The Taiwan Strait is a 110 mile-wide channel that separates mainland China (People's Republic of China, PRC) from the island of Taiwan (Republic of China, ROC). The strait is also known as the Formosa Strait or the Tai-hai (the Tai Sea). The Taiwan Strait makes up part of the South China Sea, and its northern portion is linked to the East China Sea. The strait borders the southeastern part of China and runs along the eastern part of China’s Fujian Province. The strait is a busy shipping route, on which millions of tons of cargo are ferried each year. Fishing is another crucial economic activity that is carried out along the strait.
The Taiwan Strait has an average width of 110 miles, while its narrow part is 81 miles wide. The Taiwan Strait sits on a continental shelf that runs along the entire stretch of the strait. The strait is relatively shallow, with an average depth of about 500 feet, and is only 82 feet deep at its shallow point. Many of the rivers from China’s Fujian Province empty into the Taiwan Strait, including the Jiulong and Min Rivers. There are numerous islands located in the channel, including Penghu, Pingtan, Kinmen, Matsu, and Xiamen. Three of these islands (Matsu, Penghu, and Kinmen) are under the administration of Taiwan, while the government of mainland China administers the remaining two (Xiamen and Pingtan).
The Taiwan Strait represents differences between Taiwan and the mainland China. Naval confrontations have occurred on the Taiwan Strait between the ROC and the PRC during the Chinese Civil War of the 1940s. The Civil War culminated in the establishment of the two governments after the ROC forces retreated to Taiwan and reestablished their government. Armed conflict on the strait between the two governments erupted in the next decade in what was to be known as the “First Taiwan Strait Crisis” of 1954-1955. Soon after, the two governments were entangled in yet another armed confrontation on the strait, known as the “1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis.” Animosity between the two countries have since calmed, but nonetheless, marine transport across the strait is restricted. A maritime border has been established along the Taiwan Strait, known as the cross-strait meridian, which has a primary purpose of separating the two governments.
The People’s Republic of China has an ambitious plan of constructing an underwater tunnel across the Taiwan Strait to connect mainland China to Taiwan. If completed, the underwater tunnel would be among the longest in the world, with a length of 93 miles. The project, which has already been approved by the Chinese State Council, is part of the grander G3 Beijing-Taipei Expressway that aims to connect the capital cities of the two countries. However, such projects are currently
difficult to implement due to the diplomatic tensions between the two countries. Taiwan remains skeptical of tunnel's construction, expressing concern that China could use the tunnel to mount a military invasion on the island. Therefore, the approvals required from the ROC government for the project to commence have not been provided, rendering the ambitious project almost meaningless.