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Taiwan - Overview

Contents extracted from the comprehensive atlas of international trade by Export Entreprises


Capital:: Taipei
Area:: km2
Density:: /km2
Population of Taipei (6.750), Kaohsiung (2.775), Taichung (2.275)
Official language: Mandarin Chinese.
Other languages spoken: Official language: Chinese mandarin, although the Min Nan Hua Taiwanese (dialect of the South of Fujian) and the Hakka (indigenous language) are widely spoken.
Business language: English
Ethnic Origins:: Taiwanese (including Hakka) 84%, Mainland Chinese 14%, indigenous 2%.
Beliefs: Taiwan is highly diversified in terms of religious faith, with the practice of Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, Mormonism, the Unification Church, Islam, and Hinduism, as well as native sects such as Yiguandao and others.
Telephone codes:
To make a call from: 2
To make a call to: +886
Internet suffix:: .tw
Type of State::
Taiwan has for all practical purposes been independent for half a century but China considers it as a part of its territory and wants it re-united with the mainland. Legally, most nations and even the United Nations (UN) acknowledge the position of the Chinese government that Taiwan is a province of China. However in reality Taiwan (official name: Republic of China) is an independent republic state based on parliamentary democracy and has a semi-presidential form of government.
Type of economy::
High-income economy, emerging financial market
World leader in the production of high technology products

Economic overview

After almost five decades of sound economic management, Taiwan has managed to go from an underdeveloped agricultural island, to an economic power that is a leading producer of high-technology goods.

Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy in which the authorities' control of investment and foreign trade is gradually diminishing. Highly vulnerable to global economic shocks and fluctuations of the demand, the island was severely affected by the international financial crisis, with its economy contracting by -1.9% in 2009. The recovery was very dynamic in 2010, driven by an increase in exports, which are the engine of Taiwanese growth, as well as by a vast stimulus plan. Estimated at 9.3% in 2010, growth should nevertheless slow down in 2011.

Given that the Taiwanese economy has begun to grow again, the government’s priority is no longer to manage the crisis. A reform of the fiscal system has been announced, together with measures to combat inflation. The country signed a trade agreement with China, in order to avoid becoming marginalized by the ASEAN countries. In the long-term, Taiwan will have to deal with problems of population aging, low birth rate and diplomatic isolation.

The unemployment rate, which reached almost 6% in 2009, dropped to 5.3% in 2010 and should continue to decline in 2011.

Main industries

The agricultural sector contributes very marginally to the GNP and employs 5% of the workforce. Taiwan's main crops are rice, sugarcane, fruits and vegetables. Taiwan has limited natural resources and croplands are cultivated intensely.

The secondary sector accounts for a significant part of the GNP. Even though traditional industries such as iron and steel, chemical products and mechanics still account for almost half the industrial production, new industries are more dynamic. Taiwan is one of the world's biggest suppliers of semi-conductors, computers and mobile telephones. It is also the world's biggest supplier of computer monitors.

Services contribute about 70% to the GDP and employ slightly under 60% of the workforce.
The country, which has to deal with the continuous relocation of labor-intensive industries to countries where labor is cheaper (especially China), will have to rely on new conversions, in order to move from a high-technology based economy to a services oriented economy.

Foreign trade overview

Foreign trade has been Taiwan's growth driver, representing almost 130% of the GDP (2007-2009 average). Taiwan's economy remains very export-oriented, so much so that it depends on an open world trade regime and remains vulnerable to downturns of the world economy. The electronics sector is Taiwan's most important industrial export sector and also the one that receives most of the American investment. Taiwan, as an independent economy, became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu ("Chinese Taipei") in January 2002. Taiwan main exports partners are China, Hong Kong, United States and Japan. For more information, refer to the COMTRADE website. The island shows a surplus trade balance and this trend should continue in the coming years.


Taiwan is an important destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). In terms of FDI attraction, the island is the sixth among East-Asian, Southern and South-Eastern economies, behind China, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Thailand. The island enjoys strong growth sustained by the dynamism of the region, a population with high purchasing power and economy with high technological focus. Between 2005 and 2007, Taiwan registered a significant growth of FDI, however, due to the international financial crisis, FDI inflows fell sharply in 2008 and 2009. Thanks to the economic recovery, the number of FDI projects increased again in 2010 and this trend is expected to continue over the year 2011.
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