Taiwan Strait

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Taiwan Strait
Taiwan Strait is located in China
Taiwan Strait
Taiwan Strait
Taiwan Strait is located in Taiwan
Taiwan Strait
Taiwan Strait
Taiwan Strait.png
A map showing the Taiwan Strait Area
Coordinates24°48′40″N 119°55′42″E / 24.81111°N 119.92833°E / 24.81111; 119.92833Coordinates: 24°48′40″N 119°55′42″E / 24.81111°N 119.92833°E / 24.81111; 119.92833
Basin countriesChina, Taiwan
Max. width130 km (81 mi)
Taiwan Strait
Traditional Chinese臺灣海峽
Simplified Chinese台湾海峡
Hokkien POJTâi-ôan Hái-kiap
Literal meaningTaiwan Strait
Traditional Chinese臺海
Simplified Chinese台海
Hokkien POJTâi-hái
Literal meaningTaiwan Sea
Black Ditch
Traditional Chinese烏水溝
Simplified Chinese乌水沟
Hokkien POJO͘ Chúi-kau
Literal meaningBlack Ditch

The Taiwan Strait is a 180-kilometer (110 mi)-wide strait separating the island of Taiwan from mainland China. The strait is currently classified as part of the South China Sea and borders the East China Sea to the north, it is 130 km (81 mi) wide at its narrowest.[1]


Former names of the Taiwan Strait include the Formosa Strait or Strait of Formosa, from an older name for Taiwan Island; the Strait of Fokien or Fujian, from the Chinese province forming the strait's western shore;[2] and the Black Ditch, a calque of the strait's name in Hokkien and Hakka.


The entire strait is on Asia's continental shelf, it is almost entirely less than 150 m (490 ft) deep, with a short ravine of that depth off the south-west coast of Taiwan. As such, there are many islands in the strait; the largest and most important islands off the Fujianese coast are Xiamen & Gulangyu, Pingtan (the "Haitan" of the IHO delineation), Kinmen, and Matsu. The first three are controlled by the PRC; the last two by the ROC. Within the strait lie the Penghu or Pescadores, also controlled by the ROC. There is a major underwater bank 40–60 km (25–37 mi) north of the Penghu Islands.[3]

All of Fujian Province's rivers except the Ting run into the Taiwan Strait; the largest two are the Min River and the Jiulong River.


The third and current edition of Limits of Oceans and Seas by the International Hydrographic Organization does not define the boundaries of the Taiwan Strait, rather placing it within the South China Sea. [4] A draft for a new edition of Limits of Oceans and Seas precisely defines the Taiwan Strait, classifying it as part of the North Pacific Ocean and defining it as a body of water between the East China Sea and South China Sea as follows: [5] [6]

On the North:

A line joining the coast of China (25° 42′ N - 119° 36′ E) eastward to Xiang Cape (25° 40′ N - 119° 47′ 10″ E), the northern extremity of Haitan Island, and thence to Fugui Cape (25° 17′ 45″ N - 121° 32′ 30″ E), the northern extremity of Taiwan Island (the common limit with the East China Sea, see 7.3).

On the East:

From Fugui Cape southward, along the western coast of Taiwan Island, to Eluan Cape (21° 53′ 45″ N - 120° 51′ 30″ E), the southern extremity of this island.

On the South:

A line joining Eluan Cape northwestward, along the southern banks of Nanao Island, to the southeastern extremity of this island (23° 23′ 35″ N - 117° 07′ 15″ E); thence westward, along the southern coast of Nanao Island, to Changshan Head (23° 25′ 50″ N - 116° 56′ 25″ E), the western extremity of this island; and thence a line joining Changshan Head westward to the mouth of the Hanjiang River (23° 27′ 30″ N - 116° 52′ E), on the coast of China.

On the West:

From the mouth of Hanjiang River northeastward, along the coast of China, to position 25° 42′ N - 119° 36′ E.


The Strait mostly separated the Han culture of the Chinese mainland from Taiwan Island's aborigines for millennia, although the Hakka and Hoklo traded and migrated across it. A Fujianese shamaness named Lin Mo is said to have drowned in the strait while rescuing members of her family in the 10th century; by the 12th century, her story had given rise to the cult of "Mazu" still celebrated on both sides of the strait.

Early modern Taiwan was a haven by Chinese pirates. European explorers, principally the Spanish and Dutch, also took advantage of the strait to establish forward bases for trade with the mainland during the Ming; the bases were also used for raiding both the Chinese coast and the trading ships of rival countries.

Widespread Chinese migration across the strait began in the late Ming. During the Qing conquest, Ming refugees fled to Taiwan. Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) expelled the Dutch and established the Kingdom of Tungning in 1661, planning to launch a reconquest of the mainland in the name of the Southern Ming branches of the old imperial dynasty. Dorgon and the Kangxi Emperor were able to consolidate their control over southern mainland China; Koxinga found himself limited to raiding across the strait, his grandson Zheng Keshuang surrendered to the Qing after his admiral lost the 1683 Battle of the Penghu Islands in the middle of the strait.

The Manchu-led Qing Empire faced constant revolts among the Han, Hoklo, and Hakka on Taiwan over the next 200 years, they never exerted much control over the aboriginal tribes on the eastern half of the island, prompting international incidents and American and Japanese invasions when the natives massacred the survivors of shipwrecks.

Japan seized the Penghu Islands during the First Sino-Japanese War and gained control of Taiwan at its conclusion in 1895. Control of the eastern half of the strait was used to establish control of the southern Chinese coast during the Second World War; the strait protected Japanese bases and industry on Taiwan from Chinese attack and sabotage, but aerial warfare reached the island by 1943. The 1944 Taiwan Air Battle gave the United States Pacific Fleet air supremacy from its carrier groups and Philippine bases; subsequently, bombing was continuous until Japan's surrender in 1945.

The Republic of China government retreated across the Taiwan Strait in 1949. In 1950, United States President Harry S. Truman moved the Seventh Fleet into the strait to prevent conflict between the Communists and Nationalists. The Communists launched offensives during the First Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1954–1955 and the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1958; meanwhile, the Nationalists' Project National Glory was abandoned after a naval defeat in 1965. A Third Taiwan Strait Crisis occurred in 1995–1996.


See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Geography". Government Information Office. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  2. ^ EB (1879), p. 415.
  3. ^ Sea depth map.
  4. ^ IHO (1953), §49.
  5. ^ IHO (1986), Ch. 7.
  6. ^ IHO (1986), Ch. 7.2.