10 Things You Didn’t Know About Taiwan
Let’s play word association with Taiwan for a bit, shall we? OK, Taiwan … night markets, Taipei 101, hot springs, tea. Oh and bubble tea! That’s it, that’s all? Surely there’s more to the island with 23 million people and a G.D.P. of $876 billion (good enough for nineteenth place worldwide) than that.
See what we did there? Yes, we’re rattling off random but potentially interesting facts and tidbits about Taiwan. Which is long overdue, if you ask us. The Republic of China may get a lot of tourist love but there’s a pervasive sense among many Taiwanese that outsiders think of the island as little more than a mainland China offshoot. Which it is most certainly not, of course.
With that, check out this list of 10 things you may not have known about Taiwan.
Top of the world … almost – Photo credit
10. Taiwan is the fourth-highest island on the planet.
No, this has nothing to do with psychoactives. Yushan, or Mount Yu, at close to 3,952 m, is the twenty-seventh-highest mountain in the world.
9. Taiwan is the fifteenth-most densely populated country on the planet.
Taiwan has 642 inhabitants per square kilometre. Capital Taipei leads the way with a formidable 9,600/km2 (still only half the population density of Paris).
8. Taiwan was once home to as many as twenty-six distinct native languages.
Many have been lost and the few that survive are in grave danger of extinction but, once upon a time, Taiwan was a hotbed of Austronesian culture. The official language is now Mandarin, with secondary recognition for Taiwanese Hokkien, Hakka and Formosan languages.
7. New Taipei City is the most populous city in Taiwan.
Not Taipei. New Taipei City. There is a difference, believe it or not. New Taipei City has somewhere in the vicinity of 4 million people and encircles Taipei City. The capital, on the other hand, is about ten times smaller and home to 2.6 million people.
6. Taiwan ranks first in gender equality in Asia.
By a longshot. Not only that but, incredibly, only Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands discriminate less (2011 United Nations Gender Inequality Index).
5. Taiwan is bigger than Belgium.
Take that Belgium. And Moldova. And Armenia. And Israel. You too Burundi, Belize and Bahamas. (Taiwan is also the thirty-eighth largest island in the world.)
4. Taiwan’s national sport is baseball.
How about that? Taiwan has sent several elite players to the U.S. to compete in M.L.B. and the national squad generally places well at the World Baseball Classic, World Cup of Baseball and Summer Olympics. More significantly, Taiwan has the most Little League World Series titles, with 17. America’s pastime my foot.
3. Taiwan was the first democratic republic in Asia.
Kind of. If you forget the ephemeral Republic of Ezo in Hokkaido in 1868 and Lanfang Republic in West Kalimantan, Borneo in 1777, this is technically true. The Republic of China was made official on January 1, 1912 on mainland China and was in power until 1949, when it left for Taiwan. With the rise of the People’s Republic over the last sixty years, public support for Taiwan as a democratic republic has gone from solid to lukewarm. Less than two dozen states now recognise the Republic of China as sovereign and uphold bilateral diplomatic ties with Taipei.
2. Taiwan is not part of the United Nations.
Because the People’s Republic of China does not recognise Taiwan’s independence and sovereign nation-statehood, neither, in effect, does the United Nations. China is on the Security Council, of course, and wields veto power as a result. As many as 300,000 people have marched in the streets of Taipei in recent years in support of Taiwan’s inclusion in the international body but, alas, Beijing holds all the cards. Moreover, influential intercessors like the United States of America have precious economic interests to think of and are beholden to China in this regard. Sorry Taiwan. The U.N. will have to wait.
1. Taiwan’s Olympic teams compete under the name “Chinese Taipei”.
Don’t look for Taiwan at the opening ceremonies of the London Summer Games on July 27. For delicate and complex political reasons, in the same vein as Taiwan’s non-status within the U.N., Taiwanese athletes will march, as usual, under the banner of “Chinese Taipei” (even the flag is different). This, of course, is to avert a further strain in relations with the People’s Republic of China. The name “Republic of China” or “Taiwan”, at a major international event no less, is verboten and just too inflammatory for the Politburo in Beijing.
Where to stay in Taipei: