First Taiwan Strait Crisis

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First Taiwan Strait Crisis
Taiwan Strait.png
Taiwan Strait
Date3 September 1954 – 1 May 1955
(7 months and 4 weeks)
Result People's Republic of China seized the Yijiangshan and Dachen Islands. United States and Republic of China navies evacuate military and civilians from Dachen Islands. Formosa Resolution of 1955 and Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty between ROC and United States
Flag of the Republic of China.svg Republic of China
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg United States
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg People's Republic of China
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Republic of China.svg Liu Yuzhang
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Dwight D. Eisenhower
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg Mao Zedong
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg Peng Dehuai
Casualties and losses
Flag of the Republic of China.svg 567 killed [1] [ circular reference ]
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg 2 killed [2]
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg 393 killed [3] [ circular reference ]

The First Taiwan Strait Crisis (also the Formosa Crisis, the 1954–1955 Taiwan Strait Crisis, the Offshore Islands Crisis, and the 1955 Taiwan Strait Crisis) was a brief armed conflict between the Communist People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Nationalist Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan. The Taiwan strait crisis began when the PRC seized the Yijiangshan Islands and forced the ROC to abandon the Tachen Islands, which were evacuated by the navies of the ROC and the US. Although physical control of the Tachen Islands changed hands during the crisis, American reportage focused exclusively[ citation needed ] on Kinmen (Quemoy) and Matsu islands, sites of artillery duels between the Communists and the KMT Nationalists.

The Yijiangshan Islands are two small islands eight miles from the Dachen Islands, located off the coast of Taizhou, Zhejiang in the East China Sea.

Kinmen County in Fujian, Republic of China

Kinmen or Quemoy, officially Kinmen County, is two groups of islands governed by the Republic of China (Taiwan) and located just off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The county consists of the Kinmen Islands and the Wuqiu Islands (Ockseu) more than 110 kilometres (68 mi) to the northeast. It is one of two counties under the streamlined Fujian Province of the Republic of China. The Kinmen Islands are located only about two kilometres (1.2 mi) east of the mainland city of Xiamen, and their strategic position has reflected the significant change of Cross-Strait relations from a battlefront to a trading point between China and Taiwan. In the controversy regarding the political status of Taiwan, the People's Republic of China (PRC) has continuously claimed the territory of Kinmen County as part of its own Fujian Province, claiming the Kinmen Islands as a county of Quanzhou prefecture-level city, and claiming the Wuqiu (Ockseu) Islands as part of Xiuyu District in Putian prefecture-level city whereas the Republic of China (Taiwan) claims the Dadeng (Tateng) Islands in Dadeng Subdistrict, Xiang'an District, Xiamen, Fujian as part of Kinmen County. In the aftermath of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, the Kinmen Islands became considered 'a beacon of anti-communism and symbol of freedom in the Far East'.


In 1949, the Chinese Civil War ended with the victory of the Communist People's Republic of China (PRC). The government of the Republic of China (RoC), controlled by Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang (KMT), and 1.3 million anti-Communist Chinese supporters fled from mainland China. The RoC government relocated to the island of Taiwan. The territory under RoC control was reduced to Taiwan, Hainan, the Pescadores Islands (Penghu), and several island groups along the south-east coast of China. In April 1950, the PRC captured Hainan. RoC forces there evacuated to Taiwan in May 1950.

Chinese Civil War Series of conflicts within China, 1927 – circa 1950

The Chinese Civil War was a civil war in China fought between the Kuomintang (KMT)-led government of the Republic of China (ROC) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) lasting intermittently between 1927 and 1949. The war is generally divided into two phases with an interlude: from August 1927 to 1937, the KMT-CPC Alliance collapsed during the Northern Expedition, and the Nationalists controlled most of China. From 1937 to 1945, hostilities were put on hold, and the Second United Front fought the Japanese invasion of China with eventual help from the World War II Allies. The civil war resumed with the Japanese defeat, and the CPC gained the upper hand in the final phase of the war from 1945–1949, generally referred to as the Chinese Communist Revolution.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is a philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of a communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Chiang Kai-shek Chinese politician and military leader

Chiang Kai-shek, also known as Chiang Chung-cheng and romanized via Mandarin as Chiang Chieh-shih and Jiang Jieshi, was a Chinese nationalist politician, revolutionary and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975, first in mainland China until 1949 and then in Taiwan until his death.


