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Chinese Warships Push Boundaries With Taiwan

Chinese boundary breaches with Taiwan led to an alarming rise in tensions between China and Taiwan, as reported by News Section Editor, Olivia Chan.


On 4 August 2022, Chinese naval ships and aircraft crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait, which have contributed to peace between China and Taiwan for 70 years. This was part of China’s protest against US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei at the beginning of August. Taiwan currently prepares for routine breaches of the median line by the Chinese navy. [1]


According to a Taiwanese source, 10 Chinese navy ships briefly crossed the median line before being driven away by Taiwanese navy ships. Consequently, Taiwan may be forced to react militarily if China continues to breach the line. This began due to targeted military drills conducted by China in zones near Taiwan, shortly after Pelosi’s visits. [2]


“We need to join our hands with like-minded partners to make sure that the median line is still there, to safeguard peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” - Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu


Currently, Taiwan has no immediate plan to confer more power to the military or coastguard. This accords with President Tsai Ingwen’s repeated statements against the provocation or escalation of conflict by Taiwan. [3]


Accordingly, the strait currently upholds its status as international waters through the passage of Western navies. Under international law, peace is implied upon international waters, thus preserving an obligation against conflict in the strait. However, such passive retention of peace may cause the erasure of the median line, with respect to active Chinese aggression pushing the limits of international law. As the line itself lacks legal standing, China’s push would not lead to consequences such as international sanctions. This is the basis for the beginnings of military conflict, as shown by China’s repeated incursions to the expense of Taiwan’s patrol forces. Frigates have been pursued by destroyers, while Chinese fighter jets dived short distances past the median line. [4]


This may signify a turning point in the constant tensions between China and Taiwan. The conflict arose from a long-standing political opposition between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Kuomintang (KMT). In short, this arose after the death of Sun Yat-Sen, a key Chinese revolutionary in the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, which resulted in the collapse of the Qing dynasty, and the first leader of the KMT. A struggle for power followed his death, leading to a period of instability and the Chinese Civil War. It was in this period when the left-wing CCP and centre-right-wing KMT broke their alliance against imperialism and feudalism and conflict erupted. Consequently, following the occupation of China by the CCP in 1949, the KMT and its supporters fled to Taiwan, establishing the Republic of China (ROC). [5]


Beyond political spats, territorial issues complicate and contribute to the current China-Taiwan situation. In the late 17th century, China gained control of Taiwan for about 200 years, before Japanese acquisition after the first Sino-Japanese War. In 1945, Taiwan was returned to KMT control following Japanese defeat in WWII. Yet, following the KMT’s defeat in 1949, jurisdictional issues have run into a grey area. This was the genesis of China’s ongoing strive for unification with Taiwan. [6]


“...[reunification is the only way to] foil the attempts of external forces to contain China, and to safeguard the sovereignty, security, and development interests of our country.” – A Chinese government report on reunification. [7]


On the other hand, acquisition of Taiwan would reap militaristic and economic advantages for China in Asia. Particularly, it would threaten the US “island chain strategy”, which uses a barrier of islands between the Chinese mainland and the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, China would be able to grasp control over Asia’s major shipping routes, utilising Taiwan’s geographical situation between the East China Sea, Philippine Sea, and the South China Sea. Thirdly, Taiwan would provide economic benefits to China, as the small island alone produced a gross domestic product of almost $US790 billion in 2021; China produced $US17.5 trillion. [8]


The government paper further discusses processes of reunification by proposing a “One Country, Two Systems” mechanism. This would essentially deem Taiwan an administrative region of China. This will be challenging for China, considering that only 1.6% of Taiwanese people supported unification, according to a Taiwanese poll. [9]


With regard to vain attempts at reunification in the past, the paper also warns of the inclusion of the use of force as an option in claiming Taiwan. This draws attention back to the current breaches of the median line, which sketches a birth of conflict on the horizon between China and Taiwan…




[1] Maguire, Dannielle. “Why Does China Want Taiwan When It’s Already So Big And Rich? The Answer Is About More Than Land And Money.” ABC News, 12 August 2022, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-08-12/why-does-china-want-taiwan-military-strategic-location/101321856.

[2] Lee, Yimou. “Chinese Vessels, Aircraft Make Multiple Incursions Over Median Line - Taiwanese Source.” Reuters, 4 August 2022, https:// www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/china-made-multiple-incursions-median-line-taiwan-deployed-missile-systems-track-2022-08-04/.

[3] (n 1)

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Nationalist Party.” Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Nationalist-Party-Chinese-political-party.

[6] “Taiwan.” Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/place/Taiwan.

[7] “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era”. The Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and The State Council Information Office, 10 August 2022, http://us.china-embassy.gov.cn/eng/zgyw/202208/t20220810_10740168.htm.

[8] (n 1)

[9] Cheng, Joyce and Bang Xiao. “Taiwanese Peopl Take Beijjing’s Fury Over Nancy Pelosi’s Visit In Their Stride.” ABC News, 4 August 2022, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-08-04/pelosi-visit-taiwan-china-response-taiwanese-australian-views/101295636.

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