Welcome to Taiwan, Taiwan also known, especially in the past, as Formosa (from Portuguese: Ilha Formosa, "Beautiful Island"), is an island situated in East Asia in the Western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. It comprises 99% of the territory of the Republic of China (ROC) since the 1950s. Therefore the term "Taiwan" is also a common name to refer to the Republic of China itself. Separated from the Asian continent by the 160 km (99 mi) wide Taiwan Strait, the main island of the group is 394 km (245 mi) long and 144 kilometres (89 mi.) wide. To the northeast are the main islands of Japan and the East China Sea, and the southern end of the Ryukyu Islands of Japan is directly to the east; the Batanes Islands of the Philippines lie to its south across the Bashi Channel.
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Through decades of hard work and sound economic management, Taiwan has transformed itself from an underdeveloped, agricultural island to an economic power that is a leading producer of high-technology goods. In the 1960s, foreign investment in Taiwan helped introduce modern, labor-intensive technology to the island, and Taiwan became a major exporter of labor-intensive products. In the 1980s, focus shifted toward increasingly sophisticated, capital-intensive and technology-intensive products for export and toward developing the service sector. At the same time, the appreciation of the New Taiwan dollar (NTD), rising labor costs, and increasing environmental consciousness in Taiwan caused many labor-intensive industries, such as shoe manufacturing, to move to China and Southeast Asia. Taiwan has transformed itself from a recipient of U.S. aid in the 1950s and early 1960s to an aid donor and major foreign investor, especially in Asia. Taiwan is now a creditor economy, holding the world's fourth-largest stock of foreign exchange reserves ($399.5 billion as of April 2011). Although Taiwan enjoyed sustained economic growth, full employment, and low inflation for many years, in 2001, Taiwan joined other regional economies in its first recession since 1949. From 2002-2007, Taiwan's economic growth ranged from 3.5% to 6.2% per year. With the global economic downturn, Taiwan's economy slumped into recession in the second half of 2008. Its real GDP, following growth of 5.7% in 2007, rose 0.73% in 2008 and contracted 1.93% in 2009. The economy saw a robust recovery in 2010, growing by 10.88%, the highest rate in 28 years.
Taiwan's rapid economic growth in the decades after World War II has transformed it into an industrialized developed country and one of the Four Asian Tigers. This economic rise is known as the Taiwan Miracle. It is categorized as an advanced economy by the IMF and as a high-income economy by the World Bank. Its advanced technology industry plays a key role in the global economy. Taiwanese companies manufacture a large portion of the world's consumer electronics, although most of them are now made in their factories in mainland China.
Pork, seafood, rice, and soy are very common ingredients. Beef is far less common, still refrain from eating it. This is in part due to the considerations of some Taiwanese Buddhists, a traditional reluctance towards slaughtering precious cattle needed for agriculture, and an emotional attachment and feeling of gratefulness and thanks to the animals traditionally used for very hard labour. Curiously, the Taiwanese version of beef noodle soup remains one of the most popular dishes in Taiwan, in spite of this traditional aversion.
Taiwan's cuisine has also been influenced by its geographic location. Living on a crowded island, the Taiwanese had to look aside from the farmlands for sources of protein. As a result, seafood figures prominently in their cuisine. This seafood encompasses many different things, from large fish such as tuna and grouper, to sardines and even smaller fish such as anchovies. Crustaceans, squid, and cuttlefish are also eaten.
Because of the island's sub-tropical location, Taiwan has an abundant supply of various fruit, such as papayas, starfruit, melons, and citrus fruit. A wide variety of tropical fruits, imported and native, are also enjoyed in Taiwan. Other agricultural products in general are rice, corn, tea, pork, poultry, beef, fish, and other fruits and vegetables. Fresh ingredients in Taiwan are readily available from markets.
In many of their dishes, the Taiwanese have shown their creativity in their selection of spices. Taiwanese cuisine relies on an abundant array of seasonings for flavour: soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, fermented black beans, pickled daikon, pickled mustard greens, peanuts, chili peppers, cilantro, and a local variety of basil.