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More commonly known as Taiwan, the Republic of China is an East Asian state. Although the Republic of China claims to be the legitimate government of China, its jurisdiction is currently limited to Taiwan and its surrounding islands.

Taiwan's status is a contentious issue. While the Republic of China claims to be the legitimate government of China, the People's Republic of China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, referring to it as the Taiwan Authority. Nevertheless, the PRC has never governed Taiwan. The ROC has its own constitution, elected officials, and military, functioning in every way as an independent nation.

The Republic of China was formed in 1912, when the Qing Dynasty ended, at which time it controlled mainland China as well as Taiwan. In the 1920s, it found itself in a civil war with communists within China. The war stalled during the Japanese occupation, only to resume following World War II, when the Japanese were expelled.

In 1945, the US Navy ferried ROC troops to Taiwan for the formal surrender of Japanese forces. However, the Allies considered Taiwan and the Penghu Islands to be under military occupation and still under Japanese sovereignty until 1952.

Meanwhile, when the Japanese left mainland China, the Chinese civil war resumed between the Chinese Nationalists, under Chiang Kai-shek, and the Communist Party of China, under Mao Zedong. The Communists were victorious on the mainland, forming the People's Republic of China in 1949, while Chiang moved his government to Taiwan.

The Republic of China was a founding member of the United Nations and continued to represent China at the UN until 1971, when the People's Republic of China assumed China's seat and the ROC was ousted. Currently, only twenty countries maintain official relations with the Republic of China.

People have lived on Taiwan as long as 50,000 years ago, but the ancestors of its current traditional people probably came from southeast China around 6,000 years ago.

Until the 16th century, Taiwan was isolated and inhabited only by indigenous people. Seeking a secure base in the region, the Dutch East India Company built a small fortress on Penghu, an archipelago of ninety islands in the Taiwan Strait. They used Penghu as a base to disrupt Chinese trade with Manila. Eventually, they moved to control the main island.

In 1626, the Spanish occupied the northern part of Taiwan, building four forts over a ten year period. However, by 1642 they had withdrawn from Taiwan, giving the Dutch control of the entire region.

Due to unrest in China, a flood of Chinese immigrants found their way to Taiwan. Among them was a Chinese admiral named Zheng Chenggong who, after a defeat against the Qing Dynasty, overran the Dutch on the Penghu Islands, and then on Taiwan proper. About 30,000 Chinese came to Taiwan with Zheng, and they were added to the indigenous population of about 100,000.

In 1683, Taiwan came under the jurisdiction of the Qing Dynasty. In 1895, the Qing Dynasty ceded control of Taiwan, which created the short-lived Republic of Formosa. which lasted only a matter of months, ending with the Japanese occupation of the islands, and Taiwan's history after World War II is tied to the Republic of China, which was founded in China in 1911. When Chiang Kai-shek was forced to flee to Taiwan, he was followed by two million refugees, who included soldiers, businesspeople, intellectuals, artists, landowners, and monks, and these were the people who had the greatest influence over today's Taiwan. Chiang also brought China's gold reserves with him. The United States also found that Taiwan was strategically valuable to its interests in the region, and supported Taiwan militarily and financially. Taiwan became an industrial success.

However, within a couple of decades, the political climate changed. The political, economic, and military influence of the PRC grew and, in 1971, the PRC was admitted to the United Nations, and the ROC withdrew. In 1979, US President Carter switched official recognition from the ROC to the PRC, ending US recognition of the legitimacy of the Taiwanese government. Most other countries followed suit.

Taiwan is a democratic republic. Tensions between China and Taiwan affect many of the country's political decisions, particularly since the PRC has promised to take Taiwan by force, if necessary. Pro-unification and pro-independence factions are active in Taiwan.

Mandarin is the official language, and the one spoken by the vast majority of Taiwanese, although traditional Chinese is growing in popularity. More than 90% of the population adheres to polytheistic Chinese religions, largely a combination of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, while about 5% belong to various Christian denominations. Taiwanese aborigines make up a large portion of its Christian population.



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