The Island of Formosa
Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa, is a sovereign east Asian state located 100 miles east of mainland China. Taiwan is separated from China by the Formosa or Taiwan Strait. In the north, it is separated from the Ryukyu Islands, Japan, and Okinawa by the East China Sea, while in the south Taiwan is cut off from the Philippines by the Bashi Channel. The Pacific Ocean washes the shores of eastern Taiwan. The island is about 245 miles long and 90 miles wide at its broadest part. The island is under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China, with Taipei as its capital city.
Before the arrival of the Spanish and Dutch settlers in the 17th Century, Taiwan was inhabited by the Taiwanese aboriginal peoples. Soon after the European explorations of Taiwan, the Han Chinese started arriving in the region as well. Then, in 1662, they managed to expel the Dutch from Taiwan, establishing the Kingdom of Tungning in Taiwan. The later years witnessed the transfer of Taiwan’s ruling power from the Kingdom of Tungning to the Qing dynasty, and then into Japanese hands. In 1912, however, the Republic of China (ROC) once again came to rule over Taiwan, but during World War II Imperial Japan once again occupied large parts of the region. After Japan was defeated by the Allied forces and compelled to leave Taiwan in 1945, the ROC regained rule over the Taiwanese territory. However, disputes arose after the Communist Party of China emerged victorious in the Chinese Civil War and formed the People’s Republic of China which now executed control over mainland China. ROC loyalists from China fled to Taiwan which now served as the only stronghold of ROC in the region.
Despite its ambiguous political status, Taiwan has managed to develop at an extremely rapid pace, being one of the moist rapidly developing economies of the 20th Century. In the three decades between midyear 1950 and midyear 1980, the gross national product of Taiwan increased by a staggering 10 times. Careful and staged planned growth of Taiwan is believed to be responsible for this huge growth. Large areas of Taiwan are arable, with rice being cultivated as the major crop in the area. A variety of fruits, tea, bananas, and sugarcane are also cultivated here. The fishing industry in Taiwan is also very well developed. The abundance of forests here has encouraged the growth of the timber industry. A large number of industries manufacturing a wide variety of goods, including household appliances, textiles, automobiles, petrochemicals, and computer technology, also operate in Taiwan.
Habitat and Biodiversity
Taiwan experiences a favorable climate throughout the year with warm summers and mild winters. Its climate can be classified to be marine tropical in nature.Though the lowlands of the region remain frost free for the entire year, the mountain peaks of central Taiwan remain snow-capped in winter. Rainfall in Taiwan varies widely, exhibiting strong latitudinal and altitude variances. The vegetation of Taiwan varies with elevation of land from sea level. Over half of Taiwan’s territory is forested with tropical evergreen forests occupying the lowland areas, subtropical forests growing at a height of 2,000 to 6,000 feet and further up, temperate broad-leaved forests and coniferous forests are found till a height of 7,500 feet. The forests of Taiwan are occupied by a great biodiversity of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Bears, panthers, wildcats, deer, and boars are some of the prominent native mammals of Taiwan. Some of the notable birds include pheasants, flycatchers, and kingfishers. The coastal waters of Taiwan also abound in rich marine aquatic flora and fauna.
Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes
A large number of environmental issues threaten the well-being of the people, flora, and fauna of Taiwan. Large scale emission of pollutants from a large number of industries in Taiwan pollute the air and water of the region. Sewage entering the rivers of Taiwan are also a threat to the health of people depending on this polluted water for their domestic usage. Large tracts of Taiwan’s forests have also been cleared for timber extraction and agricultural land expansion, such as the banana plantation pictured above. The wildlife of Taiwan has suffered from extensive poaching activities, whereby organs from these wild species have been sold to China for traditional medicinal preparations and other purposes. The native Formosan clouded leopard is now extinct. Besides these environmental issues, Taiwan also experiences significant territorial disputes. The relations between Taiwan and mainland China also appear to be significantly strained and a firm international political identity of the region ceases to exist.