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Taiwan - People

Taiwan has a population of 23 million. Of Taiwan's total population, approximately one million, or 4.4%, currently reside in mainland China. Taiwan’s population is comprised of four cultural and ethnic groups. Each group has its own dialect and cultural perspectives.

The original inhabitants, the aborigines or “indigenous Taiwanese,” are considered to be of Malay-Polynesian descent. Their descendants today comprise less than two percent of the population. About half a million of these indigenous peoples inhabit the mountainous central and eastern parts of the island.

There are two groups of early Chinese immigrants or Taiwanese: the Fukien Taiwanese who came from China’s Fujian province directly across the Strait of Taiwan, and the Hakkas Taiwanese who came from south China near Hong Kong. The Hakkas, a linguistically and culturally distinctive group, first came to Taiwan from China centuries ago and now make up nearly one-fifth of the island's population. Both groups together comprise nearly eighty-five percent of the population.

The fourth group is composed of Chinese from various parts of China who came to Taiwan after World War II, mostly in 1949 after the defeat of the Nationalists and KMT government by the PRC (People Republic of China) Communists. They comprise less than fifteen percent of the population. After the government fled to Taiwan after 1949, the different political and cultural beliefs of Mainlanders, Taiwanese of early Chinese descendents, and indigenous Taiwanese led to cultural and political tensions between these groups.

Mainlanders, particularly those who were adults when they took refuge in Taiwan, insist that the Republic of China (ROC) has legal sovereignty over the entire Chinese nation, including both Mainland China and Taiwan. They believe in the importance of reunification in the future. On the other hand, Taiwanese of early Chinese descents insist that unification is impossible because of the tremendous gaps in the standards of living, political liberties, and historical development of the “two” Chinas. From the perspective of indigenous Taiwanese who are considered to be of Malay-Polynesian descent, China is not the homeland of their ancestors, nor is it the source of their cultural heritage. From their perspectives, Chinese immigrants took their lands and deprived them of their economic independence from the time of early Chinese immigrant exploration.

Since 1968, 6 years of elementary school and 3 years of junior high have been compulsory for all children. About 98% of junior high graduates continue their studies in either a senior high or vocational school. Taiwan has an extensive higher education system with 165 institutions of higher learning. In 2010, about 147,561 applied for admission to universities and colleges through a modified multi-channel admissions system; 100% of the applicants were offered placement and 76% of the candidates actually enrolled. Opportunities for graduate education are expanding in Taiwan, but many students travel abroad for advanced education. In FY 2010, over 15,890 U.S. student visas were issued to Taiwan passport holders.

Low starting incomes for new graduates is one issue that is not easily solved, as it is subject to the basic laws of economics. Taiwan has one of the highest proportions of college-educated people in the world and most of them expect a white-collar job upon graduation. Unfortunately, that leads to a surplus of highly educated candidates – and by the immutable laws of supply and demand, a lowering of the value of each. From 2000 to 2014, the number of students earning bachelor’s degrees doubled, master’s-degree earners tripled, and doctoral degrees quadrupled.

A large majority of people in Taiwan speak Mandarin Chinese, which has been the medium of instruction in the schools for more than 5 decades. Native Taiwanese and many others also speak one of the Southern Fujianese dialects, Min-nan, also known as Taiwanese. Recently there has been a growing use of Taiwanese in the broadcast media. The Hakka, who are concentrated in several counties throughout Taiwan, have their own distinct dialect. As a result of the half-century of Japanese rule, many older people also can speak Japanese. The method of Chinese romanization most commonly used in Taiwan is the Wade-Giles system. In 2002, Taiwan authorities announced adoption of the pinyin system used on the mainland to replace the Wade-Giles system, but its use is not consistent throughout society, often resulting in two or more romanizations for the same place or person.

Taiwan's culture is a blend of its distinctive Chinese, Japanese, and Western influences. Fine arts, folk traditions, and popular culture embody traditional and modern, Asian, and Western motifs. One of Taiwan's greatest attractions is the Palace Museum, which houses over 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting, and porcelain. This collection was moved from the mainland in 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party (KMT) fled to Taiwan. The collection is so extensive that only 1% is on display at any one time.

In the 1960s, numerous Taiwan residents left for educational and employment opportunities abroad in industrialized nations, but as Taiwan became an economic powerhouse in the 1980s and 1990s, many returned or stayed. Migration from Taiwan since the 1990s has been primarily to mainland China, mostly to Shanghai and Guangdong Province.

As one of the few sports at which Taiwan athletes excel in world competition, baseball is Taiwan's national sport and a source of pride for this island, which has experienced so many diplomatic humiliations and setbacks. In recent years baseball regained its popularity in Taiwan after Chen Chin-feng joined the Los Angeles Dodgers, the "Chinese Taipei" team defeated its Japanese counterpart in the 2001 World Cup and made the 2004 Olympics, and then pitcher Wang Chien-ming joined the New York Yankees.

According to estimates of Taiwan’s age structure, 19.9 percent of the population is 0–14 years of age; 70.7 percent, 15–64 years of age; and 9.4 percent, 65 and older. Estimates made in 2004 indicate a birthrate of nearly 12.7 births per 1,000 population and a death rate of almost 6.3 deaths per 1,000. In 2004 life expectancy at birth was estimated at nearly 80.1 years for women and 74.3 for men, or 77.0 years total. The infant mortality rate was estimated at 6.5 per 1,000 live births, and the total fertility rate for 2004 was estimated at about 1.6 children per woman. The gender ratio at birth was 1.1 males to 1 female.

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Page last modified: 25-02-2015 18:39:25 ZULU