By Cui Mingxuan, Guo Yuandan and Wu Zhiwei
“What a tense situation! Two J -11 fighter jets of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew over the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which triggered a 10-minute standoff between the military aircraft from both sides,” reported the Taiwan media. The news immediately sparked an uproar on the island.
The Chinese mainland does not recognize the so-called “median line of the Taiwan Strait”, since both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China. Liu Guoshen, Executive Director of the Collaborative Innovation Center for Peaceful Development of Cross-Strait Relations, said in an interview on March 31 that the so-called “median line of the Taiwan Strait” is a pseudo-proposition. Both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China. Both sides have and only have one motherland, that is the People’s Republic of China, and we share a responsibility to safeguard the unity and integrity of the country's territory and sovereignty.
According to Taiwan’s NOWnews.com, the origin of “median line of the Taiwan Strait” is said to be a “virtual non-intrusive median line” proposed by the United States during the Cold War. Nevertheless, the mainland, adhering to its political stance, has never recognized the so called “median line of the Taiwan Strait”. During the Cold War, the Taiwan air force controlled the Taiwan Strait and their military jets frequently flew over the “median line of the Taiwan Strait” to carry out reconnaissance missions. After Lee Teng-hui proposed the “two states” theory in July 1999, the PLAAF military aircraft often flew over the “median line of the Taiwan Strait” in attempts to force Taiwan to revoke the theory.
Then this time, what’s the reason and intention behind the PLA’s rare move? There are many speculations on the island. Quoting expert analysis, the “Central News Agency (CNA)” of Taiwan said that the PLA aims to use air force to take the control of the waters, as its response to the frequent movements of the US ships through the Taiwan Strait. Jie Zhong, a Taiwan research fellow, said that this is obviously an intentional act by the mainland, as the PLAAF military aircraft did not leave even after they met with Taiwan interceptors. It’s quite possibly aimed at US recent moves and the joint actions of the US and Taiwan to boost political ties.
Su Ziyun, Chief of Taiwan Tamkang University’s Integrated Strategy and Technology Center, said the mainland has demonstrated its attitude clearly that it viewed the previous passing through of the Taiwan Strait by the US warships as“ a signal of provocation.” Such a move of the PLAAF military aircraft shows obvious self-confidence, because once they pass the “median line of the Taiwan Strait” and move further eastward, they will enter the range of Taiwan anti-aircraft missiles.
According to an analyst, after the 1990s, the PLA military aircraft would only cross the “midline of the Taiwan Strait” under two kinds of situations: one is when the Taiwan authorities made big moves on “Taiwan independence”; another is when other countries took major actions to interfere in China’s internal affairs. This time, there is no doubt that these two situations are combined.
He believed that judging from the tendencies of the “Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)” in 2020 Taiwan leader election campaign, DPP is likely to take the risk of “Taiwan independence”, which will inevitably worsen the cross-strait relations. Recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also expressed that the United States will take more actions to implement the “Taiwan Travel Act”, implying that the US will constantly be engaged to interfere in China’s internal affairs. So now, when some people attempt to stir up waves in the Taiwan Strait, the PLA will naturally take the responsibilities of defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity. It’s nothing to be surprised at all.
Liu Guoshen, the Executive Director of the Collaborative Innovation Center for Peaceful Development of Cross-Strait Relations, said that peaceful settlement serves as the best solution for reunification of both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The mainland pursues peaceful development of cross-strait relations and hopes to finally achieve peaceful reunification. However, a peaceful settlement requires the joint efforts from both sides, not a one man show. If the Taiwan authorities do not cherish the current peaceful development of cross-strait relations, the mainland will certainly make every effort to make sure that its determination to defend the territorial sovereignty and integrity of the country is known by others.