China just denied a median line between China and Taiwan. What is it anyway?

Mohammad Bilal
Mohammad BilalSep 19, 2023 | 18:06

China just denied a median line between China and Taiwan. What is it anyway?

Tensions have once again flared between China and Taiwan. Beijing has once again denied the existence of any median line between the two countries as Taiwan complains of 103 Chinese warplanes flying over its territory.

The Chinese foreign ministry has refuted the existence of any median line and said that Taiwan is instead part of China’s territory. "Let me say that Taiwan is part of China’s territory. There is no so-called median line in the Taiwan strait," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.


China claims ownership of the island nation, which has a population of 24 million people. However, the Taiwan government has time and again spoken of Beijing’s aggression on its soil, and it has received arms support from the United States to defend its sovereignty.

While Taiwan always mentions the median line whenever the Chinese military transgresses its borders, China never acknowledges it.

The median line was created in 1955 by US to avoid conflicts between China and Taiwan. Photo: Getty

What is the median line?

The median line runs from an area near Japan’s southern islands to the southwest, near Hong Kong, through the middle of the Taiwan Strait.

This theoretical median line, also known as the Davis Line, was defined down the middle of the strait by US Air Force General Benjamin O Davis Jr in 1955, after which the US pressured both sides not to cross it. The line thus never gained official or legal status.

However, China has categorically denied the existence of any such line. “It's not to say that some previous deal is being violated against Taiwan because actually no third party was ever in the middle, nor did any party sign a legally binding agreement,” Huang Chung Tung, a researcher with the Institute for National Defense and Security Research in Taipei, said.


China often violates Taiwan’s borders

The median line was established to avoid conflicts between the two countries, but China has always insisted that Taiwan was never an independent state and instead belongs to China.

China often crosses Taiwan’s borders, which results in significant criticism from the West. In 2020, Chinese military aircraft had flown across the median line 49 times, the highest number since 1990.

Taiwan was created in 1949 when the communists won, and Chinese nationalist forces moved to Taiwan and ruled there for several decades.

Taiwan is self-ruled, and President Tsai Ing-wen rejects China’s calls for talks based on the idea that the two sides belong to one country.

US support for Taiwan

The US government has consistently supported Taiwan, much to the resentment of China. The US government states that it is required by the 1979 law to consider helping Taiwan’s military if the island is attacked.

In terms of military strength, China is significantly more powerful than Taiwan, and its military expenditure is second only to that of the US.

Relations between China and Taiwan deteriorated significantly after former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit in August 2022.

Beijing condemned Pelosi’s visit as "extremely dangerous."

China conducted a range of military exercises, including the firing of ballistic missiles, focusing on six danger zones around Taiwan, three of which overlapped the island’s territorial waters.

Last updated: September 19, 2023 | 18:06
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