Taiwan is surrounded by the sea and covers an area of about 36,000 square kilometers. There are 22 counties and cities. As of the end of March 2019, Taiwan had a population of approximately 26.58 million.
The average life expectancy of Taiwanese in 2017 was 80.0 years, including 77.3 years for men and 83.7 years for women, and the average life expectancy increased. The proportion of male to female population decreased from 102.28 in 2007 to 98.63 in 2018, mainly due to the difference in mortality between male and female populations, and the transfer of mainland and foreign spouses to female populations (see Figure 1).
Taiwan is one of the lowest fertility areas in the world. In 2018, the fertility rate was only 1.06, and the fertility rate of women under 30 years of age dropped significantly. In terms of the number of births, there were only 181,000 newborns in 2018, an eight-year low.
In 2018, the proportion of people over 65 years old in Taiwan surpassed 14%, entering the old age society. It is expected that in 2025, the population over 65 years old will account for nearly 20% and enter the super-age society. In February 2017, the Statistics Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Taiwan stated that the number of elderly (over 65 years old) in Taiwan exceeded the number of young people (0-14 years old) for the first time. According to UN data, the population aged 15 to 64 in Taiwan will reach its peak from 2010 to 2020 and then fall back (see Figure 2).
Figure 1: Age distribution of different populations in Taiwan in 2018
(Source: World Fact Book, CIA)
Figure 2: The United Nations estimates the future of Taiwan’s 15-year-old to 64-year-old population
(Source: UN website)
Starting from the 1960s, Taiwan’s economic and industrial reforms brought a rapid social development. Since the 1980s, Taiwan’s economic structure has gradually shifted from a labor-intensive industry to a high-tech industry. Nowadays Taiwan’s electronics industry is particularly important to the world economy. Taiwan’s economic achievements have made Taiwan as one of the four Asian tigers (Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore).
In 2018, Taiwan’s economic growth rate was 2.6%, and its GDP was 589.39 billion US dollars, ranking 23th in the world. Its GDP per capita is US$24,971.37. In terms of nominal GDP, Taiwan is close to Sweden. Foreign exchange reserves rank fifth in the world.
Taiwan’s economy is mainly driven by exports and was the 18th largest exporter in the world in 2018. In 2015, due to weak demand for global consumer electronics products and the decline in crude oil prices, the export volume increased by 2.9% in January 2015, and since then it kept decreasing for 17 consecutive months until July 2016. In 2018, the export growth rate was 5.9%, reaching a scale of US$335.9 billion.
In terms of the proportion of total export, the Asian market accounted for 72% of Taiwan’s total exports in 2018, a record high in the market, while China’s exports to Hong Kong accounted for 41.2%, and ASEAN accounted for 17.3%, ranking second. US and European exports accounted for 11.8% and 9.4% respectively (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Taiwan’s main export destinations as of total export
Source: Ministry of Finance, R.O.C.
The Chinese Qing government ceded Taiwan to Japan in 1895.
Taiwan was taken over by the Kuomintang after World War II and experienced a long-term authoritarian rule. Since the end of the 1970s, the ruling authorities have gradually democratized, and in 1987, the martial law was lifted, and in 1996, the first democratic presidential election was held. In 2000, Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate won the presidency. In January 2016, Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party was elected as the president of ROC.
The 2020 Presidential Election of the Republic of China will be held on January 11, 2020. At present, the candidates for the Kuomintang and the Democratic Progressive Party are Han Kuo-yu and Tsai Ing-wen. The stance of former presidents of Taiwan on the Taiwan-China issue is basically to maintain the status quo, which is line with the mainstream public opinion of the Taiwanese. Although China hopes to implement ‘one country, two systems to Taiwan’, it is not practical at all. In fact, China’s bottom line is very clear: as long as Taiwan does not declare independence, CCP will not unify Taiwan with force.
In July and November 2013, Taiwan signed the Agreement between New Zealand and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu on Economic Cooperation, (ANZTEC) and the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP) with New Zealand and Singapore respectively. The ANZTEC is not only economically but also diplomatically significant to Taiwan, because it is the first trade agreement signed by Taiwan with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
In the next article of this series, we would focus on the essential industry of Taiwan and the prospect of Taiwan in the political and economic areas.