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Inside the Asian Cold War Intrigues: Revisiting the Taiwan Strait crises

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 July 2018

RUPING XIAO
Affiliation:
Department of History, Zhejiang University Email: xiaoxiaotu1973@163.com
HSIAO-TING LIN
Affiliation:
Hoover Institution, Stanford University Email: htlin@stanford.edu
Corresponding

Abstract

This article revisits the issue of the offshore islands in the Taiwan Strait during the Cold War. Benefitting from archival materials only recently made available, specifically Chiang Kai-shek's personal diaries, CIA declassified materials, Taiwanese Foreign Ministry files, and rare publications from the Contemporary Taiwan Collection at the Library of the Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo, this research examines the cloud of suspicion surrounding the secret contacts between Taipei and Beijing leading up to and during the 1958 offshore islands crisis, elucidating how such a political tête-à-tête, and the resultant tacit consensus over the status of the islands, gradually brought about an end to the conflict between Taiwan and Communist China. In hindsight, the crises over the offshore islands along China's southeast coast momentarily brought the United States closer to war with Communist China, while putting the relationship between Taipei and Washington to a serious test. The end result, however, was that, while these isles were technically embedded in the unfinished civil war between the Chinese Nationalists and Communists, they provided, ironically, an opportunity for secret communications and, ultimately, a kind of détente between the two supposedly deadly enemies across the Taiwan Strait. A close examination of the details of these crises, along with their attendant military, political, and diplomatic complexities, reveals an amazing amount of political intrigue at both the local and international levels that has not been fully realized until now.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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Footnotes

*Our thanks go to the two anonymous readers and Professor Joya Chatterji, editor-in-chief of Modern Asian Studies, for their useful comments, criticism, suggestions, and encouragement. We also express our deep appreciations to the Yintai Foundation and its research initiative on the Chiang family and modern Chinese history for its support and encouragement. Special thanks also go to staff in the following libraries and archives for their assistance: the Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University (California), British National Archives (London), Library of the Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo (Tokyo), Archives of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica (Taipei), and Academia Historica (Taipei).

References

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17 CKSD, 3 December 1954, Box 51.

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19 Tucker, The China Threat, pp. 76–78; Soman, Double-Edged Sword, pp. 130–131.

20 CKSD, 20, 21 and 22 January 1955, Box 51.

21 Accinelli, Crisis and Commitment, pp. 190–194.

22 CKSD, 29, 30 and 31 January 1955, Box 51.

23 Taylor, The Generalissimo, pp. 479–480.

24 Robertson to Dulles, top secret, 25 April 1955, in Robert E. Lester (ed.), President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Office Files, 1953–1961, Part II (hereafter Eisenhower 1953–1961) (Bethesda, MD: University Publications of America, 1990), microfilm, reel 6.

25 Ibid..; CKSD, 25 and 27 April 1955, Box 51.

Ibid.

26 CKSD, 27 April 1955, Box 51.

27 Robertson to Dulles, top secret, 25 April 1955, in Eisenhower 1953–1961, reel 6; CKSD, 25, 26, 27 and 31 April 1955, Box 51.

28 Memorandum from President Eisenhower to Dulles, top secret, 26 April 1955, in Eisenhower 1953–1961, reel 6.

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30 Cao Juran was a journalist and a Gannan (southern Jiangxi)-era acquaintance and subordinate to Chiang Ching-kuo, who had lived in Hong Kong since 1950.

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33 ‘Peking-Taipei Contacts’, pp. 6–12; Department of General Political Warfare, ROC Ministry of National Defence, ‘The CCP war guidelines and strategies for peace’, issued in May 1956, Contemporary Taiwan Collection, Library of the Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo (Tokyo) (hereafter CTC), no. C125:437; Report from ROC Embassy in Washington D.C. to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 February 1957, Archives of the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Archives of Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica (hereafter AMFA), 0046/405.1/2; Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ROC Embassy in the United States, 19 March 1957, ibid.

34 CKSD, 8, 10, 20, 31 January 1956 and 4 February 1956, Box 65.

35 Yi, Zheng, Guogong Xiangjiang Diezhan [The KMT-CCP spy war in Hong Kong] (Hong Kong: Wenhua yishu chubanshe, 2009Google Scholar), pp. 149–150. Chiang Kai-shek's diary around May and June 1956 clearly indicates that he was organizing and sending ‘neutralists in Hong Kong’ to the mainland to engage in underground activities. See CKSD, 6 May 1956 and 14 June 1956, Box 65.

36 ‘Peking-Taipei Contacts’, pp. 9–10; Statements from ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 September 1956, AMFA, 0045/405.1/3; ROC Consulate-general in New York to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 March 1957, ibid.; Lei, Mao and Xiaofang, Fan, Guogong Liangdang Tanpan Tongshi [A general history of the KMT-CCP negotiations] (Lanzhou: Lanzhou daxue chubanshe, 1996), pp. 652653Google Scholar.

