JC History Tuition Online - What happened during the Taiwan Straits Crises - Superpower relations with China

What happened during the Taiwan Straits Crises?

Learn more about the first Taiwan Straits Crisis of 1958 that shaped Sino-American relations from the late 1950s to the 1960s [Video by British Pathé]

Topic of Study [For H1 History Students]:
Section B: Essay Writing
Theme II: Cold War in Asia [1945-1991] – Superpower relations with China (1950-1979)

The First Taiwan Straits Crisis: A geopolitical contest
Following the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) victory over the Kuomintang (KMT) during the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the latter fled to Taiwan. The Taiwan Strait separated mainland China from Taiwan as the KMT formed the Republic of China (ROC).

Map depicting the Taiwan Strait that separated mainland China from Taiwan [Source: Ohio State University]

Quemoy (金门 or Kinmen) and Matsu (马祖) Islands were considered the first line of defence for Chiang Kai-shek’s ROC. Additionally, the United States offered to aid its newfound ally, the ROC, especially after its hostile interactions with Chinese troops during the Korean War.

Notably, US President Harry Truman delivered a rousing speech that reaffirmed the American commitment to its political alliances in East Asia, including Taiwan.

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.

An excerpt from a statement by the US President Harry Truman on Korea, 27 June 1950.

A Mutual Defense Treaty was signed with ROC to legitimise American military presence in the vicinity. Yet, such actions proved aggravating to Sino-American relations. In early September 1954, the PRC launched the bombardment of Quemoy and Matsu Islands. Chiang deployed about 100,000 troops to defend the two outermost islands, hoping that the American allies would come to their aid.

After the first crisis, the US Congress passed the “Formosa Resolution” that granted President Eisenhower the authority to defend Taiwan from communist aggression.

The Second Taiwan Straits Crisis: The Conflagration
During the Bandung Conference of 1955, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai expressed desire to negotiate with the United States, possibly to de-escalate tensions and avert a full-scale military conflict with it. The olive branch offered by Zhou to the United States had earned much support and praise from the attendees at the Asian-African Conference in Indonesia.

By following the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, nonaggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, the peaceful coexistence of countries with different social systems can be realized. When these principles are ensured of implementation, there is no reason why international disputes cannot be settled through negotiation.

An excerpt from Premier Zhou Enlai’s speech during the Asian-African Conference, 19 April 1955.

However, efforts to reduce tensions were negated by Eisenhower’s contemplated to use nuclear weapons on the PRC. On 23 August 1958, the Chinese leader Mao Zedong authorised the artillery bombardment of Quemoy Island. In retaliation, the ROC armed forces fought back.

Under the obligations of the American-Taiwan defense treaty of 1954, the United States offered military aid to the Nationalists. Increased American presence in the Taiwan Straits had alarmed the Soviet Union, such that Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko visited Beijing to uncover the rationale behind Mao’s decision to attack Quemoy. Fortunately, the conflict did not escalate into a nuclear confrontation.

Chairman Mao said that the bombardment of Jinmen, frankly speaking, was our turn to create international tension for a purpose. We intended to teach the Americans a lesson. America had bullied us for many years, so now that we had a chance, why not give it a hard time?

… In our propaganda, however, we still need to condemn the Americans for causing tension in the Taiwan Straits. We did not put them in the wrong. The United States has several thousand troops stationed on Taiwan, plus two air force bases there. Their largest fleet, the Seventh Fleet, often cruises in the Taiwan Straits.

An excerpt from the “Inside Story of the Decision Making during the Shelling Jinmen” by Wu Lengxi

A thorn in the flesh: Prelude to the Sino-Soviet Split
On 6 October 1958, a ceasefire was made. Yet, the peace was short-lived as the PRC resumed its attacks on the two islands for nearly two decades until the late 1970s due to the Sino-American rapprochement.

