The government of Republic of China (ROC) relocated in Taiwan in 1949 after moving out of mainland China. During the following half-century, distance education has contributed to the national rise in the quality of human resources. The National Open University is the main provider of distance education.
Taiwan, ROC, comprises a major island called Taiwan (394 kilometres long; 144 kilometres wide; and 36,000 square kilometres in area, less than one-sixth of the UK), of which about two-thirds is covered with forest peaks, and a number of surrounding small islands situated in the Pacific Ocean. The country is the second-most densely populated area in the world with 601 people per square kilometre. Over 21.7 million people were registered in January 1998 (Government Information Office, 1998c).
The last decade of the twentieth century has seen a major transformation in Taiwan, ROC. Taiwan has enjoyed economic prosperity for some time. As one of the four ‘little tigers’ of Asia, its per capita GNP reached US $13,233 and the average national income increased to US $12,019 in 1997. Taiwan has a very low unemployment rate, at 2.35 per cent in April 1998 (Government Information Office 1998a). Moreover, the country had one of the largest foreign exchange holdings in the world, US $84.03 billion in January 1998 (Government Information Office 1998a). However, there is a decline in the economic growth rate, dropping to 6.81 per cent in 1997. Owing to the country’s shrinking trade surplus and south-east Asia’s financial crises, financial markets have begun to sink. Maintaining existing economic achievements and further development are major concerns.
Political reforms in Taiwan, ROC, over the last decade, referred to as the ‘quiet revolution’, have rapidly accelerated. In particular, the abolition in 1991 of the ‘Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion’, the legal basis for the enforcement of martial law in the country for over three decades, marked a significant move towards democracy.