticks upright in the food, as this actually symbolizes a ritual for the dead. Instead, place the chopsticks flat on the bowl or next to the bowl. If you are eating with several people at the table, you should not use your own chopsticks to grab food from the plates, but rather use the chopsticks that are with the dish (“Gong Kuai”). But a foreigner's mistakes are readily forgiven anyway.
Shoes should be taken off before entering private homes. There are also a few temples or restaurants where you have to take off your shoes.
In Taiwan, temples are not only religious sites, but generally also simply places where normal life takes place; people discuss, play, learn, laugh, make phone calls, eat, buy, sell, smoke, drink, and sleep. When visiting a temple, in contrast to many other countries, there is less need to pay attention to appropriate clothing. Basically, appearance also affects how you are treated by your counterpart. A well-groomed appearance is recommended; women should avoid choosing clothes that are too daring. In most temples, taking photos isn't a problem as long as you don't squeeze in between those praying. In some temples, however, taking photos of the main altar is prohibited.
Post offices usually open Mon-Fri 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday
until 12:30 p.m. Larger branches also exchange foreign currencies
including Euro cash, which is rarely accepted elsewhere.
Phone calls to Germany are very cheap. Cards and payphones are available in large numbers. For telephone calls without an operator, you must first dial 002 and then the country code without zero (for Germany, 49). Cards can be purchased at ATMs or in any 7-Eleven supermarket.
Cell phone calls are also possible without any problems with a German cell phone. When dialing, instead of 0049, you can only enter +49 for Germany. Sending SMS is possible without any problems, as is receiving it (some costs also apply to receiving it).
Prepaid SIM cards are available in many phone shops. In addition to cheap call tariffs, there are also many interesting data tariffs. For legitimation you need 2 documents, e.g. B. Passport and ID card or driving license. It is recommended that activation be carried out by telephone shop staff. You can get cards to top up your credit in many stores, for example at 7-Eleven or Family Mart. SIM cards for tourists with special data tariffs can already be purchased at the airport. Since the tariffs offered are almost uniform, it can be practical to sign up here (as of 2023) in order to subsequently use online phone calls and translation apps. The most commonly used messaging service in Taiwan is Line.
Internet cafes - now a dying business model - are a cheap way to send news back home. An hour costs between 10 and 25 Taiwan dollars, currently between €0.25 and €0.50. The computers are modern, the connection is DSL. The other visitors will mostly be playing on the PC, the noise will distract them from emailing and at the same time create an entertaining picture.
On the other hand, there is the paid WiFly, which enables broadband across 10,000 hotspots nationwide, especially in American-style franchise chains. Stored cards, available at MOS Burger and 7-Eleven, cost 1 day; NT$180, 30 days: 500, 365 days: 1200.
After the end of the Pacific War in 1945, Japan surrendered to
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek under General Order No. 1 from Supreme
Commander of the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur. The island of Taiwan
(then: Formosa) was handed over to the Republic of China after fifty
years of Japanese colonial rule. Shortly thereafter, civil war between
the Kuomintang and the Communists broke out again in mainland China.
After Chiang Kai-shek's defeat, the government and army of the Republic
of China withdrew to the island of Taiwan, making Taiwan and several
smaller islands of other provinces the sole control of the Republic of
China. The Communists founded the People's Republic of China on the
mainland. The Republic of China was also called National China or
National China, in contrast to the People's Republic.
After the traumatic events of the defeat against the communists on the Chinese mainland, the national Chinese government was almost paranoid about communist attempts to overthrow the island of Taiwan, which was the only remaining territory. Any oppositional sentiments were rigorously suppressed. From May 20, 1949, there was a nationwide state of emergency. The Kuomintang saw itself as the only legitimate government in all of China and only wanted to accept elections from the citizens of all of China. Therefore, new parliamentary elections were suspended indefinitely. The deputies elected in the last all-China election in 1948 were to retain their mandates under the Constitution of the Republic of China until the unification of China. Since the representatives of this parliament (the National Assembly), elected in 1948, overwhelmingly belonged to or supported the Kuomintang, this meant the quasi-one-party rule of the KMT. Women's suffrage was introduced in 1953. From 1971 onwards, so-called supplementary elections were permitted, through which the now deceased members of parliament were replaced.
