Economic conditions. – Agriculture occupies about 12.3% of the active population and not only covers the internal food needs, but also manages to supply products for export. Most of the arable land is cultivated with rice (18,198,000 q in 1993), while the other cereals (maize, millet, sorghum) yield modest quantities; on the other hand, sweet potatoes (1,877,000 q), cassava (25,000 q), numerous vegetables including asparagus (80,000 q), citrus fruits (5,067,000 q), pineapples have a certain importance for internal needs (2,773,000 q) and bananas (2,128,000 q). Sugar cane prevails among industrial crops, from which about 4 million q of sugar are obtained annually. Other important crops are tea (205,000 q), tobacco (174,000 q) and peanuts (765,000 q). The forest patrimony is discreet, covering 51, kinoki ; in 1992 103,400 m 3 of timber were obtained, which fueled the local wood industry. Among the other sectors of the primary sector fishing prevails, favored by the richness of the seas surrounding the island: in 1993 the catch amounted to 1,423,971 t, partly exported, partly sent to the modern canning plants that Taiwan owns. Of little interest are mineral resources (coal, oil, natural gas).
According to Localcollegeexplorer, the production of electricity (111,038 million kWh in 1993) has recorded, in recent years, a notable increase in relation to the strong industrial development of the island; three nuclear power plants are active, and a fourth is under construction. Industry has become the most prominent sector of the Taiwan economy: it employs about 39.1% of the active population and contributes 38.8% to the formation of GNP (1993). The sector, which arose as an activity of transformation of local agricultural products, has gradually diversified, thanks also to substantial foreign investments: thus alongside the traditional sugar refineries, canneries, breweries, milling and tobacco processing plants, textile factories for plus canning products (433,000 t of cotton yarn and 1099 million m of cotton fabrics produced in 1989), new industrial complexes have been developing, especially in the clothing, rubber, cellulose and paper sectors (1,025,000 t in 1993); in the chemical sector, with the production of large quantities of sulfuric acid (644,100 t in 1993), nitric and hydrochloric acid, caustic soda, resins and plastics; in the petrochemical sector; in the precision electromechanical and electronics industry (computers, minicomputers). But the sectors that have seen the greatest expansion in recent years are the cement sector (23,970,800 t in 1993) and the shipbuilding sector (1,015,800 gross tonnage). Finally, the iron and steel sector recorded good production (3,286,100 tons of steel).
Foreign trade is essential to the island’s economy: Taiwanese industrial production is almost entirely exported, while oil, machinery and means of transport, timber, raw cotton and agricultural products are imported. The main markets for outgoing goods are the United States (29%), Hong Kong (19%) and Japan (11%), for inbound goods Japan (30%) and the United States (22%). The trade balance is steadily in surplus. Tourism is growing, with 1,850,214 visitors in 1993.
History. – In May 1978 Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, who had held the post of prime minister for six years, assumed that of President of the Republic, which had been of Yen Chia-kan since 1975. The Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) retained an absolute majority in the parliamentary elections of 1983, while the process of modernization and industrialization of the country accelerated. Taiwan continued to have diplomatic relations with only about thirty nations, almost all of central and southern Latin America; Many bilateral agreements were strengthened, mostly agricultural, scientific, economic, medical and fisheries cooperation. Although there were no regular diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the United States, in the years between 1978 and 1990 over one hundred agreements were signed between the two countries in the fields of education, taxation, mailing, air transport and technological cooperation.
The internal political situation changed starting in 1987, when an emergency decree and a law on civic organizations that legalized the existence of parties were issued. On the one hand, the decline of the Kuomintang began (in power on the island since 1949), on the other hand a ” nativistic ” tendency in the political system of T was strengthened; if, in fact, for decades the political class had been represented by Chinese who emigrated to the island after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese natives of Taiwan were now emerging more and more, who moreover reached 80% of the population.
President Chiang Ching-kuo died in 1988, his successor was Lee Teng-hui, also a member of the Kuomintang, and a native of Taiwan. Since 1991, a new system for elections to the National Assembly has been adopted, based on the proportional model. The elections to the Legislative Chamber in December 1992 saw a complete renewal of members, the abolition of life representatives and the transition to a multi-party system. In addition to the traditional Nationalist Party, the candidates of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and some independents have established themselves; one of the two currents of the DPP supports the separatist tendency that would want Taiwan as a sovereign state, thus differentiating itself from the politics of the Kuomintang which advocates a rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China according to the “one China and two political entities” program. In 1991 the Taiwanese government officially declared the end of the “period of national mobilization for the suppression of the communist rebellion”, thus definitively renouncing the use of force to achieve unification with mainland China; but this proposal did not get favorable responses from the Beijing government.
The beginning of the Nineties recorded the persistence of Taiwan’s economic development, confirming what has been defined as an industrial and commercial miracle; trade exchanges with the People’s Republic of China and the establishment of joint ventures, again in provinces administered by the People’s Republic of China, also increased. Taiwan’s tourists to China have been increasingly numerous, demonstrating a completely different policy from the one in force until the early 1980s. Bilateral editorial agreements have also been established, resulting in many publications being released simultaneously in Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei.