Taiwan lies in the western Pacific Ocean astride the Tropic of Cancer, less than 161 km (100 mi) from the southeast coast of mainland China, from which it is separated by the Taiwan (Formosa) Strait. To the northeast, less than 129 km (80 mi) away, is the west end of the Japanese Ryukyu Islands; to the east is the Pacific Ocean; the Philippine island of Luzon lies 370 km (230 mi) to the south.
Besides the island proper, Taiwan comprises 21 small islands in the Taiwan group and 64 islands in the Penghu (Pescadores) group; the total area is 35,980 km² (13,892 mi²). Comparatively, the area occupied by Taiwan is slightly larger than Moldova or about twice the size of Kuwait. Leaf-shaped Taiwan island extends 394 km (245 mi) north-northeast to south-southwest and 144 km (89 mi) east-southeast to west-northwest; it has a coastline of 1,566 km (973 mi). The Penghu group, lying 40 km (25 mi) west of Taiwan island, has a total area of 127 km² (49 mi²).
Also under the control of the Taiwan government are Quemoy (Chinmen) and Matsu, two island groups located strategically close to the mainland Chinese province of Fujian (Fukien). Quemoy is the biggest of a group of six islands, two of which are occupied by the People's Republic of China; it is situated in Xiamen (Amoy) Bay and has a total area of 176 km² (68 mi²). The Matsu group, consisting of Nankan (the largest), Peikan, Tungyin, and about 10 small islets, 30.6 km (19 mi) off the mainland port city of Fuzhou; it has a total area of 28.8 km² (11.1 mi²). The capital city of Taipei is located on northern Taiwan.
Taiwan perches on the margin of the continental shelf. Along the west coast the sea is rather shallow, averaging 90 m (300 ft) and not exceeding 210 m (690 ft) at the deepest point; however, it deepens abruptly along the east coast, dropping to a depth of 4,000 m (13,000 ft) only 50 km (31 mi) offshore. The terrain is precipitous on the east coast, with practically no natural harbour except Suao Bay in the north. The west coast is marked by wide tidal flats. Kaohsiung, the southern port, is situated in a long lagoon called Haochiung Bay. The north coast with its many inlets provides Taiwan with its best harbour, Chilung (Keelung).
The eastern two-thirds of the island are composed of rugged foothill ranges and massive mountain chains. A low, flat coastal plain, extending from north to south, occupies the western third. Yü Shan, with an elevation of 3,997 m (13,113 ft), is the highest peak on the island.
Located on the Eurasian tectonic Plate near the border of the Philippine Plate, Taiwan is part of the "Ring of Fire," a seismically active band surrounding the Pacific Ocean. Mild to moderate earthquake tremors are common, with over 200 minor shocks recorded each year.
All the rivers originate in the mountains in the central part of the island. They have short courses and rapid streams. The longest river, Choshui, draining westward, is only 190 km (118 mi) long. Only the Tanshui, which flows past Taipei in the north, is navigable.
Taiwan enjoys an oceanic, subtropical monsoon climate. The warm and humid summer lasts from May until September, the mild winter from December until February. The average lowland temperature in January is 16°C (61°F) in the north and 20°C (68°F) in the south; the average July temperature is 28°C (82°F) in both the north and south. The growing season lasts throughout the year, except at elevations above 1,200 m (4,000 ft), where frost and snow occasionally occur.
The average rainfall is 257 cm (101 in), ranging from 127 cm (50 in) at the middle of the western coast to 635 cm (250 in) and more on exposed mountain slopes. Southwest monsoon winds blow from May through September and northeast monsoon winds from October to March. Only the extreme southwest has a distinct dry season. As a result of the tropical cyclonic storms that sweep out of the western Pacific, typhoons occur between June and October.
|Location||:||Eastern Asia, islands bordering the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, South China Sea, and Taiwan Strait, north of the Philippines, off the southeastern coast of China|
|Geographic coordinates||:||23 30 N, 121 00 E|
||:||total: 35,980 sq km
land: 32,260 sq km
water: 3,720 sq km
note: includes the Pescadores, Matsu, and Quemoy islands
|Area - comparative||:||slightly larger than Moldova or about twice the size of Kuwait|
|Land boundaries||:||0 km|
||:||territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
|Climate||:||tropical; marine; rainy season during southwest monsoon (June to August); cloudiness is persistent and extensive all year|
|Terrain||:||eastern two-thirds mostly rugged mountains; flat to gently rolling plains in west|
||:||lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: Yu Shan 3,952 m
||:||small deposits of coal, natural gas, limestone, marble, and asbestos|
|Land use||:||arable land: 24%
permanent crops: 1%
other: 75% (2001)
|Total renewable water resources
||:||67 cu km (2000)|
volcanism: Kueishantao Island (elev. 401 m), east of Taiwan, is its only historically active volcano, although it has not erupted in centuries
|Environment - current issues
||:||air pollution; water pollution from industrial emissions, raw sewage; contamination of drinking water supplies; trade in endangered species; low-level radioactive waste disposal|
|Environment - international agreements
||:||party to: none of the selected agreements because of Taiwan's international status|
|Geography - note||:||strategic location adjacent to both the Taiwan Strait and the Luzon Strait|