Towards the end of the 1980s, democratization began in Taiwan under the Kuomintang government. The emergency clauses that had been in effect since 1948 were removed from the constitution and new parties were admitted alongside the Kuomintang. On July 14, 1987, the state of emergency that had been in effect since 1949 was officially ended. In 1992, the constitution was changed after a free parliamentary election and direct election was introduced instead of the previous indirect election of the president. The first direct presidential election took place in 1996, which was won by President Lee Teng-hui of the Kuomintang, who had been in office since 1988.
Until October 1971, the Republic of China (on Taiwan) was the only successor state to the former Republic of China, which existed between 1911 and 1949, and was a member of the United Nations. With Resolution 2758 of the UN General Assembly of October 25, 1971, it lost this position to the People's Republic of China. Since then, the Republic of China has only been recognized internationally by a few states. Many Taiwanese want a stable, international position. The government of the People's Republic of China, however, considers Taiwan a "breakaway province" and threatens to "reclaim" the island militarily if Taiwan declares independence (see anti-secession law), even though Taiwan has never been under the rule of the People's Republic of China . Most Western governments, on the one hand, adhere to the one-China policy and, on the other hand, outlaw any military threat. In 1979, the USA passed a law (Taiwan Relations Act) through which, on the one hand, it broke off diplomatic contacts with Taiwan, but at the same time committed itself to providing Taiwan with assistance against any military threat. This does not necessarily include military intervention by the USA - what is meant above all is the sale of defensive weapons to Taiwan. There are also the US Six Assurances to Taiwan from 1982. In March 2018, US President Donald Trump signed a bill passed by Congress that expressly supports travel by high-ranking US representatives to Taiwan and visits from Taiwan at all levels. In October 2021, US President Joe Biden described it as the US's obligation to militarily defend Taiwan in the event of an attack by the People's Republic of China; The White House then clarified that this statement did not mean a departure from the previous position based on the Taiwan Relations Act. A similar clarification from the White House was made in August following a similar statement by Biden, which, in addition to Taiwan, also affected Japan and South Korea.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. The government under President Chen Shui-bian, who was in office from 2000 to 2008, had promised in its election programs to draw up a new constitution, which would mean the abolition of the old republican constitution, in which, for example, the name “Republic of China” and the state border were stipulated. Under international pressure, especially from the United States, the government decided not to touch this passage and Chen Shui-bian proclaimed the policy of the five nos. Nevertheless, the Unification Council was dissolved, which led to severe threats from the People's Republic of China. The parliamentary elections in 2008 and 2012 were won by the Kuomintang, whose candidate Ma Ying-jeou also won the presidential election in 2008 and 2012, initially defusing this conflict. On November 7, 2015, President Ma Ying-jeou and President of the People's Republic Xi Jinping met in Singapore. No treaties or joint declarations were signed at this symbolic meeting.
The opposition party DPP won the Taiwanese presidential election and the parliamentary election in January 2016. Alongside elected President Tsai Ing-wen, she also has a majority in parliament for the first time in history.
The "Taiwan Region" is an area that covers 36,197.07 km² and
includes the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, as well as
a number of smaller islands. Since the evacuation to Taiwan in 1949
by the Kuomintang government, the term "Taiwan Region" also refers
to the area under the de facto jurisdiction of the government of the
Republic of China.
Taiwan is the largest of a chain of islands located on the border of the Asian continental shelf and located between Japan and the Philippines. The island reaches 394 km in length and 144 km in its widest part. The coastline has a rather smooth contours and stretches for 1566 km (including the islands of the Penghu archipelago). The island is separated from the east coast of mainland China by the Taiwan Strait, 130 to 220 km wide, and is approximately equidistant from Shanghai and Hong Kong SAR and Macau. Part of the islands of the Taiwan region (Kinmen and Matsu) are located in close proximity to the mainland.
