Several centuries ago Taiwan prospered as a center for trade and commerce in East Asia. In the late 1800s, and then under Japanese control from 1895 to 1945, Taiwan again thrived economically, surpassing all of East Asia except for Japan. But after World War II, Taiwan's economy deteriorated. In the 1950s and even into the 1960s, Taiwan did not appear to have good prospects for economic de velopment. In fact, predictions at that time were very pessimistic because of the island's lack of resources, an unfavorable land-to-population ratio, a shortage of capital, and a discredited political leadership. However, in the mid-1960s Taiwan's economy took off, its subsequent growth the envy of the world. Many used the term "miracle" to describe Taiwan's economic success, which triggered far-reaching social and political changes. Today, although growth has slowed, the economy having matured, Taiwan has been doing well economically, even through the Asian economic meltdown, and remains a model for other coun tries. Its economic success also gives Taiwan prestige and, in the context of a new world order wherein economic power is more important, influence in global politics.
Centuries ago, although Taiwan's economy was generally in a primitive state of development, the Aborigines engaged in some commerce with other areas in the region. However, by the 1500s, this trading had all but disappeared, and, at the time of the immigration of Chinese to the island, the economic activities of the Aborigines included hunting, fishing, berry picking, and some farming. The mountain Aborigines mainly engaged in the former three pursuits; the lowland Aborigines cultivated some of the level land on the island. The island was subse-