According to A History of Taiwan by Hung Chian-Chao (2000), from 1946 to 1949, Chiang Kai-Shek exploited the Taiwan Provincial government’s money in order to pay off the budget of the ROC government on the mainland. There was rampant inflation on the mainland during that time because of government money constantly going into the pockets of ROC government officials. But the siphoning of the Taiwan’s provincial government’s money in order to reduce the budget deficit in Shanghai caused inflation in Taiwan almost as bad as in China.
During the time when Taiwan was a colony of Japan (1895 to 1945), the currency used in Taiwan was the “Taiwanese yen”. The notes and coins were different than the Japanese yen notes and coins used in Japan proper, but the exchange rate of the Taiwanese yen was pegged to the Japanese yen at the rate of one to one. It was very similar to the system used in Australia before 1966. (The currency used in Australia before 1966 used to be the Australian pound, which was pegged to the British pound at the rate of one to one.)
Chiang Kai-Shek thought that since the inflation in China was so extreme at that time, the best way to use Taiwanese money to pay off his loans in China would be to start a new currency and have its value pegged to the Chinese yuan. So on May 22, 1946, all the banks in Taiwan started issuing “Taiwan dollars”, and everyone in Taiwan was told that they could trade in their Taiwanese yen for Taiwan dollars at the rate of one to one, and the Taiwan dollar was pegged to the Chinese yuan at the rate of 30 to 1.
But since the inflation in the ROC-controlled area of China at that time was so extreme, this peg was soon removed, and by August 1948, the exchange rate between Taiwan dollars and Chinese yuan had gone from 30 to 1635! But still, inflation in Taiwan from 1946 to 1953 was extremely high. For example, the prices of goods in Taiwan rose an average of 776 percent in 1947, 1144 percent in 1948, and 1189 during the first half of 1949.
Then, on June 15th, 1949, the New Taiwan dollar (“NT$”) was issued, and Taiwan dollars were traded in for New Taiwan dollars at the fixed rate of 40,000 to 1.
When the NT$ was first issued (in June 1949), the exchange rate with the US dollar was NT$5 = US$1. In other words, NT$1 = 20 cents. But this means that one (old) Taiwan dollar was worth only 5 millionths of one US dollar! But don’t forget that just three years earlier, the (old) Taiwan dollars were issued in exchange for Taiwanese yen, which were of equal value to Japanese yen!
By just one year later (July 1950), the NT$ had already lost half of its value, and then the exchange rate with the US dollar was NT$10 = US$1.
I feel sorry for the Taiwanese people who were forced to lose almost all of their savings just because of Chiang Kai-Shek’s selfishness, greediness, and mis-management! Everyone’s savings quickly became almost completely worthless, and people were forced to sell everything they had just to be able to eat. Thousands of people who were rich until 1946 became paupers just a few years later! It was very similar to what happened in South Vietnam when it was taken over by Communist North Vietnam in 1975.
Inflation in Taiwan was finally brought under control in late 1953. Then later (but I don’t know exactly when) the value of the NT$ was pegged to the US dollar at the rate of NT$40 = US$1. The peg remained until martial law was lifted in 1987. Then as soon as the peg was removed, the value suddenly increased to NT$25 = US$1, which caused thousands of Taiwanese exporting companies to either move their factories to China or go bankrupt.
Then the value fluctuated between NT$25 and NT$28 = US$1 from 1987 until the Asian economic collapse of mid-1997. Since then, the value decreased steadily until it finally reached a low of only NT$36.25 = US$1 last October, which is the lowest I’ve ever seen it since 1987. Since then, it has “recovered” slightly, and it’s now worth NT$33.85 = US$1.
Well, that’s the history of the NT dollar. Sorry that this post is so long, but I didn’t want to omit anything important.