The population of Taiwan as of December 2022 was estimated at
23,264,640 people. Since the area of the Republic of China is 36,197
km², the population density is 643 people per square km. It is the 10th
largest in the world in terms of population density and the second in
Asia (after Bangladesh), excluding micro-countries. Almost the entire
population of the Republic of China is urban. The main population of the
Republic of China is concentrated on the flat western coast of the
island of Taiwan and lives in a megalopolis (urban agglomerations
flowing one into another), from Xingbei in the north to Kaohsiung in the
south. As of 2019, one third of the total population of the Republic of
China lived in the north of Taiwan in the Greater Taipei metropolitan
area. The population decline in 2021 was 1.3%.
Most of Taiwan's population lives in urban areas. The largest of them are as follows: New Taipei (6,607,115 people), Kaohsiung (2,752,008), Taichung-Zhanghua (2,161,327), Taoyuan (1,814,437), Tainan (1,237,886), Hsinchu (671,464 ), Chiayi (373,417). All of them are located on the west coast of Taiwan. Largest cities (as of 2009: Taipei (2,620,273), Kaohsiung (1,526,128), Taichung (1,067,366), Tainan (768,891), Hsinchu (396,983), Jilong (390,299), Chiayi ( 272 718).
97% of Taiwan's population are ethnic Chinese (Han); almost
3% are indigenous peoples (the oldest population of the island of
Taiwan) who speak the Taiwanese languages of the Austronesian family.
The official language is Chinese (Goyu), but the majority of the
population speaks other dialects of Chinese, Taiwanese and Hakka.
Traditional Chinese characters are used.
Until recently, indigenous languages did not have official status and gradually disappeared, but since 2016, progress has been made in implementing the policy of mainstreaming ethnic issues.
In 2017, Parliament passed the Indigenous Languages Act. Now they can be taught in schools for an hour a week and on a voluntary basis. In December 2018, a draft law on the support of national languages was adopted, which affirms the equality of all languages spoken in the republic; the use of national languages should not be subject to discrimination or restrictions. The bill also provides for the support of printed materials, films and television programs in the languages of the Republic of China.
The most widespread religion in Taiwan - if it can be classified as a
religion at all - is Chinese folk belief, with a share of around 43.8%
(as of 2020) of the total population of Taiwan. This includes a small
minority of followers of Confucianism.
Overall, freedom of religion and belief in Taiwan is considered to be extremely high. In the IHEU's Freedom of Thoughts Report from 2018 e.g. B. Taiwan, together with the Netherlands and Belgium, shared first place among all countries surveyed worldwide.
The “classic” religions with the most followers are Buddhism (21.2%) and Daoism (< 15.5%), each of which adopts elements of the other religion, so that the dividing line between them is fluid.
The proportion of Christians in Taiwan's total population was 3.9%, according to a 2005 census. More recent estimates indicate proportions of more than 4 or more than 5%. Native peoples have largely embraced the Christian faith in recent decades, which includes Catholics, Protestants, New Apostolic Christians and Mormons. The first missions took place in the 17th century by the Dutch and Spaniards.
Muslims have also existed in Taiwan since the 17th century. There are currently over 210,000 Muslims living in the Republic of China. This corresponds to around 0.3% of the population. They include around 60,000 native Muslims (around 90% of them Hui) as well as over 150,000 immigrant Muslims, mainly from Indonesia (around 110,000) and other Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.
A Jewish community has also existed in Taiwan since the mid-20th century. In 2021, there were about 1,000 Jewish residents living in Taiwan.
The indigenous people have been predominantly Christianized since around 1960. However, within many Catholic communities there are still male and female shamans who carry out their traditional practices. They are consulted particularly in the case of incurable illnesses, feelings of guilt towards the deceased, serious family crises or losses. Some of the shamans do describe themselves as Catholics; they connect the ideas in a syncretic manner.
