My name is Raphael Munthali, a graduate student at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in pursuit of International Graduate Programme in Civil Engineering Management (ICEM). This is how I would introduce Taiwan to my friends back home.


Have ever heard of the country that has registered strides of sustainable development with negligible deposits of mineral resources? This is an island country which its map looks either a sweet potato with the southern part being like the root connecting the tuber to the vine or a certain tree’s leaf with the southern part taking a shape of leaf petiole.

This country is none other than Taiwan which is found in the Eastern Asia. It is an island bordered by the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, South China Sea, and Taiwan Strait, and is to the north of the Philippines, off the southeastern coast of China. Its geographic coordinates are 23 30 N, 121 00 E with a total area of 35,980 km sq of which 32,260 km sq and 3,720 km sq cater for land and water respectively. 1,566.3 km sq constitute of aesthetic coastline.

It enjoys tropical; marine climates with a rainy season during southwest monsoon (June to August); cloud cover is almost throughout the year. Two-thirds of its eastern part is mountainous while the west has flat to gently rolling plains. It has a wide range of elevation points from 0m at South China Sea to the highest in Yu Shan being 3,952 m which allows a variety of altitude based activities, recreations inclusive.

The country has small deposits of coal, natural gas, limestone, marble, and asbestos and puts its arable land (24% of the total) to agrarian activities with 1% to permanent crops (plantations). Issues that retard developments are natural hazards in the name of earthquakes and typhoons and environmental threats in the name of air pollution; water pollution hailing from industrial emissions, raw sewage; contaminations of drinking water supplies; trade endeavors in endangered species; and low-level radioactive waste disposal. However, remarkable initiatives are put in place to arrest the situation.

The country has a population of close to 23,000,000 with the highest in the range of 15 to 64 years (70.7%) and a general overview of male being slightly more than female. Population growth rate is at 0.6% with the rest health related rates being convincing. Average life expectancy at birth is pegged 77.26 years with male at 74.49 years and female at 80.28 years.

The country has three ethnic groups which are Taiwanese, Hakka inclusive (84%); mainland Chinese (14%); and aborigine (2%) who falls into different religious groups, of which 93% comprise a mixture of Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist and 4.5%, comprise Christianity and 2.5% for other. Languages spoken are Mandarin Chinese (official one), Taiwanese, and Hakka

Literacy level (ability to read and write) for those of 15 and above years of age is around 96.1% of the total population.

Its government was established in 1949 after World War II using the 1946 constitution drawn up for all of China. After five decades, the country democratized and featured natives within the governing structure which, in 2000, saw Taiwan undergoing its first peaceful transfer of power from the Nationalist to the Democratic Progressive Party. This contributed to the island prosperity and recognition as one of East Asia's economic "Tigers." The country’s (T'ai-wan) former name is Formosa and its capital is Taipei. It follows a multiparty democratic government type, headed by popularly-elected president and unicameral legislature administratively; it has divisions not excluding central island of Taiwan and various smaller islands near Central Island and off coast of China's Fujian Province. Taiwan is divided into 18 counties/hsien (Chang-hua, Chia-i, Hsin-chu, Hua-lien, I-lan, Kao-hsiung, Kin-men, Lien-chiang, Miao-li, Nan-t'ou, P'eng-hu, P'ing-tung, T'ai-chung, T'ai-nan, T'ai-pei, T'ai-tung, T'ao-yuan, and Yun-lin) and 5 municipalities called shih (Chia-i, Chi-lung, Hsin-chu, T'ai-chung, and T'ai-nan) and 2 special municipalities called chuan-shih (Kao-hsiung city, and T'ai-pei city). Special municipalities like Taipei adopted standard pinyin romanization while the rest uses Wade-Giles and other system for Romanization for street and place names.

The country has its Republic Day on 10th October in commemoration of Anniversary of the Chinese Revolution, 10 October 1911; has a constitution legitimately effective from 25th December 1946 amended in 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999, and 2000. It also has the legal system in place; executive branch (Chief of state and vice, president/premier of the executive Yuan and vice, and cabinet); and legislative branch which forms the Legislative Yuan (113 seats) that its members are a representative of political parties, ethnic groups and localities; and Judicial branch. The country has about 4 major political parties. The county’s flag depicts red with a dark blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a white sun with 12 triangular rays

Taiwan economic growth stems from a dynamic capitalism with roots in investments and foreign trade. Exports have propelled industrialization leading to substantial trade, and the world's third largest foreign reserves. Agriculture contributes less than 2% to the GDP from 32% in 1952. Taiwan is a major investor throughout Southeast Asia. China has replaced the US to become Taiwan's largest export (parts and equipment) market. Taiwan employs conservative financial approach and other entrepreneurial strengths which makes it survive in regional financial crisis like Taiwan little financial crisis compared with its neighbors from the Asian financial crisis in 1998.

