ROC Yearbook

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President Tsai Ing-wen (front row, center left) stands among world leaders at the inauguration of the Panama Canal Expansion project on June 26, 2016. (Courtesy of the Office of the President)


Foreign Policy

Maintaining peaceful international relations is a responsibility shared by all members of the global community. Taiwan intends to do its part in building a stable regional and international environment.


After President Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文 took office in May 2016, the government adopted a policy of “steadfast diplomacy” 踏實外交, which is characterized as “unwavering and fixed in direction,” or seeking to expand Taiwan’s international space through sure-footed means. The policy is also defined as “firm in purpose,” aimed at building mutually beneficial ties with countries that share Taiwan’s values of freedom and democracy.


Among Taiwan’s priorities is building sustainable and strong international partnerships with its diplomatic allies, as well as like-minded democracies around the world. This can be achieved by expanding economic and cultural ties and engaging in dialogue on regional security and economic integration. Mutual trust, respect, and communication are at the heart of these partnerships.


Taiwan is also devoted to fostering regional cooperation by participating in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, disease prevention and climate change mitigation efforts. Specifically, the nation will share its experiences in disaster response, work with others to reduce tensions concerning regional flashpoints, and forge long-term partnerships with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).


To adopt more innovative approaches, Taiwan will create new opportunities for local governments, civil society, young people and the private sector to participate in Taiwan’s international relations.


Through stable, consistent and forward-looking policies, Taiwan’s ultimate goal is to make itself a responsible and indispensable partner in the international community.


Taiwan Launches eVisa Scheme


Bilateral Ties

Through its partnerships with nations the world over, the Republic of China (ROC) seeks to advance common agendas that benefit all. As of September 2016, it had full diplomatic relations with 22 states—12 in Central and South America and the Caribbean, six in Oceania, three in Africa, and one in Europe (see table “Embassies and Missions Abroad”). It maintained 94 representative offices in the capitals and major cities of 58 countries. Meanwhile, the ROC’s diplomatic allies, the European Union and other countries maintained 69 embassies or representative offices in the ROC.


Additionally, the number of countries and territories extending visa-free, landing visa or other visa privileges to ROC passport holders had climbed to 164 as of September 2016.


To encourage the nation’s young people to engage in international activities and enhance mutual understanding with their peers in other countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has designed programs such as Teen Diplomatic Envoys 外交小尖兵, Youth Ambassadors 國際青年大使, Mosaic Taiwan 國際青年菁英領袖研習班, the NGO100 International Affairs Training Program for Youth Leaders NGO100青年領袖國際事務研習營 and the Working Holiday Program 度假打工計畫.


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The ROC has also signed working holiday agreements with 15 countries, allowing young people from the ROC to live, work and vacation in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia, South Korea and the United Kingdom. Program durations vary from six months to two years.


Diplomatic Allies

The ROC enjoys close relations with its diplomatic allies in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and Oceania. Countless instances of fruitful cooperation with them can be cited in areas such as small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) development, agriculture, information technology, medical care, environmental protection and tourism. Of these allies, the ROC has signed bilateral free trade agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.


In April 2015, the ROC and Swaziland signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation in counterterrorism efforts, immigration affairs and human trafficking prevention.


In February 2016, the National Palace Museum 國立故宮博物院 in Taipei 臺北 and the Holy See kicked off a three-month exhibition showcasing treasures from the Vatican, the first major display overseas.


In March 2016, the ROC and Nicaragua finalized an agreement on establishing commercial flight connections between the two nations.


In April 2016, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Javier Ching-shan Hou 侯清山led a delegation to Swaziland for the 48th birthday celebrations of King Mswati III.


In June 2016, Taiwan signed a cooperative agreement with Panama on immigration affairs and human trafficking prevention, as well as an aviation pact with Paraguay.


In humanitarian aid efforts, the ROC in March 2015 donated US$60,000 and started a US$200,000 water and sanitation project to help Tuvalu rebuild after Tropical Cyclone Pam. Taiwan also donated US$26,000 to Kiribati for the same cyclone. In October, the ROC provided aid worth US$100,000 to Guatemala and Honduras, which had been affected by severe storms and flooding.


The ROC and its allies also engage in frequent high-level visits. Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández, Kiribati President Anote Tong and Nauru President Baron Waqa made state visits to the ROC in 2015.