37 CKSD, 8, 9, 10 and 11 August 1956, Box 65. These reports were subsequently compiled into an important reference work by Ching-kuo's national security team. See ROC National Security Bureau (ed.), Feicu Guancha Baogao [Observation report on bandit-occupied area], top secret, no. 0006, October 1956, CTC, no. CD6:1585.

38 CKSD, 21 July 1956 and 16, 17 August 1956, Box 65.

39 Chu, Valentin, Ta Ta Tan Tan: The Inside Story of Communist China (New York: Norton Publishers, 1963), pp. 244245.Google Scholar

40 See CKSD, 9, 10, 13, 16, 23 and 28 February 1957, Box 65.

41 Wei, Li, Cao Juren zhuan [A biography of Cai Juren] (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe, 1991), pp. 298304Google Scholar; Du, Yang, Chuansuo Liang'an di Mishi [Secret envoys across the Taiwan Strait] (Taipei: Pingshi chubanshe, 1995), pp. 125132Google Scholar.

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43 ‘Peking-Taipei Contacts’, pp. 10–12; J. B. Wright (British Consul in Tamsui) to Foreign Office, 10 March 1958, British National Archives (London), Foreign Office Records, 371/133354 FCN1022.

44 Yan, Wang (ed.), Peng Dehuai Nianpu [Chronology of Peng Dehuai] (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1998), pp. 606–607Google Scholar.

45 Ibid., pp. 672–675; Nanjing Military Region Editorial Committee of the Biography of Nie Fengzhi (ed.), Jiechu Jiangling Nie Fengzhi [Nie Fengzhi: an excellent general] (Nanjing: Jiangsu renmin chubanshe, 1994), pp. 518–519.

Ibid.

46 U.S. Chief of Naval Operations to U.S. Pacific Command, 1 September 1956, reproduced in Declassified Documents Reference System (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2011–), no. CK3100452860; Review report on the current situation regarding advancing anti-communist movements on the Chinese mainland, 2 September 1959, President Chiang Ching-kuo Collection, Academia Historica (Taipei), no. 005010206000520006.

47 CKSD, 22 June 1957, Box 66.

48 On the 1958 Taiwan Strait crisis, see Garver, The Sino-American Alliance, pp. 133–139; Tucker, The China Threat, pp. 142–158; Chen, Mao's China and the Cold War, pp. 163–204; Qiang, Zhai, The Dragon, the Lion, and the Eagle: Chinese-British-American Relations, 1945–1958 (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1994), pp. 178207Google Scholar.

49 Tucker, The China Threat, pp. 140–141.

50 Editorial Committee (ed.), Jiechu Jiangling Nie Fengzhi, pp. 502–503; Qiming, Yin and Yaguang, Cheng, Diyiren Guofang Buzhang [The first minister of defence] (Guangzhou: Guangdong jiaoyu chubanshe, 1997), pp. 210214Google Scholar; Fei, Ye, Ye Fei Huiyilu [Memoirs of Ye Fe] (Beijing: Jiefangjun chubanshe, 1988), pp. 653655Google Scholar.

51 Xiaopeng, Tong, Fengyu Sishinian [Forty years of wind and rain] (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1996), Vol. 2, p. 275Google Scholar. Apparently Chiang did not take this new coverage too seriously, as there was no way to predict when a genuine armed conflict would take place, given the already tense situation across the Strait. Hundreds were killed in Quemoy after the shelling started that evening, including three of Chiang's high-ranking generals and two American advisers.

52 Kaufman, Confronting Communism, pp.133–135; Taylor, The Generalissimo, pp. 493–494.

53 Chen, Mao's China and the Cold War, pp. 185–188; Zhai, The Dragon, the Lion, and the Eagle, pp. 187–189.

54 Chunying, Zhang (ed.), Haixia Liang'an Guangxishi [A history of cross-Strait relations] (Fuzhou: Fujian renmin chubanshe, 2004), Vol. 3, pp. 667669Google Scholar; The KMT Central Committee (ed.), ‘A bloody lesson: a history of CCP united front and plot for peace negotiations’, 1959, CTC, no. CD2:508.

55 ‘Peking-Taipei Contacts’, pp. 15–16; CKSD, 30 September 1958, Box 66; ROC Institute of Psychological Warfare (ed.), ‘The communist psychological warfare’, June 1959, CTC, no. CD6:1525.

56 Taylor, The Generalissimo, pp. 501, 686.

57 CKSD, 27 September 1958, Box 66.

58 Initially not entirely confident about the authenticity of Cao's messages, Chiang Kai-shek was rather surprised that leaders in Beijing had really kept their promise to stop the shelling. See CKSD, 6 October 1958, Box 66.