Along the same vein, the Taiwan Straits Crises in the 1950s had impacted Sino-Soviet relations. On the surface, it appeared as if the signing of the Treaty of Friendship had proved to be fortuitous for Mao Zedong as he received Soviet military support to deter American attacks. Yet, the diverging perceptions by the two Communist leaders began to cause the gradual deterioration of bilateral relations. Partly, Khrushchev’s hesitance to antagonise the United States could be traced to his notion of “Peaceful Coexistence” that Mao could not agree with.

New evidence suggests that, on the contrary, the Soviet Union did everything it had promised to do in support of the Chinese operation, and that it was China, not the USSR, that was unwilling to follow through. This outcome explains why Khrushchev, feeling he had been burned once, was determined not to let it happen again. From then on he emphasized the need for a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan problem, a lesson that Mao was unwilling to draw, for fear it would expose the magnitude of his failure in the Quemoy crisis. These different views became a sore point in Sino-Soviet relations, as was evident during Khrushchev’s visit to Beijing in the autumn of 1959.

An excerpt from “The USSR Foreign Ministry’s appraisal of Sino-Soviet relations on the eve of the Split, September 1959” by Mark Kramer.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the view that the Taiwan conflict was the root cause of the Sino-Soviet split.

Join our JC History Tuition to analyse the significance of Taiwan and other related factors that shaped superpower relation with China. The H2 and H1 History Tuition feature thematic discussion, question application for essay and source based case studies. Students who enrol in the programme will receive concise study notes to enhance their study strategy and gear up for the examination.

We have other JC tuition classes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Lower Secondary English Tuition, Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. For Primary Tuition, we have Primary English Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to find out more.

JC History Tuition Online - What was the Cultural Revolution - Superpower Relations with China

What was the Cultural Revolution?

Topic of Study [For H1 History Students]:
Section B: Essay Writing
Theme II: Cold War in Asia [1945-1991] – Superpower relations with China (1950-1979): Sino-Soviet relations

Examine the social, economic and political impacts of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution [Video by BBC News]

Context: An ideological split
Before the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Mao Zedong declared the start of the Cultural Revolution, the rising Communist power clashed with the Soviet Union. In particular, Mao disagreed with the Soviet leader Khrushchev’s policy of ‘de-Stalinization’ in 1956, fearing that the latter’s reforms may jeopardize the global Marxist movement. From then on, Mao criticized Khrushchev as a ‘revisionist’, revealing signs of a Sino-Soviet split that characterized bilateral relations of the two Communist powers in the 1960s.

The Chairman turned against Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization more decisively than ever before: “[Stalinism is] just Marxism . . . with shortcomings.” He continued: “The so-called de-Stalinization thus is simply de-Marxification, it is revisionism.” Finally, the Chairman maintained that the Chinese comrades, “unlike some people who have tried to defame and destroy Stalin, . . . are acting in accordance with objective reality.” It was the first time that Mao clearly distinguished between the views of the subjectivist revisionists in Moscow and the objective Marxists in Beijing.

An excerpt from “The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World” by Lorenz M. Lüthi.

A decade-long revolution: Eradicating dissent
In the 1960s, Mao bore rising concerns with the bourgeois culture, which he perceived as as threat to the Chinese society. Mao viewed intellectuals and individuals that were supportive of the West as enemies of the Communist Party.

In January 1965, Mao established the ‘Five Man Group’ (文化革命五人小组) with Peng Zhen (彭真) to oversee the Cultural Revolution. However, Mao dismissed Peng Zhen and the rest of the Group. Notably, the publication of a circular on 16 May 1966 marked the start of the Cultural Revolution.

Peng Zhen had no discussion or exchange of views at all within the Group of Five. He did not ask any local party committee for its opinion… and still less did he get the approval of Comrade Mao Zedong. Employing the most improper methods, he acted arbitrarily, abused his powers [and] issued the outline report to the whole party

Those representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the party, the government, the army, and various cultural circles are a bunch of counter-revolutionary revisionists. Once conditions are ripe, they will seize political power and turn the dictatorship of the proletariat into a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

An excerpt from the May 16th Circular, 16 May 1966.

