Since 1950, the government has adopted a series of economic plans to help guide and promote economic growth and industrialization. The first four-year economic development plan (1953–56) emphasized reconstruction and increased production of rice, fertilizers, and hydroelectric power; it resulted in an increase of 37% in GNP and 17% in income per capita. In the second four-year plan (1957–60), import substitution industries were encouraged. Industry and agriculture both registered significant gains; GNP increased by 31%, and national income per capita by 13%. The third four-year plan (1961–64) emphasized labor-intensive export industries, basic services, energy development, industries contributing to agricultural growth, and exploration and development of the island's limited natural resources. The results were a 42% increase in GNP and a 31% increase in per capita income. US loans and grants, totaling $2.2 billion, and foreign (mostly overseas Chinese) investment financed these early stages of development.
Following the curtailment of AID assistance in 1965, the fourth four-year plan (1965–68) was introduced, followed by the fifth four-year plan (1969–72); increases in GNP for these periods were 46% and 55%, respectively. By 1971, exports of manufactured goods had registered spectacular increases, and Taiwan's foreign trade pattern changed from one of chronic deficit to consistent trade surpluses. At this point, the government began to redirect its priorities from labor-intensive industries to the development of such capital-intensive sectors as shipbuilding, chemicals, and petrochemicals. The sixth four-year plan (1973–76), adversely affected by the worldwide recession, was terminated in 1975 after producing only an 19% increase in GNP. It was replaced by a six-year plan (1976–81) that focused on expansion of basic industries and completion of 10 major infrastructural projects, including rail electrification, construction of the North Link railroad, development of nuclear energy, and construction of the steel mill at Kaohsiung and of the new port of T'aichung.
In 1978, the six-year plan was revised, and 12 new infrastructural projects were added, including completion of the round-the-island railroad, construction of three cross-island highways, expansion of T'aichung Port's harbor, and expansion of steel and nuclear energy facilities. A subsequent four-year plan (1986–89), designed to supplement a longer-range 10-year plan (1980–89), had as a target average annual GNP increase of 6.5%. Among its goals were price stability, annual growth of 7.5% in the service sector, trade liberalization, encouragement of balanced regional development, and redirection of new industrial growth into such high-technology industries as computers, robotics, and bioengineering. In response to flagging export growth and a slowdown in private investment following a stock market collapse in 1990, the government devised a Six-Year Plan for 1991–97 aimed at economic revitalization. This plan targeted investment mainly in transportation, telecommunications, power generation, and pollution control. A "Statute for Upgrading Industries" enacted in early 1991 continued the government's efforts to provide incentives for private investment in research and development and high-technology sectors of the economy. Economic development in the late 1990s focused on a continuing privatization of government enterprises, the opening of the Taiwan market to foreigners, and high investment in the technological sector.
Taiwan's six-year national development plan for 2002–08 is titled "Challenge 2008." It is estimated to cost $75 billion and has seven specified goals: 1) expanding the number of products and technologies that meet the world's highest standards; 2) doubling the number of foreign visitors; 3) increasing expenditures on research and development to 3% GDP; 4) reducing unemployment to less than 4%; 5) increasing the average growth rate to over 5%; 6) increasing number of broadband internet users to over 6 million; and 7) creating about 700,000 jobs. There are 10 major areas of emphasis, including cultivating talent for the E-generation (with a special emphasis on mastering English); developing the cultural arts industry; developing a digital Taiwan, using information technologies to make government more efficient and industries more competitive; developing Taiwan as a regional headquarters for multinational corporations; and constructing culturally rich hometown communities as a means of retaining talent, in addition to more standard goals of increasing value-added, improving the transportation infrastructure, conserving water resources and doubling the number of tourists.