Difference between Taiwan and China

By: | Updated: Dec-18, 2017

If you ever called a person from Taiwan Chinese and you got a dirty look, you kind of deserved it. Because although nobody is expecting you to be an expert in international relations, there are some basics you need to know about different countries in the world, especially since you are prone to meeting all kinds of people. Here is the difference between Taiwan and China.

Summary Table

Its official name is the Republic of ChinaIts official name is the People’s Republic of China
Its capital is TaipeiIts capital is Beijing
Its currency is the Taiwan New Dollar (TND)Its currency is the Chinese Yuan or the Renminbi (RMB)
Not recognized as a sovereign state by China, although it functions as suchRecognized as a sovereign state
Covers an area of 13,974 square milesCovers an area of 3.7 million square miles
Has a population of over 23 millionHas a population of 1.3 billion
Is an island stateIs a mainland state
Has 4 neighborsHas 14 neighbors
Became an administrative part of China in the 17th centuryHas been populated in one form or another since the 21st century BCE
Is a democratic stateIs a communist state
Ranks 22nd in world economies based on nominal GDPRanks 2nd in world economies based on nominal GDP
Ranks 39th in world economies based on PPPRanks 133rd in world economies based on PPP
Has 4 languages spoken across its territoryHas 292 living languages spoken across its territory
Its major religions are Taoism, Buddhism, and ChristianityIts major religions are Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism


Taiwan on a world map
Taiwan on a world map

Taiwan is an island state located in East Asia. Its neighbors are China, Japan, and the Philippines. It has a population of 23 million and has one of the most prosperous economies.

The capital of Taiwan is Taipei. The major religions in Taiwan are Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity. The languages spoke in Taiwan are Mandarin Chinese – the official language – Min Nan Chinese (which is considered Taiwanese), and Hakka.

Officially, Taiwan is called the Republic of China, a remnant from the times when the country was considered part of China. This dates back to the 17th century when the Qing Dynasty annexed the island. It was afterward ceded to Japan in the 19th century when China lost the Sino-Japanese wars. Taiwan was once again returned to China when Japan lost in the Second World War.

In 1947, nationalist troops led by Chiang Kai-shek took a stand against corruption, but China installed martial law and started killing protesters. In 1949, the Communist Party won the elections in China and Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan. Even from the island, he continued to lead the government of the Republic of China, up until the point when the People’s Republic of China came into being as a political form of organization.

Taiwan is one of Asia’s biggest traders and it is the world’s 22nd largest economy judging from its growth and stability. This is due to the quick industrialization process undergone by Taiwan in the 1950s and 1960s. The Japanese influence also contributed: before and during their rule education became compulsory. Today’s economy is a capitalist, export-driven one. The currency in Taiwan is the Taiwan New Dollar.

The Taiwanese people are pretty accustomed to the democratic government as well as the perks of living in a country with a growing economy. Their power of purchase places them in the 39th position in the world and 57% of the people have access to and use the Internet. Also, as far as information goes, the press in Taiwan enjoys a lot of freedom and the press industry overall is a highly competitive one.

China is the cream colored and the green section on this map

China is a state in East Asia. It covers approximately 3.7 million square miles, making it the second largest state in the world. Since it is such a vast place, it has 14 neighbors: Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Vietnam. The country is divided into 22 provinces and its capital is Beijing.

There are up to 292 living languages in China, although 70% of the population speaks Mandarin. Other languages are Cantonese, Hakka, Tibetan, Thai, Mongolian and many more. The main religions in China are Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

China is one of the world’s earliest civilizations, with records of people inhabiting its lands since circa 2070 BCE. As far as its political form of organization is concerned, until 1912 China was ruled by emperors, the Qin dynasty being the last one. The Emperor was replaced by the Republic of China, whose rule ended in 1949 when the Communist Party came to power.

Despite communism being its political form of government, since 1978 China has undergone important economic reforms and is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Actually, as of 2016, it has become the second largest economy judging from GDP and the first judging from the PPP (power of purchase parity). The Chinese currency is the Chinese Yuan (RMB). Judging from their power of purchase, the China ranks 133rd in a global classification. Also, only 19% of the people have access to and use the Internet.

There are 1.3 billion people living in China. Their overwhelming birth rate and rapid growth called for the enactment of a national birth control policy that forbade families to have more than one child. It was only in 2016 that the Government allowed couples to have a second child if one of the two was an only child.

Taiwan vs China

So what is the difference between Taiwan and China?

It goes without saying that, unless you are talking about Russia – the largest country in the world – any other country in comparison to China will appear small. Therefore, Taiwan is smaller than China. The island state only covers an area of 13,974 square miles, compared to China’s whopping 3.7 million square miles. As expected, the population of Taiwan is also considerably smaller than that of China.

Their geographical settings differ as well: Taiwan is an island, while China is situated on the mainland. Also, the size and the location of the two states dictate the number of neighbors. Therefore, Taiwan has 4 neighbors, whereas China has 14.

Historically speaking, there have been people in China since circa 2070 BCE. However, we do not know how long the indigenous people of Taiwan have been on the island before China annexed it in the 17th century. This explains the connection between the two states and the confusion surrounding them. Taiwan was a part of China between the 17th and the 20th century. In 1912, the Republic of China (ROC) took the helm of the country and replaced the last Chinese dynasty. However, in 1949, when the Communist Party came to power, the ROC government was chased away from the mainland, on to the island of Taiwan. But in order to further explain the name of Taiwan, which, although it is an independent country bears the name of another (Republic of China), we must look back to 1992. This is when a consensus was reached between China and Taiwan. It resulted in China not recognizing Taiwan as an independent state and Taiwan using a gimmick to remain independent. Therefore, as long as Taiwan continues to use the name “Republic of China,” Beijing cannot claim that it is seeking independence. On the other hand, Taiwan has continued to function and to strive as an independent state anyway. There is always the downside of China having threatened all other countries that recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state, but unofficial solutions have always been found by those who wanted to cooperate.

China and Taiwan’s forms of organization are different. China is a communist state, while Taiwan is a democratic state. As far as their economies go, each strives to gain a higher position. China is the world’s second largest economy judging from nominal GDP, with a real chance to topple the US and gain the lead. Taiwan occupies the 22nd position. On the other hand, in terms of power of purchase, Taiwan ranks 39th, while China only ranks 133rd.

There are four languages spoken in Taiwan, while there are 292 living languages spoken in China. Taiwan’s major religions are Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity. In China, the major religions are Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

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