While the United States recognized Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist (Kuomintang) government as the sole legitimate government for all of China, U.S. President Harry S. Truman announced on 5 January 1950 that the United States would not engage in any intervention in the Taiwan Strait disputes, and that he would not intervene in the event of an attack by the PRC. [4] [5] However, after the outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950, Truman declared that the "neutralization of the Straits of Formosa" was in the best interest of the United States, and he sent the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to prevent any conflict between the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China, effectively putting Taiwan under American protection. The move was also intended to deter ROC attacks against the Chinese Mainland.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or simply America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Chinese nationalism Nationalism of the Chinese nation

Chinese nationalism is the form of nationalism in China which asserts that the Chinese people are a nation and promotes the cultural and national unity of the Chinese. It distinguishes from the Han nationalism, which used to seek the independence of ethnic Chinese from Qing Empire and now holds a chauvinism or racialism attitude to ethnic minorities in China.

Kuomintang Political party in the Republic of China

The Kuomintang of China (KMT), also often alternatively translated as the Nationalist Party of China (NPC), is a major political party in the Republic of China based in Taipei that was founded in 1911. The KMT was formerly the sole ruling party of the Republic of China from 1928 to 2000 and is currently an opposition political party in the Legislative Yuan.

On 27 June 1950, President Truman issued the following statement: [6]

The attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war. It has defied the orders of the Security Council of the United Nations issued to preserve international peace and security. In these circumstances the occupation of Formosa by Communist forces would be a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area and to United States forces performing their lawful and necessary functions in that area. Accordingly, I have ordered the 7th Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa. As a corollary of this action, I am calling upon the Chinese Government on Formosa to cease all air and sea operations against the mainland. The 7th Fleet will see that this is done. The determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations.

Subversion Attempt to transform the established social order and its structures

Subversion refers to a process by which the values and principles of a system in place are contradicted or reversed, in an attempt to transform the established social order and its structures of power, authority, hierarchy, and social norms. Subversion can be described as an attack on the public morale and, "the will to resist intervention are the products of combined political and social or class loyalties which are usually attached to national symbols. Following penetration, and parallel with the forced disintegration of political and social institutions of the state, these loyalties may be detached and transferred to the political or ideological cause of the aggressor". Subversion is used as a tool to achieve political goals because it generally carries less risk, cost, and difficulty as opposed to open belligerency. Furthermore, it is a relatively cheap form of warfare that does not require large amounts of training. A subversive is something or someone carrying the potential for some degree of subversion. In this context, a "subversive" is sometimes called a "traitor" with respect to the government in power.

Japan Island country in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization responsible for maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international cooperation, and being a center for harmonizing the actions of nations. It is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. The UN is headquartered on international territory in New York City; other main offices are in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague.

Harry Truman

President Truman later ordered John Foster Dulles, [lower-alpha 1] the Foreign Policy Advisor to U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, to carry out his decision on "neutralizing" Taiwan in drafting the Treaty of San Francisco of 1951 (the peace treaty with Japan), which excluded the participation of both the ROC and the PRC. Each self-claimed legitimate government of China was excluded from the treaty because the question of China's legitimate government remained unresolved after World War II and the Chinese Civil War, and this was considered an intractable sticking point in otherwise comprehensive and multilaterally beneficial peace negotiations.

John Foster Dulles United States Secretary of State

John Foster Dulles was an American diplomat. A Republican, he served as United States Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1959. He was a significant figure in the early Cold War era, advocating an aggressive stance against communism throughout the world.

United States Secretary of State U.S. cabinet member and head of the U.S. State Department

The secretary of state is a senior official of the federal government of the United States of America, and as head of the United States Department of State, is principally concerned with foreign policy and is considered to be the U.S. government's minister of foreign affairs.