The Republic of China has been a democracy since overcoming one-party
rule in the 1990s, and the president and members of the unicameral
parliament have been elected in free, equal and secret elections since
the 1990s. From the perspective of some Western observers, Taiwanese
democracy has significance that extends beyond Taiwan's borders in that
Taiwan is seen as a model for the future democratization of the People's
Republic of China, since the model of a pluralistic-democratic Chinese
society is being practiced in close proximity to the authoritarian-ruled
In the 2022 Democracy Index, Taiwan ranks 10th out of 167 countries and territories, making it by far the best-placed state in Asia in this ranking, ahead of Germany and Austria, among others. In the Freedom Index country lists 2017 and 2018 by the US non-governmental organization Freedom House, Taiwan also received scores of 91 and 93, respectively, which are better values than traditionally democratic states such as the USA, France or Italy.
Before democratization, the National Assembly, which was formed in 1947 as a whole of China, was in office. On the grounds that new elections for the whole of China were not possible and in order not to give up the right to represent the whole of China, her term of office, which was originally intended to last seven years, was extended indefinitely, which also earned her the name “Long Parliament”.
Until 1992, the Kuomintang, which controlled the National Assembly, ruled virtually as the sole party. In the course of democratization, the National Assembly gradually handed over its powers to the Legislative Yuan, which was freely elected for the first time in 1992, until it was finally dissolved in 2005.
Today's party landscape in the Republic of China is mainly characterized by two political blocs: the pan-green coalition (Chinese: 泛綠聯盟 / 泛绿联盟, pinyin Fànlǜ liánméng), consisting of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) and the smaller Taiwan Independence Party (TAIP), and the pan-blue coalition (Chinese 泛藍聯盟 / 泛蓝联盟, pinyin Fànlán Liánméng), consisting of the Kuomintang (KMT), the Qinmindang ("People's Proximity Party", PFP) and the smaller Xindang (“New Party”, CNP). The color designations come from the party flags of the two major popular parties, DPP and KMT. In relation to the People's Republic of China, the green camp seeks “formal independence” for Taiwan, while the blue camp advocates maintaining the status quo. In the long term, parts of the blue camp are striving for a reunification of China under democratic conditions.
Until 1992, the National Assembly elected the President. In 1994, a constitutional amendment introduced direct election of the president, which was first done in 1996. From 2000 to 2008, Chen Shui-bian (DPP) was the first president who was not a member of the Kuomintang. The 2008 Legislative Yuan election and the March 22, 2008 presidential election brought the Kuomintang back to power. Ma Ying-jeou has been president since May 20, 2008. The Kuomintang maintained political power in the 2012 Legislative Yuan elections and the January 14, 2012 presidential election. Ma's second term in office was marked by increasing popular discontent, which was expressed, among other things, in the occupation of parliament during the Sunflower Movement in spring 2014 and the KMT's defeats in the local elections on November 29 of the same year. After the clear victory of the opposition party DPP and its leading candidate Tsai Ing-wen in the parliamentary elections and the presidential election on January 14, 2016, there was another change of power. In the subsequent presidential election on January 11, 2020, President Tsai was confirmed in office. Her party, the DPP, lost votes in the parliamentary elections held at the same time, but was able to maintain an absolute majority of seats.
The constitution of the Republic of China is based on the political
teachings of Sun Yat-sen (“Three Principles of the People”) and was
developed on the mainland in 1946. It came into force on December 25,
1947 and requires a division into five powers, each exercised by a Yuan
(State Council): legislative, executive, judicial, audit and control.
Until its dissolution in 2005, the National Assembly had the sole right
to make constitutional changes. Since then, constitutional changes
approved by parliament have to be confirmed in referendums with over 50
percent of eligible votes.
The head of state is the President, who is directly elected for four years and is also commander in chief of the armed forces and may only be re-elected once.
Yuans (State Councilors)
The constitution of 1947 provides for a five-fold division of power - in contrast to the Western-style three-way division (executive, legislative, judiciary):
The Executive Yuan is the government or cabinet of the Republic of China, chaired by the Prime Minister. He is appointed by the President in consultation with the Legislative Yuan.
Composed of 113 deputies since 2008, the Legislative Yuan is Taiwan's parliament, which is endowed with legislative authority and oversees the work of the Executive Yuan.
The Judicial Yuan consists of 15 judges and is the highest judicial body in the state. It also forms the country's constitutional court.
The Examination Yuan is responsible for the selection of officials.
The Control Yuan performs the function comparable to an audit court and can carry out disciplinary proceedings against civil servants.
At the time of the Kuomintang dictatorship, after the Chinese Civil
War, the view was that mainland China had “separated” through the
founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. However, the
government of the Republic of China has no longer pursued the exclusive
representation claim for China since the democratization of the country.
From the perspective of the People's Republic, Taiwan is a breakaway
province. On March 14, 2005, China's National People's Congress almost
unanimously passed the anti-secession law, which provides for military
action against Taiwan if it formally declares independence.
The pan-green coalition, including the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which formed the president and government between 2000 and 2008, is seeking recognition of Taiwan as a state. However, from the DPP's point of view, a formal declaration of independence is not necessary since Taiwan is already a sovereign state under the name “Republic of China”.
As a promise to the USA and to reassure the People's Republic of China, President Chen Shui-bian, who was in office from 2000 to 2008, defined the policy of the five nos (Chinese 四不一沒有, Pinyin sì bù yī méi yǒu, English four nos and one without - " four no's and one no'. As long as Taiwan is not under acute military threat from China, the Republic of China will:
not declare independence,
do not change the name of the state,
not include an article in the Constitution that describes relations with the People's Republic as “intergovernmental relations”,
not hold a referendum on changing the status quo on the question of independence or reunification,
not change the existing Taiwanese guidelines for “national reunification” (i.e. reunification only through negotiations with the People’s Republic of China and under democratic conditions on the Chinese mainland).
This declaration essentially reflected the Taiwanese position since the beginning of President Ma Ying-jeou's (Kuomintang) term in office, although it was not enshrined in law. Regardless of any disputes, the Republic of China is de facto fully independent and has full sovereignty over Taiwan.
Other states do not maintain diplomatic relations, but contact is
maintained through unofficial representations, so-called Taipei Economic
and Cultural Offices, without assigning these institutions the status of
an embassy. In 2023, such representations existed in 61 countries,
including the USA, Canada, Russia, most European Union countries and
Switzerland. Jhy-Wey Shieh has been the representative of the Taipei
representation in the Federal Republic of Germany since 2016. In
November 2021, a “Taiwan representative office” opened in the Lithuanian
capital Vilnius, which resulted in significant diplomatic and economic
pressure from China on Lithuania and the EU, including the Lithuanian
ambassador having to leave Beijing, domestic and foreign companies
operating in China were no longer allowed to operate for Lithuania and
goods destined for Lithuania and already paid for were no longer allowed
to leave China.
In addition, high-ranking politicians or even government members of Western countries are increasingly traveling to Taiwan. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, traveled to Taiwan on August 2, 2022 as the highest-ranking representative of the United States of America in 25 years. China viewed Pelosi's trip as interference in the Taiwan conflict, which had already been condemned by the State Council of the People's Republic of China and led to a major Chinese military exercise to seal off the Republic of China. On March 21, 2023, Federal Education and Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger was the first German government member to travel to Taiwan in 26 years. The Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the two-day visit, which included the signing of a technology cooperation agreement between the Republic of China and Germany, as an "outrageous act" and expressed its "strong disapproval" in a protest note.
The Republic of China has bilateral free trade agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, New Zealand and Singapore. The agreements signed with New Zealand and Singapore in 2013 were the first agreements of their kind with states that do not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. A Framework Agreement on Economic Cooperation (ECFA) was signed with the People's Republic of China in 2010. The Taiwanese government aims to sign more bilateral agreements or join international free trade blocs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Since 1949, Taiwan has had a relatively large and well-equipped army, which must be constantly prepared for an invasion by the People's Liberation Army due to the People's Republic of China's anti-secession law. From 1949 to the 1970s, the strategy was aimed at conquering the mainland. The army later transformed into a defense army, control of which was handed over to the civilian leadership. The high military expenditure placed a considerable burden on the national budget for many decades. Since the 1990s, spending on the military has increased only slightly, so that the relative share of the military budget in total government spending has fallen. However, at over 2 percent of the gross domestic product, it is still well above the corresponding values of European countries. Part of military spending, such as pension payments for former soldiers or maintenance of military buildings, is not financed from the defense budget, so total military spending is higher than that officially stated. In 2013, the armed forces had around 220,000 soldiers and up to 2.6 million in defense situations. Compulsory military service applies to all men aged 18 and over.