59 Party Research Centre of the CCP Central Committee (ed.), Zhou Enlai Nianpu, Vol. 2, pp. 181–182; Chen, Mao's China and the Cold War, pp. 199–202.

60 U.S. Embassy in Taipei to State Department, 6 October 1958, FRUS 1958–1960, Vol. 19: China, pp. 330–331; General Wang Shuming to Chiang Kai-shek, 18 October 1958, President Chiang Kai-shek Collection, Academia Historica (Taipei), Specially Submitted Archives/Military Reports and Proposals, Vol. 8, no. 56770.

61 U.S. Embassy in Taipei to State Department, 21 October 1958, FRUS 1958–1960, Vol. 19: China, pp. 415–416; CKSD, 20 and 21 October 1958, Box 66.

62 ‘Peking-Taipei Contacts’, pp. 16–17.

63 Ibid., pp. 17–18; Tang Zong, ‘Report on the party affairs at the ninth KMT National Congress’, 12 November 1963, pp. 39–41, CTC, no. CD6:1679.

Ibid.

64 The KMT Central Committee (ed.), ‘A bloody lesson’, CTC.

65 For the final text of the Chiang-Dulles joint communiqué of October 1958, see FRUS 1958–1960, Vol. 19: China, pp. 442–443.

66 Chen, Mao's China and the Cold War, pp. 199–202.

67 ‘Peking-Taipei Contacts’, pp. 17–18. Accounts given by Cao Juren's family suggest that Chiang Ching-kuo was in fact pressured by the CIA, whose agents had been keeping an eye on the ongoing secret cross-Strait communications, into reluctantly handing over all the secret letters to the Americans. See Zheng, Guogong Xiangjiang Diezhan, p. 154.

68 CKSD, 31 October 1958, Box 66.

69 ‘Peking-Taipei Contacts’, p. 19; Press release by the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 18 November 1958, AMFA, 0045/405.1/3.

70 ‘Peking-Taipei Contacts’, pp. 19–20; Tang Zong, ‘Report on the party affairs’, CTC.

71 U.S. Embassy in Taipei to State Department, Subject: U.S. Policy and the Offshore Islands, 24 May 1963, in United States Department of State (ed.), Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files China: February 1963–January 1966: Part I: Political, Government, and National Defense Affairs (Bethesda, MD: University Publications of America, 2004), microfilm, reel 16.

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73 CKSD, 16 and 23 April 1960 and 5 May 1960, Box 67.

74 Li, Cao Juren zhuan, pp. 368–369; ‘Peking-Taipei Contacts’, pp. 23–24.

75 Everett F. Drumright (U.S. ambassador in Taipei) to State Department, 17 June 1960, no. 793.00/6-1760, in United States Department of State (ed.), Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files China: 1960–January 1963 Internal Affairs (hereafter China 1960–1963) (Bethesda, MD: University Publications of America, 2000), microfilm, reel 1; Vice Admiral Ronald N. S Moot (Commander of U.S. Taiwan Defence Command) to State Department, 19 June 1960, no. 793.00/6-1960, ibid.

76 J. Graham Parsons (Assistant Secretary of State) to Christian Herter (Secretary of State), top secret, 20 June 1960, no. 793.00/6-2060, ibid., reel 2; Drumright to State Department, top secret, 14 July 1960, no. 793.5/7-1460, ibid., reel 11.

77 State Department memorandum entitled ‘Review of Offshore Island Problem and United States Policy Relating Thereto’, top secret, 5 August 1960, ibid., reel 11.

78 Tong, Fengyu Sishinian, Vol. 2, p. 276.

79 Taylor, The Generalissimo, pp. 509–510; CKSD, 17 and 28 October 1960, Box 68.

80 Memorandum from George C. McGhee to Dean Rusk, 10 March 1961, FRUS 1961–1963, Vol. 22: Northeast Asia, pp. 27–28; Memorandum from A. E. Steeves to Rusk, 15 April 1961, ibid., pp. 48–49.

81 Memorandum from Robert Komer to MacGeorge Bundy, 2 May 1961, ibid., pp. 53–54.

82 ‘Highlights of discussion at Secretary of State Rusk's planning meeting’, 13 July 1961, ibid., pp. 93–94.

83 Memorandum from McGhee to Bundy entitled ‘The Offshore Island—Alternative Courses and Probable Consequences’, 25 August 1961, in Robert E. Lester (ed.), John F. Kennedy National Security Files: Asia and the Pacific, 1961–1963 (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1987), microfilm, reel 1.

84 Such rationales were revealed by Cao Juren to the Chinese Nationalists as early as the spring of 1960, again through his secret channel with Taipei. See Li, Cao Juren zhuan, pp. 368–369; ‘Peking-Taipei Contacts’, pp. 23–24.

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