The country, for the first time ever, recorded the recession and negative growth in 2001 attributed to the global economic downturn, combined with problems in policy coordination by the administration and bad debts in the banking system which recovered in 2003-04. Its GDP is 2.6% with a real growth rate of 6%; per capita (PPP) of $25,300 and contribution by sector: agriculture (1.7%), industry (30.9%), services (67.4%). 1% of its population is below poverty line; 10.22 million labor force (agriculture 8%, industry 35%, services 57%). Unemployment rate is at 4.5%.

Major Industries are electronics, petroleum refining, armaments, chemicals, textiles, iron and steel, machinery, cement, food processing, vehicles, consumer products, pharmaceuticals with production growth rate of 12.2%. Produce electricity (158.5 billion kWh and 147.4 billion kWh is consumed); oil (500 bbl/day and 988,000 bbl/day consumed); natural gas (750 million cu m, 6.64 billion cu m used, 410 million cu m exported and 6.3 billion cu m imported). Has proved energy reserves (2.9 million bbl oil, 38.23 billion cu m natural gas). Products from agriculture sector are rice, fruit, corn, tea, vegetables, pigs, poultry, beef, milk and fish. Commodities exported include computer products and electrical equipment, metals, textiles, plastics and rubber products and, chemicals worth $170.5 billion with partners like China, Hong Kong inclusive (major), US, and Japan. Imports are worth $165.4 billion (machinery and electrical equipment – major, minerals, and precision instruments) with partners like Japan (major), US, China, including Hong Kong and South Korea. The country can lend billions of dollars to other countries. The country currency is in appreciation relative to US$ from 34.575 (2002) to 30.46 (early 2008)

The country has a vibrant communication system ranging from telephones (about 13.355 million main lines in use and about 26 million mobile cellular) for domestic (business and private need) and international (digitalized - code + 886 and satellite earth stations, Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean; submarine cables to Japan (Okinawa), Philippines, Guam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, Middle East, and Western Europe alongside Radio broadcast stations (AM 218, FM 333, shortwave 50) since (1999). It has 29 Television broadcast stations; Internet country code, tw; Internet Service Providers (ISPs); about 14 million internet users; total of

2,497 km (685 km electrified) railway of which 1,400 km belong to the Taiwan Sugar Corporation and the Taiwan Forestry Bureau to transport products and limited number of passengers; total of 37,299 km highway of which about 36, 000 km is paved (including 608 km of expressways); waterways whereby have pipelines (25km condensate, 435 km gas); Chi-lung (Keelung), Hua-lien, Kao-hsiung, Su-ao, and T'ai-chung being ports and harbors with a total of 126 merchant ships in types of bulk carrier (36), cargo (23), chemical tanker (2), container (37), passenger/cargo (3), petroleum tanker (15), refrigerated cargo (9), roll on/roll off (1), foreign-owned (3 by Hong Kong) and registered in other countries (432); about 40 airports (37 with paved runways and 3 unpaved)

Taiwan remains a role model to developing countries that development is not solely dependent on mineral resources and that an agrarian country can easily modify its domain of products and services basing on comparative advantages it has over other countries. This is depicted in Taiwan’s shift of GDP dependence from agriculture to services and industries. Taiwan also displays the political will in supporting cornerstone sectors of development like education (high literacy level), health, entrepreneurship, environment, energy, communication and transportation network to mention a few. It exemplifies the importance of joint ventures/partnership in imports and exports and industrial role a country can play though without mineral resources deposits. It also displays that a country should not condone development setbacks by deriving techniques of withstanding natural hazards like typhoon and earthquakes. Taiwanese have the spirit of hardworking and zeal of investment.

What a country! A variety of things to see and do. The people are just wonderful! The country outskirts are aesthetic. The food is eye-catching and nutritious! Wow! Everyone should come to see wonders of Taiwan.