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Taiwan

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Taiwan, Chinese (Wade-Giles romanization) T’ai-wan or (Pinyin) Taiwan, Portuguese Formosa, island in the western Pacific Ocean that lies roughly 100 miles (160 km) off the coast of southeastern China. It is approximately 245 miles (395 km) long (north-south) and 90 miles (145 km) across at its widest point. Taipei, in the north, is the seat of government of the Republic of China (ROC; Nationalist China). In addition to the main island, the ROC government has jurisdiction over 22 islands in the Taiwan group and 64 islands to the west in the P’eng-hu (Pescadores) archipelago. Two island groups controlled by the ROC government, Matsu and Quemoy, lie just off the coast of China’s Fujian (Fukien) province. In the East China Sea, the ROC claims the group of islands it calls Diaoyutai, which also are claimed by Japan as Senkaku and by the People’s Republic of China as Diaoyu. Moreover, in the South China Sea, the ROC’s claim to the Paracels is disputed with the People’s Republic of China and Vietnam, whereas a larger group of countries—the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines, in addition to the ROC—all claim the Spratly Islands.



Prior to the 1600s, Taiwan was self-governing, although there was no central ruling authority. It was a colony of the Netherlands for about 40 years in the early to mid-17th century and was subsequently independent again for about two decades. China gained control there in the late 17th century and ruled Taiwan for some two centuries. Japan acquired Taiwan in 1895 following the first Sino-Japanese War, and it became a colony.

Taiwan was returned to Nationalist Chinese control in 1945 following Japan’s defeat in World War II. However, in 1949 Chinese communist armies defeated Nationalist forces on the mainland and established the People’s Republic of China there. The Nationalist government and armies fled to Taiwan, again resulting in the separation of Taiwan from China. In the ensuing years the ROC claimed jurisdiction over the Chinese mainland as well as Taiwan, although in the early 1990s Taiwan’s government dropped this claim to China. The Chinese government in Beijing has maintained that it has jurisdiction over Taiwan and has continued to propound a one-China policy—a position that few countries in the world dispute. There has been no agreement, however, on how or when, if ever, the two entities will be reunified.

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