The island of Taiwan , formerly known as Formosa, was inhabited by aborigines before the 17th century, when Dutch and Spanish colonies opened the island to mass Han immigration. After a brief rule by the Kingdom of Tungning , the island was annexed in by the Qing dynasty , the last dynasty of China. In the early s, Taiwan entered a period of rapid economic growth and industrialization , creating a stable industrial economy. In the s and early s, it changed from a one-party military dictatorship dominated by the Kuomintang to a multi-party democracy with a semi-presidential system. Taiwan is the 22nd-largest economy in the world, and its high-tech industry plays a key role in the global economy.