Introduction to Taiwan 

Geography of Taiwan 

Taiwan has also been known as Formosa, “ Beautiful Island”, the name given by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century.  It lies between Japan to the north and the Philippines to the south.  The east coast faces the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, while the west faces the Taiwan Strait and the southeast coast of China. 

Leaf shaped, it is 250 miles  (375 km) long and 90 miles (140 km) across at its widest point, about the same size as Holland. Its mountain ranges reach to the height of over 13,000 ft (3,950 m), the highest in Asia east of the Himalayas, and occupies about three-quarters of the land area of Taiwan. In spite of this, Taiwan is the second most densely populated country in the world.  

People and History 

The population of Taiwan is nearly 23 million, most of whom live in the cities and villages of the plains and foothills, largely on the west side of the island. About 450,000 are Indigenous people, original inhabitants, who divide into eleven tribes.  These are racially and linguistically related to the Malaya-Polynesian peoples.  Scientists have discovered that they may have inhabited Taiwan for 15,000 to 20,000 years. 

The largest segment of the population, often called “Taiwanese”, make up about 19 million or 85% (about 73% is Amoy [Ho-lo] speaking, about 12% is Hakka).  They are descendants of settlers from southeast China who began arriving in Taiwan about four centuries ago.   They migrated from the provinces of Fujian and Guang-Dong to escape hardship and to seek freedom and happiness in Taiwan.  At no time did these settlers come to Taiwan with the idea of contributing to the territorial expansion of China.  Over the years, due to intermarriage, much of the population cannot now claim pure ethnic roots.  In addition to the above, today’s population includes over 300,000 migrant workers largely from neighboring Asian countries.

During the 17th to the 19th centuries, a succession of various foreign governments (Dutch, Spanish and Ching [Manchu] Dynasty) took control of parts of the island, and in 1887 the failing Ching Dynasty made Taiwan a province of China.  However, eight years later, in 1895 when China lost the first Sino-Japanese War, Taiwan was handed over to Japan “in perpetuity.”   As a Japanese colony for 50 years, Taiwan experienced considerable development in city planning, agriculture, industry, transportation, public health and education.  At the end of World War II in 1945, the Allied Forces instructed the Chinese Nationalist Government to accept the Japanese surrender of Taiwan to undertake, temporarily , the military occupation of the island as a trustee on behalf of the Allied Powers. Ironically, now the People’s Republic of China compels these powers to withdraw recognition of Taiwan.

With the fall of China to Communist forces In 1949, Chiang Kai Shek and his Nationalist Government, along with many soldiers and civilians, fled to Taiwan.  And so, once again, the people on Taiwan were under the rule of people from outside – a rule prestaged by a massacre - wiping out at least 20,000 elite Taiwanese leaders and youth by Nationalist troops, which began on February 28 [2-28], 1947 and lasted for several weeks.  About 2.6 million (13%) of the current population of Taiwan consists of these “Mainlander” troops and civilians and their descendants. 

During the years since 1949 Taiwan has experienced rapid economic growth, so that it now has one of the highest standards of living in Asia.  Meanwhile, the Nationalist government has become increasingly isolated diplomatically since 1971, with the loss of the Republic of China on Taiwan as a member of the United Nations and as most countries have transferred their recognition to the People’s Republic of China.

Except for a brief interlude from 1945 to 1949 Taiwan has been effectively separated from China since 1895.  Because of this separation, Taiwan and China have developed along separate lines, resulting in quite different political, economic and cultural conditions.  Despite the dream of the Nationalist Government in Taiwan and its rival Communist Government in Beijing that Taiwan must belong to China, it is in fact neither necessary nor desirable to try to join them.  Beijing claims so adamantly that Taiwan cannot “be separated” and that they will not forswear use of military force to consummate “reunification”.   Because of these facts the majority of the Taiwanese people prefer the “Independence” option, and they support the sovereign rights of the people of Taiwan to choose their own future without outside interference.  

