China Enforces Its Tenth-Dash Line

By Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan

Part One: The Americans as unreliable ally is historical

Times Magazine led the international press in reporting that China flew a record number of warplanes around Taiwan, 103 People’s Liberation Army warplanes, and sent nine ships within 24 hours to early Monday, to what it termed “an apparent show of displeasure over visits by a pair of American officials”.

It was quick to add “The number of aircraft was the most in Bloomberg-compiled data going back three years”.

It also admitted, “The sorties wore down Taiwan’s much smaller military and cut the time that it has to react to any attack. Forty of the planes crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait, the second time in less than a week that China has sent that many aircraft across the line the U.S. drew in 1954.”

Lessons from history

On December1954, Taiwan and the United States signed a Mutual Defense Treaty, which was largely considered as a U.S. pledge to aid Taiwan if the island is attacked by China.

Although the treaty had no time limit, Article 10 of the treaty stipulated that either party can terminate the treaty one year after notifying the other party. Accordingly, the treaty came to an end on January 1, 1980, one year after the United States established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China on January 1, 1979.

Of course, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, in which survived some of the erstwhile treaty’s contents but fell short of promising Taiwan direct military assistance in case of an invasion.

The appreciation of the four Taiwan crises that has occurred to date, can easily be twisted by the Americans to suit their present pivot to Asia because it has unleashed 500 million dollars in a recent America Competes Act to demonize China, but thanks to one Japanese in the person of Haruka Matsumoto, who brought fresh insights into the controversy through a paper published in the Eurasian Border Review, we can dig deeper.

The purpose of my column today, does not intend to side with either Taiwan or China here, but curiously, to show how unreliable an ally the United States is, proven always pragmatic and self-serving in its policies towards other nations.

Matsumoto began by showing historically that as far as the US was concerned, it did not have a clear vision of how it wanted to shape the situation in the Taiwan Strait before the crisis began in September 1954 because “it once abandoned the Republic of China under the Truman administration, only to reverse its position after the Korean War, when Dwight Eisenhower took power.”

 Using Taiwan sources, she narrated:

“By the late 1940s, the U.S. government became disillusioned with the ROC due to the latter’s corruptions and inefficiencies.

Truman administration’s policy of “abandoning” the ROC is well documented in history. Matsumoto wrote, “The ROC memo dated 25 November 1949 shows how desperate the ROC was in trying to avoid abandonment by the United States.

“Titled ‘Proposed Sino-American Agreements Concerning Taiwan,’ the document shows that the ROC proposed to form an alliance with the United States so that latter could keep military bases in the two Taiwanese cities of Keelung and Kaohsiung and retain rights to operate the Taiwan Railroad, in terms identical with those contained in the Sino-Soviet Agreements of 1945 concerning Dairen, Port Arthur and Chinese Eastern Railway.”

It is easy to detect the shrewd and sophisticated intention of Chiang Kai-shek in this proposal.

By acknowledging Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan without waiting for a traditional peace treaty with Japan, the U.S. would show boldness in recognizing the validity of the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Declaration and the Instrument of Surrender as legal and binding international agreements.

The 1943 Cairo Conference, Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek and his wife with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

The proposal effectively created “two Chinas”.

Nonetheless, the Truman administration issued a statement on January 5, 1950 that they would not intervene for the defense of Taiwan. One week later on January 12, Secretary of State Dean Acheson made his famous speech in which he excluded Taiwan from the U.S. defense perimeter in the Western Pacific.

“This decision of the United States placed the ROC’s survival in doubt. What saved the ROC from this dismal situation was the outbreak of the Korean War (on June 25) which forced the Truman administration to modify its policy toward China.

“On June 27, the Truman administration issued a statement to ‘neutralize’ the Taiwan Strait.

“In July, it began dispatching the Seventh Fleet of the U.S. Navy to the Taiwan Strait in order to prevent a military clash between the PRC and the ROC. It also resumed its large-scale military and economic aid to the ROC.”

With the United States neutralization of the China situation, it is now also easy to understand why both Chinas were disinvited to San Francisco for the multilateral convention that began on September 4, 1951, due to disagreements on whether the established but defeated Republic of China or the newly formed People’s Republic of China represented the Chinese people.

That notwithstanding, ROC would still able to maneuver to sign the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty, commonly known as the Treaty of Taipei, on April 28, 1952 in which Japan renounced its rights to Taiwan, Pescadores (now Penghu) Islands, Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, among others, in favor of China.

Signing of the Treaty of Taipei.

(It came into effect on 5 August 1952 but after the UN General Assembly formally recognized the People Republic of China in its Resolution 5728 in 1971 as “One China” and the legitimate representative of the Chinese people, thus serving as successor-in-interest, Japan renounced this treaty with ROC in favor of PRC in 1972.)                                                                                                                

Runoff to the First Taiwan Strait Crisis

After President Dwight Eisenhower took office in January 1953, the new Republican administration abandoned “neutralizing Taiwan” and instead advocated the policy of “unleashing Chiang Kai-shek” but only as a psychological tactic to put indirect military pressure on the PRC government, while the United States had tight grips over the ROC to deter its military operations for returning to the mainland.

