Taiwan is the island which has for all practical purposes been independent for half a century, but which China regards as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland - by force if necessary.
China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, when the defeated Nationalist government fled to the island as the Communists, under Mao Zedong, swept to power.
Taiwan Tourist Attractions
China insists that nations cannot have official relations with both China and Taiwan, with the result that Taiwan has formal diplomatic ties with only two dozen countries - Pacific, South American and African states in the main. The capital's Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world Taiwan has no seat at the United Nations, having lost it to China in 1971. Repeated attempts to regain representation at the UN have been blocked. Mosque of St
Tension across the Taiwan Strait has encouraged an arms race, with the Taiwan government saying hundreds of Chinese missiles are aimed at the island.
The military threat is partly offset by the pivotal relationship between Taipei and Washington, which is the main weapons supplier to the island - one of the world's biggest buyers of arms. Taoism followers see in the Lunar New Year in Taipei Despite its diplomatic isolation, Taiwan has become one of Asia's big traders. It is considered to have achieved an economic miracle, becoming one of the world's top producers of computer technology.
And tensions notwithstanding, Taiwan and China enjoy healthy trade links. China is Taipei's number one export market. In the early 1990s Taiwan made the transition from an authoritarian one-party state to a democracy.
Formal name: Republic of China (ROC)
Population: 23 Million (Tourism Bureau, Republic of China, 2006)
Area: 36,188 sq km (13,972 sq miles)
Major languages: Mandarin Chinese (official), Min Nan Chinese (Taiwanese)
Major religions: Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity Life expectancy: 73 years (men), 79 years (women) (government statistics)
Monetary unit: 1 New Taiwan dollar (NT$) = 100 cents
Main exports: Computer equipment, textiles, basic metals, equipment, plastic and rubber products, vehicles
GNI per capita: US $17,230 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .tw
International dialling code: +886