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Free area of the Republic of China
Location of Taiwan
Largest cities
Ethnic groups
• Total
36,193 km2 (13,974 sq mi)
• 2018 census
• Density
650/km2 (1,683.5/sq mi)
CurrencyNew Taiwan Dollar (TWD, NTD)
Time zoneUTC+08:00 (National Standard Time)
Date formatyyyy年mm月dd日
Driving sideright
Calling code+886
ISO 3166 codeTW
Internet, .台灣, .台湾
Free area of the
Republic of China
Traditional Chinese中華民國自由地區
Simplified Chinese中华民国自由地区
Taiwan area
Traditional Chinese臺灣地區
Simplified Chinese台湾地区
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

The free area of the Republic of China,[I] also known as the "Taiwan Area of the Republic of China", the "Tai-Min Area (Taiwan and Fuchien)" or simply the "Taiwan Area", is a term used by the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to refer to the territories under its actual control.[1][2] As a legal term written in the Additional articles of the ROC constitution and Cross-Strait Act.

The area currently under the definition consists of the island groups of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and some minor islands. The collective term "Tai-Peng-Kin-Ma" is literally equivalent except that it only refers to the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu Area, to the exclusion of the South China Sea possessions—Pratas Island (Tungsha/Dongsha) and Taiping Island.[3]

The term is complementary to "Mainland Area",[4] which is practically viewed as being synonymous to mainland China,[5] despite the fact that the ROC constitution never defined specific territorial boundaries.[6][7]


The term "free area" or "Free China" was used during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) to describe the territories under the control of the Kuomintang led Nationalist Government in Chungking (today Chongqing), as opposed to the parts of China under Japanese occupation, including Nanking (today Nanjing) the capital of the Republic of China until the Japanese invasion in 1937.

The Japanese occupation ended with the imperial surrender in 1945, but the term "Free China" was soon to acquire a new meaning in the context of the early Cold War. Following the Communist Party's victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the newly inaugurated People's Republic of China solidified its control of mainland China, while the Kuomintang government retreated to Taiwan and selected Taipei to serve as the provisional capital of the Republic of China. Mainland China was officially considered to be in a state of "Communist Rebellion", also known as "Communist China" or "Red China", and furthermore all territories still under Nationalist administration were said to constitute the "Free Area" of China, also known as "Nationalist China" or "Free China". This period of mobilization was officially terminated by the government on 1 May 1991 with the implementation of the Additional Articles of the Constitution.

Prior to the Battle of Dachen Archipelago in 1955, the Free Area also encompassed a group of islands off Zhejiang, up to then part of the ROC province of Chekiang. The islands have since been administered exclusively by the People's Republic of China.


Various names used to describe the geopolitical area include:

Names of the Free area of the Republic of China
Short name The Free Area Taiwan Area Tai-Peng-Kin-Ma Area Tai-Min Region
Long name Free Area of the Republic of China[I] Taiwan Area[II] Taiwan-Penghu-
Kinmen-Matsu Area
Taiwan-Fukien Region
Chinese 自由地區 臺灣地區 臺澎金馬地區 臺閩地區
Mandarin Zìyóu dìqū Táiwān dìqū Tái-Pēng-Jīn-Mǎ dìqū Tái-Mǐn dìqū
Taiwanese Hokkien Chū-iû tē-khu Tâi-oân tē-khu Tâi-Phêⁿ-Kim-Má tē-khu Tâi-Bân tē-khu
Hakka Chhṳ-yù thi-khî Thòi-vàn thi-khî Thòi-Phàng-Kîm-Mâ thi-khî Thòi-Mén thi-khî
Matsunese Cê̤ṳ-iù dê-kṳ̆ Dài-uăng dê-kṳ̆ Dài-Pàng-Gĭng-Mā dê-kṳ̆ Dài-Mìng dê-kṳ̆
Notes "Free" refers to the area that is not under the Communist Party's control. This term is used by the Additional Articles of the Constitution. Refers to the general area surrounding the island of Taiwan. This term is used by various laws and regulations that governing cross-Strait relations. Refers to the four main archipelagos under the government's jurisdiction. Refers to the two historical provinces under actual administration. Namely, Taiwan (Taiwan and Penghu) and a small part of Fukien (Kinmen and Matsu). is the traditional abbreviation for Fukien.

Legal use

The term "free area of the Republic of China" has persisted to the present day in the ROC legislation. The Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China delegates numerous rights to exercise the sovereignty of the state, including that of electing the President and Legislature, to citizens residing in the "free area of the Republic of China". This term was put into the Constitution with the promulgation of the first set of amendments to the Constitution in 1991 and has been retained in the most recent revision passed in 2005.

The need to use the term "free area" in the Constitution arose out of the discrepancy between the notion that the Republic of China was the sole legitimate government of China and the pressures of the popular sovereignty movement. In the 1980s and 1990s, there were demands, particularly by the Tangwai movement and other groups opposed to one-party authoritarian KMT rule, to restructure the ROC government, long dominated by mainlanders, to be more representative of the Taiwanese people it governed. For example, until 1991, members of the National Assembly and Legislative Yuan elected in 1948 to serve mainland constituencies remained in their posts indefinitely and the President of the Republic of China was to be elected by this same "ten thousand year parliament" (Chinese: 萬年國會) dominated by aging KMT members. However, more conservative politicians, while acquiescing to the need for increased democracy, feared that constitutional changes granting localized sovereignty would jeopardize the ROC government's claims as the legitimate Chinese government and thereby promote Taiwan independence.

