Commencing prior to World War II, and continuing afterwards, a civil war was fought on the mainland between Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT government and the Chinese Communist Party then led by Mao Zedong. In 1949, when the civil war ended, 2 million mostly Nationalist government, military, and business community refugees fled to Taiwan. In October 1949, the People’s Republic of China was founded on the mainland, while Chiang Kai-shek established a ‘provisional’ Republic of China capital in Taipei in December 1949.
Over the next six decades, the Taiwanese government and its population gradually formed a democratic state. In 2000, Taiwan underwent its first transition of ruling power from the KMT to the Democratic Progressive Party.
In the past decade, the island has prospered and has become one of East Asia’s economic heavyweights. Taiwan has moved from being an underdeveloped, agricultural island to an economic power that is a leading producer of high-technology goods through effective economic management and a steady workforce. However, as Taiwan’s economy remains largely export-oriented, it depends on an open world trade system and is vulnerable to changes in the world economy. Taiwan’s economic growth fell to 0.1% in 2008 as a result of the global economic crisis.
Pertinent political issues continue to be focused on its relations with China, which have historically been tense. From 1971, the representatives of the People’s Republic of China rather than those of Chiang Kai-shek were recognized at the United Nations. However, despite pressure from China on countries not to recognize Taiwan, economic ties between Taipei and Beijing have prospered. In 2008, China overtook the United States to become Taiwan’s second-largest source of imports, following Japan. The current Taiwan administration aims to expand the island’s presence in the international scene by increasing its participation in international organizations, such as the WHO.
Ranging from folk traditions to popular culture, Taiwan’s culture is a blend of its distinctive Chinese, Japanese, and Western influences.