Following a state visit to Latin America and the Caribbean in July 2015, ROC President Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 made another state visit to Belize and Guatemala in March 2016. While in Belize, he had a meeting with the Belizean prime minister as well as the leaders of three of the ROC’s diplomatic allies in the Caribbean—St. Christopher and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.


In late June, President Tsai was invited to visit Panama, where she attended the inauguration of the expanded Panama Canal. Afterwards, she made her first state visit to Paraguay, where she met with President Horacio Cartes.


Taiwan-US Relations

Despite a lack of formal diplomatic ties, the ROC and the United States continue to maintain a robust security and economic partnership. The U.S. is the ROC’s second-largest trading partner, while the ROC is the U.S.’s ninth-largest. The two countries enjoy cooperative relations in the realms of trade, security, energy development, human welfare and public health, among others.


With regard to trade, Taiwan and the U.S. resumed talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in Taipei in 2013 after a hiatus of more than five years, producing numerous positive outcomes, such as the release of joint statements on information and communications technology services and investment principles, as well as the launch of TIFA working groups on investment and technical barriers to trade. The latest round of TIFA talks was held in Taipei in October 2015, covering such topics as agriculture, intellectual property rights protection, investment, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, regional and multilateral economic cooperation, as well as technical barriers to trade. To further boost economic relations, Taiwan and the U.S. launched the Digital Economy Forum 數位經濟論壇 and the IP and Innovation Joint Workplan 智慧財產暨創新共同工作計畫 in June 2015. The first forum took place in December 2015 in Taipei where a joint statement was signed for further cooperation.


To help Taiwan strengthen its national defense, the U.S. has been committed to helping the island maintain its defense capability in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act. In addition to selling US$18 billion in arms to Taiwan over the past seven years, the U.S. government announced in December 2015 a US$1.83 billion arms sale package that included Perry-class frigates. This nearly US$20 billion total is the largest amount in any comparable period following the enactment of the act in 1979.


In energy cooperation, Taiwan and the U.S. in 2014 inked an agreement on nuclear energy, affirming the two sides’ commitment to cooperating in the control, development and peaceful use of nuclear energy. That same year, ties were further strengthened when U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy visited Taiwan, marking the first visit by a member of the U.S. cabinet since 2000. McCarthy witnessed the inauguration of the International Environmental Partnership 國際環境夥伴計畫 launched by the ROC and publicly stated that the U.S. was proud to be a founding partner of this important initiative.


Regarding the improvement of human welfare, Taiwan in 2014 became the first country to conclude an MOU with the U.S. on combating human trafficking. Taiwan’s efforts have been recognized in the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, where it has been ranked as a tier-1 country for six consecutive years. Taiwan and the U.S. have also maintained close communication on the growing humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. In early 2015, Taiwan donated 350 prefabricated houses to refugees in northern Iraq, which were delivered promptly in collaboration with the U.S.


In the global response to the Ebola virus, Taiwan donated US$1 million to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation in 2014 to finance medical assistance projects. In March 2015, Taiwan donated another US$125,000 to the Washington, D.C.-based Pan-American Development Foundation to help the Caribbean and Latin America prepare for possible Ebola outbreaks. That same month, Taiwan established an Ebola prevention training center in Tainan City 臺南市 and partnered with the U.S. to train health experts in the Asia-Pacific region.


To respond effectively to emerging global challenges, the two sides established the Taiwan-U.S. Global Cooperation and Training Framework 全球合作暨訓練架構 in June 2015. With an initial focus on public health, energy security, the digital economy and women’s empowerment, Taiwan and the U.S. have so far co-hosted training programs in response to the MERS-Coronavirus, dengue fever and the Zika virus.


The U.S. is one of several major countries to support the ROC’s greater participation in international organizations. For instance, it voiced support for Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization (WHO), and high-ranking U.S. officials and congressional leaders have on various occasions welcomed Taiwan’s interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In March 2016, the U.S. president signed into law a bill supporting the ROC’s participation in the world’s largest international police organization, INTERPOL, as an observer.