What the recently disclosed ROC documents reveal, however, is that at least some high-ranking U.S. officials strongly impressed upon ROC that the policy would be much more substantial. In the minutes of the meeting dated February 1, 1953 between the U.S. Ambassador to Taipei Karl L. Rankin and Chiang Kai-shek, Rankin indicated that the purpose of the U.S. military aid to the ROC had practically shifted from defense to offense.

This meeting was held the day before the U.S. government’s declaration on February 2, 1953 that the U.S. Seventh Fleet would no longer stop the ROC from launching attacks against the PRC.  The conversation that took place between Chiang Kai-shek and the Chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Arthur W. Radford on 4 June 1953 was even more revealing.

Radford raised the hypothetical question of a joint US-ROC military command in case of operations against the mainland and explored whether President Chiang would be willing to give the ROC command authority to the United States.

This raised Chiang’s expectations that the new U.S. government was willing to take more risks than the previous administration in supporting the ROC’s “return to the mainland.” As a result, the ROC leader attitude also changed from that of seeking just to survive, as before the Korean War, to a bolder attitude attempting to attain his ultimate goal, a return in force to the mainland.

In three subsequent meetings with Vice President Richard Nixon, Chiang displayed his own view regarding the strategic situation in East Asia, ultimately laying his idea on how to launch a concrete counteroffensive plan against the PRC:

“I have now two plans in regard to our counter-attack. The first plan is to train 300,000 men in addition to our present armed force of 500,000 men. With the completion of this training program, we shall have a force of 800,000 men.

“By taking these 300,000 men into our armed forces, the present army strength of 27 divisions can be expanded to 40 divisions, including 35 infantry divisions, for armored divisions and one parachute division. The time needed for the training is a year-and-a-half. I mean, of course, accelerated training.

“The second plan, which is a three-year general plan for all arms with a 60- division army was handed to Admiral Radford in written form last May.”

Following the signing on July 27, 1953 of the armistice ending the Korean War, Republic of China’s Chiang Kai-shek ordered additional deployments to Jinmen (Quemoy) and Mazu on August 1954. These actions had all of the outward appearances of supporting a future Nationalist invasion of mainland China. At dawn on September 3, 1954, however, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which had deployed approximately 150,000 troops to Amoy, began bombarding the island of Quemoy, one of the offshore islands under the ROC’s control. This marked the beginning of the First Taiwan Strait Crisis.

When the crisis began, 43,000 ROC troops were deployed to Quemoy, and within five hours after the beginning of the PRC bombardment, about sixty shells had hit Quemoy. As a result, two of the U.S. military advisors were killed and the remaining fourteen advisors evacuated the island. Although the bombardment halted for a while after midnight, it soon resumed and continued for several days.

Generally speaking, the PRC had three goals in initiating the crisis.

First, the PRC took seriously the prospect that the United States and the ROC were going to conclude an alliance treaty, and it probably aimed at derailing the negotiation between the two by initiating the crisis.

Since July 1954, the PRC had explicitly expressed its determination to “liberate Taiwan.” For instance, the July 23 editorial of Renminribaos stated that, “Chinese people proclaim once again to the world that Taiwan is a Chinese territory, and we will definitely liberate Taiwan.”

Second, related to the first, the PRC worried that Taiwan might join a regional security framework. There were sufficient reasons for the PRC’s concerns.

The U.S. government had expressed that the ROC could later join the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO), which was scheduled to be created in September 1954. In addition, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles stated on August 3 that the U.S. government was considering the creation in the future of what might be dubbed Northeast Asian Treaty Organization (NEATO), including the US, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

PRC initiated the campaign to “liberate Taiwan” to preempt such initiatives. It is indicative PRC began its bombardment against Quemoy just as the parties to SEATO were gathering to conclude the treaty in Manila.

Third, the PRC’s initiation of the crisis was triggered by its concern about the “three-front” concept – Mao Zedong considered that if China were to be attacked by an external aggressor, most likely the United States, it would be attacked from the Korean Peninsula, Indochina, or Taiwan.

When the PRC’s bombardment of Quemoy began, the U.S. government was taken by surprise. By then, even if the United States had made it clear it would intervene to defend Taiwan and the Pescadores from the PRC, it had not seriously considered how to respond to a contingency around the offshore islands.

To be continued.

Next: Part Two – US Ambiguity Predates First Taiwan Straits Crisis

<strong>Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan</strong>
Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan

is the anchor of Ang Maestro – the Unfinished Revolution at Radyo Pilipinas1, co-host of Opinyon Ngayon at Golden Nation Network Television, a political analyst, and author of books.

His third book, The Poverty of Power will soon be off-the-press. It is a historiography of controversial issues of spanning 36 years leading to the Demise of the Edsa Revolution and the Rise of the Philippine Phoenix. Paglinawan’s past best sellers have been A Problem for Every Solution (2015), a characterization of factors affecting Philippine-China relations, and No Vaccine for a Virus called Racism (2020) a survey of international news attempting to tracing its origins. These important achievements earned for him to be named one of the 2021 international laureates for the Awards for the Promotion of Philippine-China Understanding. Ado, as he called for short, was a former press attaché and spokesman of the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and the Philippines’ Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. Facebook




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