For several years there have been discussions about abolishing
military service, which is a very unpopular institution among the young
population. In principle, both major parties (Kuomintang and DPP) have
spoken out in favor of transforming the armed forces into a professional
army. Military service should gradually be abolished completely.
Military service should be replaced by a mandatory two-month basic
military training. As part of this objective, the length of military
service was gradually reduced from 22 months before 2004 to 20 months at
the end of 2004, 18 months from July 2005 to 12 months from 2008.
According to the plans, the target troop strength was to be reduced from
350,000 men in 2004 to 275,000 in 2009 and 215,000 in 2014. At the same
time, the transition to a purely volunteer army should be carried out.
The downsizing and professionalization were expected to free up
resources for weapons development and procurement. However, this
schedule was not adhered to. In 2013, the Taiwanese armed forces were
220,000 strong, but almost a third of them were still military service
members. A second announced deadline at the end of 2015 was also not
met. Difficulties in recruiting enough volunteers for the military were
cited as the reason for the delays. The need for a strong military can
no longer be easily understood, especially by young people, in a time of
intensive economic and cultural relations with the People's Republic of
China. Older military personnel complained about a lack of patriotic
spirit among young people.
After her election in January 2016, new President Tsai Ing-wen (DPP) stated that her government would address this issue within the first 10 months of her term. On December 12, 2016, Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) announced that conscription would finally be abolished in 2017, although that date also seemed uncertain. While some political commentators praised the new DPP government's increased attention to national defense, they warned in light of the discussions against weakening Taiwan's military defenses too much and lowering the target strength below the planned 215,000 troops. Ultimately, conscription was retained against the backdrop of increasing tensions with the People's Republic of China. On December 27, 2022, the Taiwanese government announced that it would extend mandatory military service from the previous four months to one year from January 2024.
Since 2001 there has also been the alternative of community service, which lasts one year.
A defense alliance had existed with the United States since 1954, but
it expired in 1979 when the United States ended its official diplomatic
relations with Taiwan. In a joint communiqué dated August 17, 1982, then
President Ronald Reagan agreed with representatives of the People's
Republic of China to largely reduce the supply of US military equipment
to Taiwan. As a result of this embargo on defense products, Taiwan was
forced to advance its own developments. From 1980 onwards, the AIDC
F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo fighter-bomber (named after then-President Chiang
Ching-kuo) was developed in Taiwan. The technologies for this (radar
systems, etc.) came largely from the United States, as there was no
embargo on the export of technology. Between 1989 and 1999, 131 examples
of this fighter aircraft were built and put into service. In September
1992, US President George Bush agreed to sell 150 F-16A/B fighter jets
to Taiwan for US$5.8 billion. On November 17, 1992, Taiwanese
representatives also signed a contract for the delivery from France of
60 Dassault Mirage 2000-5 fighter aircraft, including 48 single-seat
2000-5Ei and 12 two-seat 2000-5Di. Both contracts met with strong
criticism from the People's Republic of China.
The Taiwan Strait crisis of 1995/96 brought about a turning point in US policy. The People's Republic of China's blatant military threats towards Taiwan led to Taiwan's military cooperation with the USA significantly expanding again. Since 1997, Taiwanese F-16 pilots have been trained at the US Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Since 2006, Taiwan has been seeking to purchase new F-16C/D fighter jets. The procurement of spare parts for the Mirages from France since 2012 also proved to be complicated. On September 21, 2011, an agreement was reached with the USA that provided for the modernization of the 145 Taiwanese F-16A / B by 2021 for US$ 5.3 billion. In 2005/06, the US sold four Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers to Taiwan. These have since become the largest ships in the Taiwan Navy.
