Taiwan, officially titled the Republic of China (ROC), is a state in East Asia bordered by the People's Republic of China (west), Japan (northeast), and the Philippines (south). Outside of the United Nations, it is the most populous state and with the largest economy – its high-tech industry is a major player in the global economy. Taiwan ranks highly in terms of freedom of the press, healthcare, public education, economic freedom, and human development, with the country benefiting from a highly skilled workforce and one of the most educated populations in the world.
China has always claimed sovereignty over Taiwan and doesn’t recognise it as a legitimate country – China also refuses to engage in diplomatic relations with any country that formally recognises Taiwan. Seventeen countries currently maintain official relations with Taiwan but many do so in unofficial ways so as to keep communication with China open. Most international organisations in which China participates either don’t grant Taiwan membership or limit its interaction in them – China has also threatened to use military force if Taiwan ever announces independence or if their leaders close the door on the possibility of peaceful reunification. China and Taiwan have been in a standoff since the Chinese Civil War.
The main legislative body of the Taiwan government is the unicameral Legislative Yuan, which is composed of one hundred and thirteen seats. Seventy-three members are elected in single member districts, while thirty-four are elected in proportion to nationwide votes – six seats are left free to represent aboriginal groups. Members of the Legislative Yuan serve terms of four years at a time.
The Legislative Yuan is effectively a branch of government rather than a parliament, with the National Assembly of the Republic of China (now abolished) being the only institution vested with parliamentary powers, such as the ability to formerly elect the President. Constitutional amendments, however, transferred most of the National Assembly's powers in the late 90s to the Legislative Yuan, with much of the Taiwanese media referring to it as the “parliament.”
The executive branch of the Taiwan government is known as the Executive Yuan, and is responsible for being in charge of the Premier. That being said, Taiwan’s political system is unusual, and does not always line up with traditional models. The President selects the Premier without any constitutional requirement for approval from the Legislative Yuan, while simultaneously, the Legislative Yuan can pass laws without the need for Presidential approval (neither the President not the Premier can veto legislation). There is, therefore, no real need for the executive and legislature to negotiate if they are aligned with opposing parties. Similarly strangely, power in the governmental system can shift from one position to the next, depending on what position is occupied at the time by the state leader. As a result, executive powers are, at present, centred in the office of President rather than Premier.
The judicial branch of the Taiwan government is known as the Judicial Yuan, and is the highest judiciary in the country. The Council of Grand Justices in the Yuan is composed of the President and Vice-President of the Judicial Yuan, accompanied by fifteen other Justices. These are all nominated and appointed by the President of the Republic of Taiwan, once the approval of the Legislative Yuan has been granted. The highest court, known as the Supreme Court, is made up of a variety of civil and criminal divisions, and these are all formed by a presiding Judge along with four Associate Judges, all of whom are appointed for life. A separate constitutional court was established in 1993 with responsibility for resolving constitutional disputes, as well as regulating the activities of political parties and moving forward the democratization process. In Taiwan, there is no trial by jury, but the public right to a fair trial is protected by law and respected in practice, with many cases presided over by multiple judges to ensure impartiality.
Capital punishment is currently legal in Taiwan, though the government has made substantial efforts to reduce the number of executions occurring in the country. However, the people of Taiwan remain in favour of the death penalty, with 80% leaning towards it.