Status Quo Side: Nationalist China
Non-Status Quo Side: Peoples Republic of China
Region: Pacific, East Asia & SE Asia
Conflict Type: Interstate
Issues in Dispute: Governance, Strategic, Territory
When the Chinese Communists (PRC) gained control of mainland China in 1949 from the Nationalists, their attempts to take over the offshore islands failed and exiled Nationalist leader Gen. Chiang Kai-shek continued to exercise sovereignty over Taiwan and Quemoy-Matsu, plus the Tachens. When the Korean War began in June 1950 President Truman "leashed" Chiang but interposed the 7th Fleet in the Taiwan Straits, which enabled Chiang to fortify the offshore islands of Quemoy, Matsu and the Tachens. Although in 1953 the US withdrew its fleet from the Taiwan Straits, Chiang was assured of US aid if he was attacked.
A major Chinese artillery barrage aimed at Quemoy brought the US 7th Fleet back to the Taiwan Straits. The PRC took over the Tachen Islands in February 1955 without US interference, but thereafter the US established bases on Taiwan and stated that the islands would be protected by the Nationalists with US aid (with hints of nuclear power). Despite the Warsaw talks which began on August 1955, major flare-ups occurred January 20-May 1956, June-July 1957 and August-September 1958. Each prompted a show of US force sufficient to ensure Communist failure, with the USSR, then still allied to the PRC, implicitly refusing to risk confrontation.
On October 5, the Communists announced a one-week cease-fire, extended it two more weeks and then began shelling on odd days, gradually substituting propaganda for shells.
In 1996 a nine-month Chinese intimidation campaign intensified against Taiwan's efforts to secure a UN seat, establish diplomatic relations with other countries, and purchase US arms. As Taiwan prepared for its first-ever democratic Presidential elections on March 23, China organized large-scale war games and conducted missile tests in the Taiwan straits. Many Quemoy and Matsu residents evacuated. China threatened to use force if necessary to prevent the creation of two Chinas, or one China and one Taiwan. On March 11 the US ordered two battle groups to the Western Pacific, which were withdrawn after the election and the completion of the Chinese tests.
Copyright © 1999 Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Allen Moulton