Much discussion of Taiwan is framed in the context of Taiwan as part of China versus Taiwan as an independent nation. However, Taiwan’s geographical position is much more complex than this. In the map from Google Earth above showing the island of Taiwan the territories of three other countries are visible — China, Japan and The Philippines.
This map shows Taiwan and China separated by the waters of the Taiwan Strait. Fujian Province, from where most Taiwanese people trace their ancestry, takes up much of the map. Chinese people have been migrating to Taiwan over the past four centuries.
The Ryukyu islands of Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture stretch between Taiwan and the four main islands of Japan. In fact the southernmost islands of Japan are to the west of Taiwan. The island of Yonaguni is just 125 kilometres from Taiwan. The Japanese ruled Taiwan from 1895 to 1945.
Taiwan is also closely connected to Southeast Asia. The Batanes Islands in the Bashi Channel lie midway between Taiwan and Luzon. The Yami people of Orchid Island are actually culturally and linguistically related to the people of the Batanes. In the past slate and jade was exported from Taiwan to the Batanes where it was carved into jewellery.
Finally, Taiwan is part of the Pacific Ocean, a vast expanse of water dotted with islands stretching all the way to the Americas. Linguistic and archaeological evidence suggests that the islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans were populated by people who began their migration from Taiwan.
Hence Taiwan is connected in multiple ways with the lands and seas around it and occupies a unique place in the Asia-Pacific region.
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