While the 1991 revisions of the Constitution granted the sovereignty rights to the Taiwanese people, it did not explicitly name Taiwan and instead used the term "free area" to maintain the notion that the Republic of China encompassed more than Taiwan. In ordinary legislation, the term "Taiwan Area" is usually used, especially in contexts of trade and exchange. In contrast to the "free area" is the "mainland area", which the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area defines as "the territory of the Republic of China outside the Taiwan Area". However, on more practical grounds, the "mainland area" refers simply to Mainland China.

In addition, there are two other Acts defining other "areas": the "Hong Kong and Macau Area" (Chinese: 港澳地區). The hand-over of these former European colonies to the People's Republic of China necessitated laws governing the relations of the Taiwan Area with them. The Acts are worded in a manner to avoid discussing whether the Republic of China claims sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macau.

Use by People's Republic of China

Based on the One China policy, the People's Republic of China (PRC) does not recognize the legitimacy of the ROC. A series of standardized terms called "Taiwan-related terms" (涉台用语) were invented by the PRC government, which are used in official statements, news reports, and press releases, etc., to serve this purpose. Among them, the term "Taiwan area" or "Taiwan authority" (台湾当局) is commonly used to replace "Republic of China" or "Taiwan" (because mentioning only "Taiwan" but not "Taiwan area" or "Taiwan Province" would give an impression that Taiwan is an independent country). For example, the term "Leader of the Taiwan area" (台湾地区领导人) is used to replace "President of the Republic of China" or "President of Taiwan", "Taiwanese citizens" is replaced with "Residents of Taiwan area" (台湾地区居民), and Executive Yuan is called "Taiwan area's executive body" (台湾地区行政管理机构),[8] etc.

Administrative divisions

Overview of administrative divisions of the Republic of China
Republic of China
Free area[i] Mainland area[ii]
Special municipalities[α][iii] Provinces[iv] Not administered[v]
Counties[α] Autonomous municipalities[α][vi]
Districts[β] Mountain
Townships[α][β][vii] Districts[β]
  1. ^ a b c d e f Has an elected executive and an elected legislative council.
  2. ^ a b c Has an appointed district administrator for managing local affairs and carrying out tasks commissioned by superior agency.
  3. ^ Has an elected village administrator for managing local affairs and carrying out tasks commissioned by superior agency.

See also


  1. ^ Also known as the Taiwan area or Tai–Min area (Chinese: 臺閩地區; lit. 'Taiwan–Fujian area')
  2. ^ The mainland area consists of Mainland China, Tibet and (previously) Outer Mongolia
  3. ^ Special municipalities, cities, and county-administered cities are all called shi (Chinese: ; lit. 'city')
  4. ^ Nominal; provincial governments have been abolished
  5. ^ Constitutionally having the same structure as the free area, these are currently under the Chinese Communist Party control with a different structure
  6. ^ Sometimes called cities (Chinese: ) or provincial cities (Chinese: 省轄市) to distinguish them from special municipalities and county-administered cities
  7. ^ There are two types of townships: rural townships or xīang (Chinese: ) and urban townships or zhèn (Chinese: )
  8. ^ Villages in rural townships are known as tsūn (Chinese: ), those in other jurisdictions are known as (Chinese: )
Words in native languages
  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^


  1. ^ "Laws and Regulations Regarding Mainland Affairs". Mainland Affairs Council, Executive Yuan. 17 September 2020. Archived from the original on 28 September 2021. Retrieved 23 September 2021. Article 2: The following terms as used in this Act are defined below.1. "Taiwan Area" refers to Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu, and any other area under the effective control of the Government.2. "Mainland Area" refers to the territory of the Republic of China outside the Taiwan Area.3. "People of the Taiwan Area" refers to the people who have household registrations in the Taiwan Area.4. "People of the Mainland Area" refers to the people who have household registrations in the Mainland Area
  2. ^ "The Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China Archived 12 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine." Republic of China. Retrieved on 7 April 2009.
  3. ^ Corcuff, Stéphane; Edmondson, Robert (2002). Memories of the Future: National Identity Issues and the Search for a New Taiwan. M.E. Sharpe. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-7656-0792-8. Archived from the original on 11 April 2023. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  4. ^ Chen Wei-han (8 June 2016). "NPP to push constitutional reforms". Taipei Times. Taipei. Archived from the original on 8 October 2017. Retrieved 8 October 2017. An amendment made to the Constitution in 1991 "to meet the requisites prior to national unification" recognizes the "Chinese mainland area" as opposed to the "free area," and both areas make up the Republic of China.
  5. ^ Sara L. Friedman (2015). Exceptional States: Chinese Immigrants and Taiwanese Sovereignty. Oakland, California: University of California Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0520961562. Archived from the original on 11 April 2023. Retrieved 6 June 2020. The Act's use of the spatial language of "area" was a direct reference to the postwar ROC Constitution, which had created two classes of Chinese based on politically differentiated, territorial criteria: those of the "free area," which included Taiwan and the scattered smaller islands under post-1949 ROC control, and those of the 'mainland area', who presumably were not free because they lived under Communist rule.
  6. ^ 《中華民國憲法》第四條
  7. ^ 廖顯謨 (2017). "疆域與國家認同:我國憲法第四條「固有疆域」之探究" (PDF). 高苑學報. 22: 156–162. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 June 2023. Retrieved 22 June 2023. 在台灣,國人對我國疆域範圍的認知,可謂真的是「各自表述」…
  8. ^ "Taiwan appoints new chief administrator". People's Daily. 3 December 2014. Archived from the original on 27 November 2021. Retrieved 15 November 2022.