Taiwan-Japan Relations

Though lacking formal diplomatic relations, the ROC and Japan have significant historical, trade and investment ties. Over the past four decades, Taiwan and Japan have signed a total of 61 agreements, including a youth working holiday pact, a bilateral investment arrangement and a fisheries agreement. The two sides have also amended an aviation agreement to create open skies between them. In 2014 they signed four MOUs on cooperation in tourism, nuclear safety, patent procedures and border control. In July 2015, a disaster relief accord was signed allowing qualified Taiwan and Japanese medical professionals to conduct medical relief operations in each other’s countries upon request, and in November, they inked an agreement on avoidance of double taxation as well as two MOUs on competition law and disaster prevention.


Taiwan was the largest humanitarian donor to Japan after the latter suffered a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011. In reciprocation, the Japanese government announced that it would send US$1.2 million to help southern Taiwan rebuild from a deadly earthquake in February 2016.


In terms of people-to-people exchanges, tourism figures have reached an unprecedented level. In 2015, Taiwanese nationals made 3.67 million visits to Japan while Japanese nationals made 1.47 million visits to Taiwan. Economic and trade relations remain close as well. The value of bilateral trade in 2015 reached US$58 billion, making Japan Taiwan’s third-largest trading partner.


Toward Regional Economic integration


Taiwan and Asia-Pacific Relations

South Korea

Taiwan and South Korea, both thriving democracies with market economies, have long enjoyed cordial relations. In 2015, bilateral trade totaled US$25.58 billion, making South Korea Taiwan’s fifth-largest trading partner and Taiwan South Korea’s seventh-largest trading partner.


People-to-people exchanges have also grown enormously. In 2015, South Koreans made over 658,750 visits to Taiwan while ROC nationals made about 500,000 visits to South Korea, marking the first time that South Korean visitors outnumbered Taiwanese visitors.



Taiwan is among the top foreign investors in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. It is also an important market for goods and services from the ASEAN as well as a provider of technology to this area. In 2015, Taiwan’s exports to ASEAN member states amounted to US$50.92 billion, while imports from that region reached US$28.31 billion. In the “New Southbound Policy” 新南向政策 put forth by President Tsai, Taiwan in particular looks to further expand cultural and commercial exchanges with ASEAN countries and India.


To build closer ties with Indonesia, Taiwan’s 12th-largest trade partner and top source of migrant laborers, Taiwan in December 2015 opened a trade office in Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia. The new office facilitates visa applications for migrant laborers coming to Taiwan, serve the ROC nationals traveling and working in Indonesia, and enhance bilateral cooperation in agriculture, fisheries, trade and education. In March 2016, the ROC and Indonesia inked a supervision cooperation MOU in banking, securities and insurance businesses.


In the aftermath of a fishing boat shooting incident in 2013, Taiwan and the Philippines held several meetings to discuss the handling of fishery disputes in overlapping exclusive economic zones. In November 2015, the two sides signed a pact on law enforcement cooperation in fisheries matters, agreeing to avoid the use of violence or unnecessary force in disputes, establish an emergency notification system, and create a mechanism for the prompt release of detained crews and vessels. In March 2016, the two sides agreed to set up a hotline on fishing disputes and cooperate against illegal fishing.


Since Myanmar relaxed regulations on trade with Taiwan in 2013, businesses in both countries have benefited from direct trade. To further facilitate trade with the ROC, Myanmar established a trade office in Taipei in June 2015. In March 2016, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Myanmar began operations to provide consular services and promote exchanges in trade and other areas.



In January 2015, Minister without Portfolio Duh Tyzz-jiun 杜紫軍 led a 50-member delegation to the Global CEO Conclave event at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2015 held in western India. During the visit, the delegation called on high-level officials from the Indian central government and Gujarat state government. They also witnessed the signing of seven MOUs for cooperation between industry associations of Taiwan and India.


That same month, Indian Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi visited Taiwan at the invitation of the ROC government. Minister of Foreign Affairs David Y.L. Lin 林永樂 presented a US$50,000 donation on behalf of the government to Satyarthi’s NGO for children’s rights.


In December 2015, Taiwan and India signed an MOU on cooperation among SMEs.



After Nepal’s devastating 7.9-magnitude earthquake in April 2015, the ROC government announced that it would donate US$300,000 and send rescue teams for disaster relief efforts. The ROC government also appealed to the Taiwan public to donate cash, food and other materials, collecting US$3 million and 47 tonnes worth of goods in total. Taiwan dispatched 16 medical and rescue teams consisting of over 290 experts from the public and private sectors to help the Nepalese people.


South Pacific

Following a significant economic cooperation agreement (ECA) signed in 2013, Taiwan and New Zealand in 2014 concluded pacts on accreditation and customs cooperation.


