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Taiwanese

Taiwanese

ETHNONYMS: Formosan, Republican Chinese


The Chinese who live on the island of Taiwan are of fairly recent mainland origin. The indigenous people of the island are represented by seven tribes who speak Malayo-Polynesian languages and who numbered 338,151 in 1991. The Chinese, in contrast, speak either Hakka or Hokkien, although many soldiers and bureaucrats prefer Mandarin, the official language. The island was once claimed by the Dutch, who founded the town of T'ai-pei in 1624; China annexed the island in 1683. There was a brief British presence toward the end of the nineteenth century, and then Taiwan was under Japanese colonial administration from 1895 to 1945. In 1949 Taiwan was cut off from the mainland by civil war and became a separate republic. The official point of view in Beijing, however, is that it is a breakaway province of the People's Republic of China.

Taiwan is located in the South China Sea, just to the north of the Philippines and east of Fukien Province. It is one of the most densely inhabited parts of the world, with 20.4 million people (1991), nearly all Chinese, living on 36,179 square kilometers of land, three-quarters of which is unarable. Rice is the major crop, but the relative success of the Taiwanese economy in recent years has been dependent on heavy and effective industrialization initiated by the Japanese. Over the past forty years Taiwan has had an annual real economic growth rate that averaged 8 percent, one of the highest in the world.

See also Bunun; Taiwan Aboriginal Peoples; in volume 6, Hakka; Han

Bibliography

Wolf, Margery (1968). The House of Lim: A Study of a Chinese Farm Family. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

PAUL HOCKINGS

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