Country of the World China Taiwan

About the country China Taiwan, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.

NATIONS AND THEIR RULER

CHINA (TAIWAN)

NITTY-GRITTY

Lay of the Land: Taiwan is a long, narrow island less than 100 mi. from the coast of southern China, separating the South China Sea from the East China Sea. The Republic of China also governs many smaller islands, such as the Penghus (Pescadores) between Taiwan and mainland China; Kinmen (Quemoy), adjacent to the Chinese coast at Hsia-men (Amoy); and Matsu, near the coast at Foochow.

A mountain range running north-south divides the island. The western slope is generally flat, containing most of Taiwan's agricultural land, while the eastern side is steep and craggy.

Size: 13,885 sq. mi. (35,962 sq. km.).

Population: 17 million.

Who Rules: The Republic of China government still claims sovereignty over all of China, and it operates, in theory, according to the 1947 Chinese constitution. A National Assembly elects a president, who governs with the assistance of a prime minister and cabinet. Since the assembly theoretically represents all of China, new national elections cannot be held until (if ever) the republic recovers the mainland. The current assembly is the same one that fled the mainland in 1949, when the Communists took over, with two changes. First, over half of its members have died. Second, since 1972 the government has staged new elections for Taiwan province and added new members.

Who REALLY Rules: The Kuomintang party (KMT), which governed the major portion of China from 1911 to 1949, rules with a tight grip. When KMT strongman Chiang Kai-shek died in 1975, his son Chiang Ching-kuo succeeded to power.

Taiwan has formally been under martial law since the KMT exodus from the mainland. Though the rigidity of government repression sometimes eases, criticism of the government, sympathy for communism. discussion of Taiwanese independence (from the Republic of China), and labor strikes are all prohibited. Military courts try political crimes. Depending upon who is making the estimate, there are between 400 and 8,000 political prisoners.

Taiwan's peasants are better off than peasants in most other third-world capitalist countries. The transplanted KMT had no vested interest in maintaining Taiwan's landlord class, and it needed popular support, so it introduced a major land reform program in the early 1950s. All 800,000 farm households in Taiwan work their own land. Farms, which cannot be larger than 7.5 acres, average 2.2 acres.

When Chiang Kai-shek's anti-Communist actions displeased Russian leader Joseph Stalin in the late 1920s, Stalin refused to let Chiang's son, who was then studying in the U.S.S.R., return to China. The son, Chiang Ching-kuo--now premier and head of the KMT on Taiwan--enrolled in military school, joined the Communist party, and labored in a gold mine, a collective farm, and an electronics plant. While in the U.S.S.R., he married a fellow worker in a heavy-equipment plant.

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