Although there is no military alliance between the United States and Taiwan and the two countries do not have official diplomatic relations, military cooperation is significant. Taiwan is one of the main buyers of US military equipment. In the years 2004-2007 the country invested US$ 4.3 billion in this regard, and in 2008-2011 it was US$ 2.9 billion. In 2004-2007, Taiwan was in fourth place (after Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia) and in 2008-2011 in fifth place after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and Australia among the main foreign buyers of the US defense industry.
A significant intensification of military cooperation occurred under Donald Trump's presidency. The reason for this was the deterioration in Chinese-American relations, which was reflected in the trade conflict between the two countries. On June 17, 2018, representatives of Taiwan and the United States signed an agreement allowing Taiwanese defense experts to officially visit U.S. defense industry research facilities. According to Taiwanese politicians, the agreement made it possible to significantly improve Taiwan's self-defense capabilities. On July 9, 2019, the US State Department approved an arms deal worth US$2.2 billion: Taiwan will receive a total of 108 M1 Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and related accessories from the US. The conclusion of the contract led to violent protests from the People's Republic of China. On August 21, 2019, US President Donald Trump gave the green light to the delivery of 66 F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jets to Taiwan, worth US$8 billion.
In April 2020, government plans were announced to increase the military budget to approximately NT$400 billion (US$13.1 billion) by 2027. In 2020, Taiwan's military spending was approximately US$11.34 billion. This was compared to military spending by the People's Republic of China of US$ 177.5 billion.
On September 2, 2022, the US government under President Joe Biden approved arms sales worth US$1.1 billion, including US$355 million for Harpoon anti-ship missiles, US$85 million for AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and $655 million for radar systems to detect incoming missiles. A State Department spokesman called the systems “essential to Taiwan’s security.” The People's Republic of China then threatened “retaliatory measures”.
In 2019, the fire department in Taiwan had 8,180 professional and 26,500 volunteer firefighters nationwide, working in 544 fire stations and fire stations, where 959 fire engines and 197 turntable ladders or telescopic masts are available. The National Fire Agency of Taiwan (NFA; Chinese 內政部消防署, pinyin Nèizhèngbù Taiwan). The authority's responsibilities include emergency medicine, fire protection, firefighting, disaster rescue as well as property protection and public safety. It represents the Taiwanese fire brigades with their over 34,000 fire brigade members.
In 2017, the Republic of China legalized same-sex marriage
and thus became the first state in Asia to allow same-sex marriages to
On May 24, 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that the constitutional right to equality and freedom of marriage guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of China. The Ordinance (Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748) gave the Legislative Yuan two years to harmonize marriage laws, after which the registration of such marriages would automatically take effect. Since the ruling, progress in implementing the same-sex marriage law has been slow due to government inaction and strong opposition from some conservative people and Christian groups. In November 2018, the Taiwanese electorate held referendums to prevent the recognition of same-sex marriage in the Civil Code and to limit the teaching of LGBT issues. The government responded by affirming that the Court's decision would be implemented and that referendums could not uphold laws that were contrary to the Constitution.
On February 20, 2019, a bill titled "JY Interpretation Enforcement Act No. 748" was promulgated. The bill gave same-sex couples almost all of the rights available to heterosexual couples under the Civil Code, except that it would only allow the adoption of a child genetically related to one of them.
The Executive Yuan handed it over the next day, sending it to the Legislative Yuan for a quick review. The bill was passed on May 17, signed by the President on May 22, and entered into force on May 24, 2019 (the last day possible under the Court's order).
At the same time, initially marriages with citizens of foreign states were registered only if it was permissible in the country of citizenship of the foreign partner. According to Art. 46 of the Law on the Regulation of Civil Affairs with the Participation of Foreign Citizens, the conclusion of a marriage union is regulated by the law of the country of citizenship. Any marriages between partners, one of whom is Taiwanese, had to first be contracted in the foreign partner's country and then approved by the Taiwanese Ministry of the Interior. In January 2023, the Ministry of Internal Affairs decided to allow the registration of same-sex marriages with foreigners regardless of their citizenship, however, the exception remained in force for KN citizens.