Dean Acheson American politician and lawyer

Dean Gooderham Acheson was an American statesman and lawyer. As United States Secretary of State in the administration of President Harry S. Truman from 1949 to 1953, he played a central role in defining American foreign policy during the Cold War. Acheson helped design the Marshall Plan and was a key player in the development of the Truman Doctrine and creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Japan ceded control of Taiwan in the treaty but did not specify a recipient for Taiwan's sovereignty. This situation has been used by supporters of Taiwan independence to argue for their position that the sovereignty status of Taiwan was undetermined, despite the Japanese having already agreed[ dubious ][ citation needed ] to return Taiwan to Republic of China through their Instrument of Surrender signed at end of the War. [7] According to the author George H. Kerr, a supporter of Taiwanese independence, in his book Formosa Betrayed , the political status of Taiwan was under the trust of the Allied Powers (against Japan). It would be the responsibility of the United Nations if this could not be resolved in near future as designed in the peace treaty.

The Nationalist China Government (now based in Taiwan) maintained as its goal the recovery of control of mainland China, and this required a resumption of the military confrontation with the Red Chinese. Truman and his advisors regarded that goal as unrealizable, but regret over losing China to international communism was quite prominent in public opinion at the time, and the Truman Administration was criticized by anticommunists for preventing any attempt by Chiang Kai-shek's forces to liberate mainland China.

Truman, a member of the Democratic Party, did not run for reelection in the presidential election of 1952, even though he was eligible to do so. This election was won by the Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, a General from World War II.

On 2 February 1953, the new President lifted the Seventh Fleet's blockade in order to fulfill demands by anticommunists to "unleash Chiang Kai-shek" on mainland China.

The conflict

In August 1954, the Nationalists placed 58,000 troops on Kinmen and 15,000 troops on Matsu. The ROC began building defensive structures and the PRC began shelling ROC installations on Kinmen. Zhou Enlai, Premier of the People's Republic of China responded with a declaration on 11 August 1954, that Taiwan must be "liberated." He dispatched the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to the area, and it began shelling both Kinmen and the Matsu Islands.

Despite warnings from the U.S. against any attacks on the Republic of China; five days before the signing of the Manila pact, the PLA unleashed a heavy artillery bombardment of Kinmen on September 3, and intensified its actions in November by bombing the Tachen Islands. This renewed Cold War fears of Communist expansion in Asia at a time when the PRC was not recognized by the United States Department of State. Chiang Kai-shek's government was supported by the United States because the ROC was part of the United States policy of containment of communism which stretched from a devastated South Korea to an increasingly divided Southeast Asia.

On 12 September, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended the use of nuclear weapons against mainland China. President Eisenhower, however, resisted pressure to use nuclear weapons or involve American troops in the conflict. However, on 2 December 1954, the United States and the ROC agreed to the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty, which did not apply to islands along the Chinese mainland. This treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate on 9 February 1955.

The PLA seized the Yijiangshan Islands on 18 January 1955. Fighting continued in nearby islands off the coast of Zhejiang, as well as around Kinmen and the Matsu Islands in Fujian. On 29 January 1955, the Formosa Resolution was approved by both houses of the U.S. Congress authorizing Eisenhower to use U.S. forces to defend the ROC and its possessions in the Taiwan Strait against armed attack.

In February, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned the U.S. against using nuclear weapons, but in March, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles stated publicly that the U.S. was seriously considering a nuclear strike.[ citation needed ] In response, the NATO foreign ministers warned at a meeting of the alliance against such action. In late March, U.S. Admiral Robert B. Carney said that Eisenhower is planning "to destroy Red China's military potential."[ attribution needed ]

Aftermath: China and nuclear weapons

Some scholars hypothesized the PRC backed down in the face of American nuclear brinksmanship and in light of the lack of willingness by the Soviet Union to threaten nuclear retaliation for an attack on the PRC. Others see the case as an example of effective application of extended deterrence by the United States. In any case, the Red Chinese government stated on 23 April 1955 that it was willing to negotiate. On 1 May the PLA temporarily ceased shelling Kinmen and Matsu. The fundamental issues of the conflict remained unresolved, however, and both sides subsequently built up their military forces on their respective sides of the Taiwan Strait leading to a new crisis three years later.

There are strong indications that Mao used the crisis in order to provoke the United States into making nuclear threats, which would give him home support to pour money into research and production of Chinese nuclear weapons and missile technology.[ citation needed ] After American nuclear threats during the First Taiwan Strait Crisis, the Politburo gave the green light in 1955 to pursue nuclear weapon and missile research. The first of China's nuclear weapons tests took place in 1964 and its first successful hydrogen bomb test occurred in 1967.

See also

Further reading


  1. Dolles would later serve as Secretary of State himself under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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