GOVERNMENT OF TAIWAN: NAMES, SYMBOLS, LEADERS AND BRANCHES

GOVERNMENT OF TAIWAN

Government type: multiparty democracy. Taiwan has an elected president like the United States and an elected unicameral legislature with a prime minister somewhat similar to the one in Great Britain. The president is more powerful than the prime minister, who is appointed by the president and is regarded as the leader of parliament.

Capital: The capital of central administration of Taiwan is Taipei (T’ai-pei——literally, Taiwan North), located in T’ai-pei County in the north. Since 1967, Taipei has been administratively separate from Taiwan Province. Administrative divisions: includes main island of Taiwan plus smaller islands nearby and off coast of China's Fujian Province; Taiwan is divided into 14 counties (hsien, singular and plural), 3 municipalities (shih, singular and plural), and 5 special municipalities (chih-hsia-shih, singular and plural). Counties: Changhua, Chiayi (county), Hsinchu (county), Hualien, Kinmen, Lienchiang, Miaoli, Nantou, Penghu, Pingtung, Taitung, Taoyuan, Yilan, Yunlin. Municipalities: Chiayi (city), Hsinchu (city), Keelung (city) special municipalities: Kaohsiung (city), New Taipei (city), Taichung (city), Tainan (city), Taipei (city)

The Republic of China's (ROC's) Constitution is based on Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the people: 1) Nationalism; 2) Democracy, and 3) Social Well-being. On January 1, 1947 the Constitution was promulgated and it was put into effect on December 25 of the same year. The National Assembly has amended it three times- in 1992, 1994, and 1997. Some of the major amendments include such measures as the president shall be elected by direct popular vote for a four-year instead of a six year term. On March 23, 1996, the first direct popular election of the president was held.

Branches of Government in Taiwan

The central government in Taiwan is divided into five branches, which are known as "Yuan" meaning house: executive, legislative, judicial, impeachment, and examination affairs. 1) the executive yuan, or cabinet, is lead by the president and vice president. 2) The legislative yuan is a parliamentary legislature led by the prime minister. 3) the Judiciary Yuan is the equivalent of the Supreme Court. 4) the Impeachment ir Control Yuan is a supervisory body. 5) The Examination Yuan, which includes the ministries of examination of personnel. It overseas the system of test for education, licensees and jobs.

Executive Branch: The President of the Executive Yuan. The executive branch is made up of the Executive Yuan which is headed by the premier and the president. The premier is appointed by the president of the Republic. The heads of various ministries and commissions under the Executive Yuan make up the ROC Cabinet. Under the Executive Yuan, there are three levels of subordinate organization: the Executive Yuan Council; the eight ministries (interior, foreign affairs, national defense, finance, education, justice, economic affairs, and transportation and communications), the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission and Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission; and subordinate departments. [Source: Columbus School of Law <>]

The legislative branch is composed of the unicameral Legislative Yuan and the unicamercal National Assembly. The Legislative Yuan is the highest legislative body in Taiwan. It legislates, examines budgetary bills, reviews audits, and oversees the operation of the Executive Yuan. There are a total of 225 seats in the Legislative Yuan: 168 elected by popular vote; 41 elected on the basis of the proportion of nationwide votes received by participating political parties; 8 elected from overseas Chinese constituencies on the basis of the proportion of nationwide votes received by participating political parties; and 8 elected by popular vote among the aboriginal populations. The National Assembly's primary responsibility is to amend the Constitution and to impeach the president or the vice president. There are 334 seats in the National Assembly. Members are elected by popular vote to serve four year terms. <>

The Judicial Yuan is made up of justices appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly. It is the highest judicial organization of the state and is responsible for civil, criminal and administrative cases as well as cases involving the discipline of public functionaries. The Council of Grand Justices serves as the main body with 17 grand justices according to Article 3 of the Organic Law of Judicial Yuan. The number has been reduced to 15 through Article 5 of the Additional Articles of the Constitution. The president and the vice present are to be selected from among the members consists of a president, the vice president, a secretary general, and a deputy secretary. The Judicial Yuan also has a panel of 17 justices. <>