In June 2015, Taiwan inked an MOU and an agreement on fisheries cooperation with Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The accords are expected to enhance bilateral collaboration on the development of fishing industries and the sustainable management of fishery resources.


Taiwan-Europe Relations

The ROC enjoys strong ties with Europe. The European Union is currently the ROC’s leading source of foreign direct investment and fifth-largest trading partner, while the ROC is the EU’s seventh-largest trading partner in Asia and 18th-largest worldwide. The annual Taiwan-EU Consultation Meeting, held alternately in Brussels and Taipei, serves as an important platform for promoting cooperation in major areas.


The close bilateral relations are evidenced by the more than 250 agreements concluded since 1988 between Taiwan and EU member states. These agreements span a wide range of areas, such as agriculture, air transportation, culture, education, finance, health care, intellectual property rights, research, taxation, technology, and working holiday programs.


Parliamentary exchanges in particular have played a valuable role in advancing the development of cooperative bilateral and multilateral ties over the years. The European Parliament-Taiwan Friendship Group, for example, has supported Taiwan’s endeavors to play a constructive role in the international community and contribute to regional and global peace and prosperity.


Among the European Parliament resolutions favorable to Taiwan, one in October 2013 urged the European Commission to begin talks with Taiwan on an agreement concerning investment protection and market access. Another resolution, attached to an annual report concerning the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, praised Taiwan’s efforts in maintaining stability in the Asia-Pacific region, recognized the progress made in cross-strait relations, and reiterated support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations. In another annual report, the European Parliament resolved to push for the negotiation of a Taiwan-EU ECA and to encourage closer cooperation in culture, education, environmental protection, research and trade.


In October 2015, the European Commission released a trade strategy document stating the EU’s intention to explore negotiations on investment matters with Taiwan.


Other positive developments in recent relations between the ROC and individual European countries are as follows:


• March 2015—Taiwan and Poland concluded an aviation agreement to facilitate bilateral flow of goods and peoples.

• April 2015—Taiwan and Slovakia signed an agreement on science and technology cooperation.

• November 2015—Belgium’s Chamber of Representatives passed a resolution calling for ECA negotiations between the EU and Taiwan and supporting Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations.

• December 2015—Taiwan inked a working holiday MOU with the Czech Republic and completed an agreement with Italy on the avoidance of double taxation and tax evasion.

• January 2016—Taiwan and Poland signed an MOU on cooperation concerning pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

• February 2016—Taiwan and Poland signed an MOU on mutual recognition of driver’s licenses.

• May 2016—Taiwan and the United Kingdom concluded an agreement on prisoner transfer.


Embassies and Missions Abroad


Participation in International Bodies

As of April 2016, Taiwan enjoyed full membership in 37 intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) or their subsidiary bodies. Taiwan participates in the World Trade Organization under the name Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, and in the APEC forum under the name Chinese Taipei. In August 2015, the North Pacific Fisheries Commission became the latest IGO to welcome Taiwan as a member. In addition, the ROC has observership or other status in 22 other IGOs or their subsidiary bodies.


Among these 59 organizations, AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center and the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asian and Pacific Region, two renowned international organizations dedicated to promoting global and regional agricultural development, are headquartered in Taiwan.


In 2013, after years of efforts, Taiwan was invited to attend the 38th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as a guest of the president of the ICAO Council. This marked Taiwan’s first opportunity to participate in the world aviation body since it lost its representation in the U.N. in 1971. Encouraged by this development, Taiwan will continue to seek further and broader participation in relevant ICAO meetings, mechanisms and activities. Currently, Taiwan is also seeking official observership in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well as INTERPOL.


While full membership in the U.N. currently remains distant, the ROC government continues to seek meaningful and pertinent participation in U.N. specialized agencies and mechanisms crucial to the welfare of the people and the development of the nation, including the WHO, ICAO and the UNFCCC.


Development and Humanitarian Assistance

In the 1950s, the ROC was the beneficiary of approximately US$100 million in foreign aid each year, equivalent to about 9 percent of its gross domestic product at the time. Thanks to such aid, it was able to come through the difficult post-war years and create an economic miracle in Taiwan.


The people of Taiwan are grateful for this generosity and feel morally obligated to help other societies in need. Over the past five decades, Taiwan has provided hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of financial, material and technical aid, accumulating an abundance of valuable experience and a long list of accomplishments in the process.


