Officially known as Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan is an island state east of China. The capital Taipei sits in the northern tip of the main island Taiwan (formerly Formosa) and is home to 2.6 million people. The strategically very important Kinmen islands are located just a few km east of Xiamen on mainland China.
The eastern part of Taiwan is very mountainous with peaks up to 3900 m and prone to earthquakes. Most Taiwanese therefore live in the western lowlands.
Austronesians moved in from the mainland some 6000 years ago and their ancestors later may have moved south to Asia and Polynesia.
In 1624 the Dutch East India Company claimed the island by building fort Zeelandia and by 1642 the Dutch had driven out their Spanish competitors in the north and had brought in scores of Han Chinese from the mainland. Their monopoly did not last as they were defeated in 1662 by Koxinga,a Ming general with Japanese roots. Later that century the island was conquered by the Qing dynasty. Chinese rule ended in 1895 when the Japanese Empire took over. Taiwan became part of China again after the Japanese capitulation in 1945.
General Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang fled to the island in 1949 after they were defeated by Mao Zhedong's Red Army. Taipei was declared the capital of the ROC.
The Taiwan Miracle started in the 1960's and made Taiwan a prosperous and thriving country.
Relations with China remain strained as both parties claim sovereignty over the other one's territory.
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