n the 1950s, tensions between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC), the nation known as Taiwan, resulted in armed conflict over strategic islands in the Taiwan Strait. Jinmen, also known as Quemoy, lies two miles from the Mainland Chinese city of Xiamen; the other island, Mazu, is about ten miles from the city of Fuzhou. Both islands are located approximately one hundred miles west of Taiwan.
When the Nationalist Government of the ROC under Chiang Kai-shek lost control of Mainland China during the Chinese Civil War, the Nationalist Army fled to the island of Taiwan, establishing troops on the islands of Quemoy and Mazu, as well as the Dachen Islands further north. The leadership on both sides of the civil war clearly had an interest in controlling the islands. At the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, the United States sent its Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to prevent the Korean conflict from spreading south. The appearance of the Seventh Fleet angered the Chinese Communists who transferred their troops, seemingly poised for an invasion of Taiwan, to the Korean front.
Taiwan was first known as Formosa. In the 1600s aborigines not of Chinese decent lived there, occasionally visited by Chinese and Japanese pirates and fishermen. In 1623, the Dutch established a settlement in Tayouan bay, near present-day Tainan. From this name, the name Taiwan evolved. The Dutch settlement remained the principle establishment for some time, which may be the reason why Holland has been such a staunch ally to Taiwan. Ambassador Tom Chou now holds this important post in the heart of the European Union – quite a promotion after Saint Lucia, where he clearly served his own country, as well as his host country, well!
In 1954, the U.S. led the creation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization to unify the region against perceived Communist aggression. Naturally, the PRC viewed this as a threat to its national security and regional leadership, so, in the interest of bolstering its position in the Taiwan Strait, China began to bombard Jinmen in September, and soon expanded its targets to include Mazu and the Dachen Islands. The U.S., fearing a loss of Jinmen and Mazu to the People’s Republic of China, signed a Mutual Defense Treaty with the ROC. The situation in the Strait deteriorated even more.
In January 1955, the U.S. passed the “Formosa Resolution” which gave President Eisenhower authority to defend Taiwan and the offshore islands with nuclear weapons if necessary. In September 1955, the PRC and the United States began talks at Geneva to discuss preventing the escalation of future conflicts. Despite this, the PRC resumed its bombardment of Jinmen and Mazu in 1958. Once again, President Eisenhower was concerned that the loss of the islands would be a precursor to the Communist conquest of Taiwan. The United States began to re-supply ROC garrisons on Jinmen and Mazu. This brought an abrupt end to the bombardment and eased the crisis. Eventually, the PRC and ROC came to an arrangement in which they shelled each other’s garrisons on alternate days. This continued for twenty years until the PRC and the United States normalized relations.
After the Chinese Communist victory in 1949, people were stranded behind borders. Once it became clear that the United States would not recognize the PRC, the Chinese arrested or denied exit permits to U.S. missionaries, businessmen, and scholars still living in China. By the same token, the U.S. Government prevented Chinese students and scholars with technical skills capable of aiding China from returning home. When President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, the talks provided China and the United States with an avenue for negotiation, so that misunderstandings would not escalate into outright conflict.
Today, China, despite its smiling face of neo-colonialism throughout the world, is intent on destabilizing the region with its claims to islands off its shores and even further afield. In fact, as we have seen in recent months, China, the third largest country in the world, is building artificial islands in order to extend its territorial waters and gain maritime control of the whole region. Put simply, Mainland China is in dispute with almost every other country in the region over maritime and territorial claims. Not only Taiwan but also Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Indonesia are all feeling the hot breath of Chinese gluttony down their necks.
We can all thank the ‘whoever’ that our P.M., “the Chief” had the wisdom, perspicacity, vision, political courage, generosity of spirit, insight, foresight, and inability to do anything else but choose to remain with Taiwan. As the old Chinese saying goes, “Those who sleep with elephants get squashed!”
Dear Reader, I desperately wanted to include the other Chinese saying, “Man with hole in pocket feel cocky all day,” but I couldn’t think how to work it in, except to perhaps point out that a penniless beggar with holes in his pocket might still feel cocky and in charge of his own destiny even though he has no reason to feel so – sorry!