International Cooperation and Development Fund

The International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF) 國際合作發展基金會 was established in 1996 as an independent agency implementing government-funded foreign aid programs. The organization’s core operations include lending and investment, technical cooperation, humanitarian assistance, and international education and training. In 2015, the organization implemented 118 projects in partner countries, principally in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Oceania.


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The TaiwanICDF’s lending and investment activities range from providing microfinancing to funding large-scale infrastructure projects through cooperation with multilateral development banks, and from assisting private-sector growth to boosting social development.


The organization also nurtures academic talent through its Higher Education Scholarship Program, which enables foreign students to study in a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs at universities in Taiwan. The scholarships primarily focus on sustainable agricultural development, public health and medicine, science and technology, the humanities and social sciences, and private-sector development.


The broader goal of education and training operations at the TaiwanICDF is to spur social and economic progress by assisting partner countries in improving and expanding their pool of human resources. To this end, the organization conducts seminars and workshops on Taiwan’s own development experiences for participants from around the world.


To utilize the talents of ROC nationals who are eager to share their know-how while learning from other cultures, the TaiwanICDF recruits medical professionals, technicians and agricultural experts to serve abroad. The organization also directs the Taiwan Youth Overseas Service 外交替代役, through which young men provide technical assistance abroad in place of military service at home.


In addition, the TaiwanICDF offers timely and long-term assistance in cooperation with like-minded public and private organizations in the event of natural or manmade disasters. It focuses on improving responses in terms of food security, health care, water supply, sanitation and hygiene.


Contributions by Nongovernmental Organizations

Following societal changes, economic liberalization and democratic transformation over the past few decades, domestic NGOs have flourished. They have raised the ROC’s profile by working with renowned international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) on projects closely aligned with U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.


In Cambodia, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam, Taiwan’s NGOs have collaborated on agriculture, public health and poverty reduction with a variety of INGOs, such as the Humpty Dumpty Institute, the Border Consortium, Handicaps Enfants sans Frontière, Cleft Lip and Palate Association Pakistan, and Fullness in Christ Fellowship. In Africa, Taiwan’s NGOs implemented educational and medical projects in Malawi and Swaziland. In South America, NGOs cooperated with the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada and World Vision in El Salvador, Haiti and Paraguay. Related projects covered such areas as humanitarian aid, medical assistance, poverty eradication, democratization, human rights and sustainable development.


Taiwan’s NGOs providing international assistance in the past few years include the Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps 臺灣路竹會, which delivered medical services to countries such as Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Philippines; the Taipei Overseas Peace Service 中華人權協會台北海外和平服務團, which has worked for decades to provide primary education to refugee children in Thailand; the Amitofo Care Center 阿彌陀佛關懷中心, which has established orphanages in southern Africa and collaborated with the Puhsein Foundation 普賢教育基金會 to promote traditional Chinese education programs in Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland; and World Vision Taiwan and the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families 臺灣兒童暨家庭扶助基金會, which have helped thousands of children around the globe through both public- and private-sector support.


In 2013, the Taiwan Alliance in International Development (Taiwan AID) 台灣海外援助發展聯盟 was formed by 29 domestic NGOs, including the Eden Social Welfare Foundation 伊甸社會福利基金會, Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation 羅慧夫顱顏基金會 and Zhi-Shan Foundation Taiwan 至善社會福利基金會. Taiwan AID continues to serve as a platform for experience and information sharing and cooperation in the fields of humanitarian aid, post-disaster reconstruction, long-term development and education.


In 2014, Taiwan AID held an emergency shelter workshop in cooperation with the MOFA, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, forming a new model for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief cooperation between Taiwan and the U.S. through an NGO.


Taiwan is also the birthplace and headquarters of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation 佛教慈濟慈善事業基金會, the world’s largest Buddhist charity. The foundation has some 10 million regular financial supporters worldwide and 250,000 volunteer workers serving in 49 countries and provides medical services, emergency relief, and various types of long-term assistance all over the world. Its members are typically among the first to reach the scenes of major natural disasters.


Related Websites

• Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

• NGOs in Taiwan:

• International Cooperation and Development Fund:

• Taipei Overseas Peace Service:

• Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation:

• AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center:

• Food and Fertilizer Technology Center:

• Taiwan Fund for Children and Families: