Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, is an island in the western Pacific Ocean. Its de facto capital, Taipei, serves as the seat of government and is the island's largest metropolitan area. Taiwan is about 36,197 square kilometers (13,976 square miles) and has about 23.78 million people. Its official language is Mandarin or Standard Chinese.
Is Taiwan a Country?
Taiwan was self-governing before the 1600s. During the 17th century, China gained control of Taiwan and ruled the island for two centuries. Japan gained control of Taiwan in 1895 after the First Sino-Japanese War, making Taiwan a colony.
Following World War II, Taiwan was returned to Nationalist Chinese control. In 1949, The Chinese communist armies defeated Nationalist forces on mainland China, causing the Nationalist government to flee to Taiwan.
Since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan, sticking to a one-China policy. China regards Taiwan as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland. It is an official Chinese policy that any movement towards independence by the Taiwanese government will be met by the threat of invasion. This has caused a two-camp split among Taiwan:
- The Pan-Blue Coalition believes the ROC is the sole government of China (including mainland and Taiwan) and supports eventual unification.
- The Pan-Green Coalition regards Taiwan as an independent, sovereign state, opposes reunification with China, and seeks wide diplomatic recognition.
Because of its one-China policy, China has insisted that nations cannot have official relations with China and Taiwan. This has caused Taiwan to have very few formal diplomatic ties. One of these is the United States.
So is Taiwan a country? The United Nations has recognized Taiwan as "China" since 1971. Additionally, there are eight criteria that determine whether a place is an independent country or State. These include continuous inhabitants, internationally recognized boundaries, economic activity, a government, and more. Taiwan only meets five out of the eight criteria, making Taiwan more of a de facto independent country.
This does not mean that other countries do not recognize Taiwan as a country.
Countries that Recognize Taiwan
The first country to recognize Taiwan is the Holy See, which declared its recognition in 1942.
The United States maintained Taiwan's recognition for 30 years after the Chinese civil war but switched in 1979. Despite this, the U.S. has maintained a positive relationship with Taiwan, offering the island military assistance, a move that greatly angered China.
In 2019, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands both switched their recognition of Taiwan to China within a week. After losing two more countries, only 14 of the 193 UN countries recognize Taiwan, plus the Holy See.