Location: An island nation separated from mainland China by the Formosa Strait
Area: 35,961 sq km
Religions: 35.1% Buddhism, 33.0% Taoism, 18.7% No religion, 3.9% Christianity, 9.3% Others
National composition: Chinese mostly
National language: Formosan languages, Hakka, Hokkien, Mandarin, Matsu, Taiwan Sign Language
Currency: Taiwan dollar = 100 cents
Other major cities: Kao-hsiung, T’ai-chung, T’ai-nan
Climate: Tropical monsoon type
Forests cover about half of the island. Fruit, rice, soya beans, sugar cane, sweet potatoes and tea are cultivated in fertile lowland areas. The Republic of China, as Taiwan is officially called, has deposits of coal, gold, oil, silver and rock salt. It has a well-developed manufacturing sector, producing textiles, plastics, electronics and other consumer goods, many of which are exported.
Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan’s first female president when elected in January 2016.
With 56% of the vote, she led her traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to their biggest ever victory in parliamentary elections.
Ms Tsai’s political message has always revolved around the importance of Taiwanese identity, and she has pledged that democracy will be at the heart of the island’s future relations with China.
By pursuing Taiwanese sovereignty, Ms Tsai runs the risk of antagonising China, reversing eight years of warmer ties under President Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party.
In the 1990s, Ms Tsai negotiated Taiwan’s accession to the World Trade Organization. She joined the DPP in 2004 after working as a non-partisan chairwoman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. Four years later she became the youngest person and first woman to lead the party. She lost the presidential election to Ma Ying-jeou in 2012.
A former law professor, she hails from the coastal village of Pingtung in southern Taiwan. Her mixed ethnicity – a Hakka father and Taiwanese mother – has been cited as one of the traits that helped her connect with voters.
The media environment in Taiwan is among the freest in Asia, and extremely competitive.
Media freedom organisations say Beijing exerts pressure on Taiwanese media owners.
There are hundreds of newspapers, all privately-owned and reflecting a wide range of views.
Nearly 93% of Taiwanese are online.