WHO for Taiwan! 

The question for today relevant to global health concerns is, “why should Taiwan not be in WHO (World Health Organization)?”  WHO was established as an organization to deal with health issues around the globe.  Their constitution says that “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”  Taiwan is the only country expressively rejected by the WHO for membership.  Strange as it seems, Taiwan, a non-member, has a population (23,000,000) greater than that of three-fourths of the member states already in WHO.  This is in clear violation of the constitution of the WHO.   They argue  that Taiwan is not a country, only a province of China.  Their argument is groundless. 


Taiwan is a sovereign, peace loving country. It has its own land; it elects its own president; it has a central government and parliament.  The global community continues to be brainwashed by the People’s Republic of China that Taiwan is a “non-nation” a province of China.  In reality, it was the Republic of China - not Taiwan -  that was ousted from the United Nations. In the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, no mention of Taiwan was made with regards to the restoration of the lawful rights of the People’s Republic of China.  They are the only representatives of China to the United Nations.  By definition, since Taiwan, as a separate entity (nation), that resolution does not apply.  What was expelled was representatives of Chiang Kai Shek, which claimed all of China, and in fact did not represent the Taiwan peoples.  The Taiwan peoples did not have a choice in the temporary occupation of the Nationalist Government on Taiwan.   Since the Nationalist Government was ousted from the United Nations, Taiwan has become an “international orphan”, and has not been allowed to join the United Nations or the WHO and other UN related organizations.   

Health Standards and Health Concerns 

Taiwan has developed a health care system, a national medical insurance program, and has taken great concerted efforts to promote international health cooperation.  In the Healthcare Industry Quarterly in 2000 a report compared 27 advanced and developing countries healthcare programs.  Taiwan was rated second next to Sweden on a healthcare index.  Even with such high standards, Taiwan continues to be banished from participating in and accepting assistance for global epidemics.  For example, Taiwan requested assistance for specialist during the SARS epidemic.  WHO was quick to respond to WHO members, but delayed for 7 weeks before finally sending two individuals to review the situation.  Eventually, 84 persons (medical personnel and patients) had died from the SARS invasion.  Now with the threat of the avian flu virus, if Taiwan becomes infected, will WHO help to keep it from spreading to neighboring countries?  In a way, Taiwan is a “hole” in a network of global healthcare system.  Let WHO repair the broken net so that Taiwan is included in the global network of epidemic prevention.  

Humanitarian Concerns 

Taiwan non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have shown their concern worldwide.  This was especially evident during the Tsunami event in the Pacific, and in earthquake disasters in other countries (eg. El Salvador), sending rescue teams specialized in disaster evacuation.  In addition to the disaster events, Taiwan continues to visit third world countries that lack medical facilities and resources providing tons of medical supplies and medical assistance at their own expense.  


Taiwan is committed to contributing its resources and experience in the health field.  The global community would be richer for accepting Taiwan as an equal partner and member of the WHO.  Taiwan has much to offer, it also is entitled to equal protection under the WHO system.  Taiwan has an excellent history of dealing with malaria, successfully eradicating it as early as 1965.  It could be a strong partner in the areas such as the continent of Africa, where malaria continues to cause untold numbers of deaths each year.   Taiwan has already contributed significantly to the Global fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Taiwan is at the crossroads of large trade economies in Asia.   With large numbers of tourists coming and going throughout its cities, the danger continues to be a recipient or a conduit of global diseases.  Being a member of WHO, Taiwan could be a point of early detection of infectious diseases of epidemic proportions.  With the enormous potential of avian flu in the region, with the estimated pandemic of between 2 to 50 million deaths, and the outbreak of enterovirus 71 (EV-71) in China and the current concern for H1N1 virus in Mexico. It would seem that being allowed to be a working member of WHO would have an advantage for everyone.

Please support Taiwan to join WHO as a member to fulfill health for the whole world! 

TAiUNA  for the Taiwan United Nations Alliance, May 3, 2009