Taiwan is situated in the center of a chain of islands stretching from Japan in the north to the Philippines in the south, only 95 miles off the coast of mainland China. Taiwan enjoys a very favorable geographic location and has been rightfully called “the natural gateway to East Asia.”

With a population of approximately 23.5 million people, and a landmass of close to 14,000 square miles, the country has four main cities: Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung and Tainan.

There are so many beautiful historical as well as modern places to be seen in Taiwan that it will leave you with a lifetime of fond memories. From the moment you set foot there to when you depart, you feel the warm and friendly hospitality of wonderful Taiwanese people enhancing your visit. One of my favorite places is Sun Moon Lake, which I highly recommend for couples on their honeymoons.

Presently ranked 18th among the world’s largest exporters and importers, Taiwan since 1950 has grown rapidly economically in such fields as agriculture, infrastructure, medicine, science and technology, providing much valuable medical information to World Health Organization (WHO), as well as vital medical aid to disadvantaged communities around the world.

The biggest economic challenges that Taiwan has been facing over the years are from China. Since 1990, China has used its economic power to force other countries to break diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Furthermore, the Chinese government refuses to maintain diplomatic relations with any nation that recognizes Taiwan. Today there are less than 20 countries — down from 30 in 1990 — that have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. A few months ago the Dominican Republic, and this month the West African country Burkina Faso broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

China recently directly urged the secretary of WHO to not invite Taiwan to take part in the World Health Assembly (WHA). If this happens, Taiwan’s absence can adversely affect the health and welfare of millions of innocent Taiwanese citizens. The WHA is a gathering that allows each country to learn about medical breakthroughs, disease prevention, and other important health issues that can help citizens of participating countries.

Recently, 172 members of the US House of Representatives and 13 senators sent two separate letters to WHO’s director general supporting Taiwan’s participation in the WHA. These members of Congress took a stand and advocated for democratic values and human rights, highlighting the need for all members of the international community to support those principles through action.

Additional threats that Taiwan faces include China’s military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. This year they have intensified these exercises in comparison to previous years.

The time has come for China to recognize the existence of Taiwan as a viable, independent state. The overwhelming majority of its population deplores communist dogma and desires the thriving democracy it currently enjoys.

China’s economic coercion may not be countered, except by concepts of morality, which render little consequences. Its appetite is limited by the fear of a world war that may end the existence of China, Communism and unfortunately the rest of our world.

The United Nations, the United States and other democratic countries throughout the world must unite and support the democratic government of Taiwan and its people to insure its sovereignty and independence.

Long live Taiwan.

Nat Nehdar is a member of the Pasadena Human Relations Commission and a motivational speaker.