Flag and National Anthem of Taiwan

Flag: red field with white sun with 12 triangular rays in a blue rectangle in the upper hoist side corner. White represents fraternity and the future. Blue stands for equality and the sky. Red signifies liberty and China’s founding fathers. The 12 points of the white sun represent the 12 two-hour periods of the day, symbolizing unceasing progress. The white sun and blue sky symbol has been used since 1895 ; it was later adopted as the flag of the Kuomintang Party. The flag has been in use since 1921 and was adopted by the new national government in 1928. [Source: Library of Congress, March 2005]

National anthem: name: "Zhonghua Minguo guoge" (National Anthem of the Republic of China). Lyrics/music: Hu Han-min, Tai Chi-t'ao, and Liao Chung-k'ai/Cheng Mao-Yun note: adopted 1930; the anthem is also the song of the Kuomintang Party; it is informally known as "San Min Chu I" or "San Min Zhu Yi" (Three Principles of the People); because of political pressure from China, "Guo Qi Ge" (National Banner Song) is used at international events rather than the official anthem of Taiwan; the "National Banner Song" has gained popularity in Taiwan and is commonly used during flag raisings. “The Three Principals of People” (San Min Chu I —nationalism, democracy, and social well-being) are attributed to Sun Yat-sen.

Names of Taiwan

Formal Name: Republic of China (ROC, Chung-hua Min-kuo in Chinese); Short Form: Taiwan; former name: Formosa; Term for Citizen(s): Chinese (Hua-jen); Taiwanese (T’ai-wan-jen). noun: Taiwan (singular and plural), note: example - he or she is from Taiwan; they are from Taiwan; adjective: Taiwan (or Taiwanese) [Sources: Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook]

Formosa the name of Taiwan before World War II is of Portuguese origin. Portuguese sailors named present-day Taiwan Ihala Formosa ("Beautiful Island"). The Chinese later called it Taiwan ("Terraced Bay"). During the Japanese occupation between 1985 and 1945, it was known as Formosa.

Taiwan’s formal name, Republic of China, should is not be confused with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which is the official name for mainland China. There has been some discussion of changing Taiwan’s name to the Republic of Taiwan, a move that would have antagonized Beijing because it implied a declaration of independence. According to several opinion polls in the mid 2000s, 30 percent of Taiwanese at that time wanted to declare independence and rename their country the Republic of Taiwan instead of the Republic of China.

For a while some people called Taiwan “Free China.” It’s Chinese name was written with characters that translated to “Central, Glorious, Republican Country.” An estimated 150,000 people once showed up for rallies that supported changing the name to Taiwan. As they marched through the streets the protesters chanted, “Taiwan people, Taiwan nation, Use the name Taiwan to join the United Nations.”

Beijing prefers the name “Zhongguo Taipei” (“Zhongguo” which roughly means China’s Taipei, implying that Taiwan is part of the mainland. Taiwanese prefers the name “Zhonghua Taipei” which roughly means Chinese Taipei. (“Zhonghua” means “ethnic Chinese”). Which is used in the Olympics is matter of some debate. The Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC), currently competes as "Chinese Taipei" at the Olympic Games.

Doug Young of Reuters wrote: “Examples of the name game tussle persist nearly everywhere in Taiwan life, most notably in the island's official name, the Republic of China. License plates on many cars also often list their jurisdiction as Taiwan province, reflecting the view of Chiang's Nationalist Party (KMT) that Taiwan is just one of many provinces governed by the Republic of China. The sensitive subject also spills across the Taiwan Strait, with the island often known as Chinese Taipei at international gatherings such as the Olympics due to Beijing's insistence that there is only one China and Taiwan is part of that. Adding to the confusion are disputes over corporate names such as China Airlines, the island's biggest carrier, not to be confused with the mainland flag carrier, Air China. The island's top telecoms carrier, Chunghwa Telecom, also translates literally to "China Telecom." [Source: Doug Young, Reuters, September 21, 2006]

Taiwan's Name Game Struggle Under Chen Shui-ban

In 2006, then President Chen Shui-ban’s Democratic Progressive Party changed the airport's name from Chiang Kai-shek International Airport to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and made other name changes in an effort to wipe out vestiges of the Kuomintang party. Reuters reported: “Frequent travelers to Taiwan may find themselves scratching their heads next time they fly to the island's main airport in Taipei. With barely a debate or public notice, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party quietly changed the airport's name this month to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, eliminating its previous moniker of Chiang Kai-shek International Airport. [Source: Doug Young, Reuters, September 21, 2006 */*]

“The move, puzzling to many outsiders, is just the latest volley in an ongoing verbal war in Taiwan, where names can be loaded words for rival political parties that see their homeland as either part of China or as an independent country. "This is an identity question," said Emile Sheng, a professor of political science at Taiwan's Soochow University. "We have a Chinese identity versus a Taiwan identity. That's the main cleavage of Taiwanese politics." The airport change is a poignant example in the name game, representing at once the addition of "Taiwan" and the elimination of Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist general who once ruled all China and then Taiwan after losing the mainland to the Communists and fleeing to the island in 1949. */*

“China has considered the island a breakaway province ever since. "In recent years, there has been an ongoing evolution," Premier Su Tseng-chang said in a document detailing the airport's name change. "We hope that this official name will restore the name that should have been." The opposition Kuomintang predictably called the change a colossal waste of money, saying it would cost the government NT$200 million (US$6 million) and private companies US$4 billion for changes in signage and the like. "Is it worth that?" said KMT party spokesman Tsai Chin-long. "We have so many important things, such as corruption and foreign affairs. What are we doing with name changes?" */*

“The pro-Taiwan camp has made various attempts in recent years to change some of the names to evoke Taiwan rather than China, though few have come to fruition. "There's been a feeling that some of these names should be changed," said Bruce Jacobs, a professor of Asian Languages at Australia's Monash University. "People have wanted this to happen with the big ones like China Airlines." */*

“The tug-of-war over names also goes down to street level, with some suggesting that thoroughfares bearing names of mainland cities and provinces be changed to give a more local flavor. Soochow University's Cheng said he expects many company names to eventually be changed to better reflect their business scope. But many of the smaller details, such as street names, may be left alone, he added. "There's a lot of social cost in this," he said. "If you have to change these names, it's going to cause inconvenience in people's lives," he said. */*

Taiwan’s Constitution

The Republic of China's (ROC's) Constitution is based on Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the people: 1) Nationalism; 2) Democracy, and 3) Social Well-being. On January 1, 1947 the Constitution was promulgated and it was put into effect on December 25 of the same year. The National Assembly has amended it three times- in 1992, 1994, and 1997. Some of the major amendments include such measures as the president shall be elected by direct popular vote for a four-year instead of a six year term. On March 23, 1996, the first direct popular election of the president was held.

The ROC Constitution is the supreme law of the land and contains 175 articles in the original text. The Constitution has been amended five times since its initial promulgation. The five amendments are made up of eleven articles that have been consolidated into a single text and is maintained as a separate portion of the Constitution. The term law according to Article 170 of the Constitution means any legislative bill duly passed by the Legislative Yuan and promulgated by the President. Articles 171 and 172 state that laws and ordinances that contravene the Constitution shall be null and void. [Source: Columbus School of Law]

The Constitution used in Taiwan was ratified in 1947 by the Kuomintang Party when it still controlled a large chunk of the mainland and was therefore conceived for all of China not just Taiwan. The Taiwanese constitution is outdated and badly in need of reform and revisions. One Taiwanese editor told Newsweek, "We behave democratically, but without democratic structures. It's a mess."

President, Prime Minister and Executive Branch of Taiwan

Taiwan has an elected president like the United States and an elected unicameral legislature with a prime minister somewhat similar to the one in Great Britain. The president is more powerful than the prime minister, who is appointed by the president and is regarded as the leader of parliament.

The president is elected to a four year term. He or she can serve a maximum of two terms. The president is the head of state and the chief of the armed forces and appoints the prime minister . He or she does not have the power to dissolve the legislature unless there is a no confidence vote. Under Taiwan's constitution, the vice president is only a heartbeat away from the presidency, taking over the position if the president cannot serve for any reason. The Cabinet has traditionally resigned en mass before the President is inaugurated.

The prime minister is appointed by the president with the approval of the legislature. He or she heads the cabinet and runs the day-to-day affairs of government, and doesn’t necessarily have to be from the party or coalition with the most seats in Parliament. The elected president appoints the prime minister, who appoints the entire cabinet, which has eight ministries established under the Constitution and many newer commissions.

The executive branch is made up of the Executive Yuan which is headed by the premier and the president. The heads of various ministries and commissions under the Executive Yuan make up the ROC Cabinet. Under the Executive Yuan, there are three levels of subordinate organization: the Executive Yuan Council; the eight ministries (interior, foreign affairs, national defense, finance, education, justice, economic affairs, and transportation and communications), the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission and Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission; and subordinate departments. [Source: Columbus School of Law]

Executive branch: Chief of state: President Ma Ying-jeou (since 20 May 2008); Vice President Wu Den-yih (since 20 May 2012). Head of government: Premier Jiang Yi-huah (President of the Executive Yuan) (since 18 February 2013). Cabinet: Executive Yuan - ministers appointed by president on recommendation of premier. Elections: The president and vice president are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms (eligible for a second term); election last held on January 14, 2012 (next to be held in January 2016); premier appointed by the president; vice premiers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the premier election results: Ma Ying-jeou was elected president in 2012 with 51.6 percent of the vote. Tsai Ing-wen won 45.6 percent and James Soong Chu-ye took 2.8 percent. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Legislature of Taiwan

Legislative branch: the unicameral Legislative Yuan is comprised of 113 seats — 73 district members elected by popular vote, 34 at-large members elected on basis of proportion of islandwide votes received by participating political parties, and six elected by popular vote among aboriginal populations. Members to serve four-year terms. Parties must receive five percent of vote to qualify for at-large seats. Elections for the Legislative Yuan were last held on January 14, 2012 (next to be held in January 2016). Legislative and presidential elections used to be held at different times but now they are held on the same day.Election results in 2012 for the Legislative Yuan (percent of vote by party): KMT 44.6 percent, DPP 34.6 percent, TSU 9.0 percent, PFP 5.5 percent, others 6.3 percent; seats by party - KMT 64, DPP 40, PFP 3, TSU 3, NPSU 2, independent. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

The Legislature used have 225 seats and before that it had 221 seats and before that 164 seats. Into the 1990s there were 3,045 seats in the fantasy mainland Yuan. In the early 2000s there were 225 seats, with 168 of them directly elected seats. At that time eight seats were reserved for representatives of minority tribes and eight for overseas Taiwanese. The remaining 41 seats were distributed among parties according to the proportion of total vote.

Members of the legislature are elected from multi-member districts, a system that encourages multiple factions within the legislature. In 2001, 455 candidates contested 176 directly elected seats. When the legislature is in session, the members of the cabinet are are required to attend plenary and committee meeting to answer tough, often rude, questions, from members of the opposition parties.

The legislative branch is composed of the unicameral Legislative Yuan and the unicamercal National Assembly. The Legislative Yuan is the highest legislative body in Taiwan. It legislates, examines budgetary bills, reviews audits, and oversees the operation of the Executive Yuan. The National Assembly's primary responsibility is to amend the Constitution and to impeach the president or the vice president. There are 334 seats in the National Assembly. Members are elected by popular vote to serve four year terms. [Source: Columbus School of Law]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourism Bureau, Republic of China (Taiwan), Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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