The ‘Four Olds’
The Red Guards were formed to carry out Mao’s Revolution, comprising of radical students and officials. His aim was to eradicate the ‘Four Olds’ – old ideas, old customs, old culture and old habits (四旧 – 旧思想, 旧文化, 旧风俗, 旧习惯). From the mid-1960s to 1970, numerous party leaders were imprisoned, including the Chinese President Liu Shaoqi (刘少奇). Additionally, schools were forced to shut down. Cultural influences deemed too oriented to the West were also being suppressed.

The four olds embraced symbols of China’s traditional, premodern society, such as artworks celebrating Confucian elitism. These were roundly denounced as “feudal” at a time when the old society was still a memory for many, and its visible heritage included not only classical paintings and string-bound books but also elderly ladies with bound feed. The savagery of this aesthetic response to Mao’s call for Cultural Revolution is perhaps best understood as youthful ignorance and bravado, mixed with a generalized anxiety that counterrevolutionaries wished to restore the old society.

An excerpt from “The Cultural Revolution: A Very Short Introduction” by Richard Curt Kraus.

On the other hand, the ‘Little Red Book‘ was promoted and distributed to the Chinese citizens. It served to strengthen his goal of creating a cult of personality, similar to Stalin.

End of the Revolution
In the early 1970s, the Cultural Revolution came to an end. The Sino-American rapprochement of 1972 had changed the Chinese government’s foreign policy stance towards the USA. By the end of the Revolution, the Chinese economy was severely damaged. The ‘Gang of Four’ (四人帮), which included Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing (江青), was blamed for the devastating effects of the Cultural Revolution.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that Mao Zedong was responsible for the developments of the Sino-Soviet relations?

Join our JC History Tuition to comprehend the key events that shaped the Sino-Soviet split. The H2 and H1 History Tuition feature online thematic discussions, essay writing and source based case study workshops. Be analytical, organised and persuasive in your writing.

We have other JC tuition classes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we provide Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. For Primary Tuition, we have Primary English Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to find out more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - How were Sino-American Relations - JC History Essay Notes

How were Sino-American relations during the Cold War?

Topic of Study [For H1 History Students]: 
Section B: Essay Writing
Theme II: Cold War in Asia [1945-1991] – Superpower relations with China (1950-1979): Sino-Soviet relations

Examine how Nixon’s historic visit to Beijing, China have changed the Sino-American relations in the 1970s.

Superpower Relations with China in the 1950s and 1960s
Following the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) victory during the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established. In view of the Cold War climate, the perceived ideological threat in East Asia, USA did not recognise this historical development.

At the same time, the Republic of China (i.e. ROC or Taiwan) was formed, which became a focal point of dispute between the United States and PRC. For instance, ROC was granted one of the Permanent Five (P5) seats in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Notably, the Soviet Union, an ally of PRC, boycotted the UNSC meeting during the Korean War, as a form of protest against this matter.

The absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries was arguably of no surprise to political observers.

Taiwan Straits Crises
In the 1950s, US foreign policy was focused on Taiwan as a pivot for containment in Asia. The Seventh Fleet was situated in the vicinity to protect the security interests of Taiwan from potential threats.

On 11 August 1954, PRC launched an offensive against Kinmen and Matsu. In response, the Eisenhower administration perceived this as an act of military aggression, possibly occupation. As such, the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty was signed in December 1954, which assured ROC that the US would provide military support should the former come under attack. This Treaty later shaped US policy of containment in East Asia till 1979.

In August 1957, the “Second Taiwan Straits Crisis” occurred, in which Kinmen and Matsu were shelled and a naval confrontation took place between ROC and PRC. Eventually, the heightened tensions had de-escalated and the Chinese bombardment ceased by October 1958.

Sino-American Rapprochement in the 1970s
In view of the Sino-Soviet Split that culminated in the Sino-Soviet Border Conflict in 1969, the US began to assume a different diplomatic stance towards PRC, albeit a friendly one.

Given that the US still perceived the Soviet Union as its greatest threat, the notion of establishing diplomatic relations with PRC as a strategic advantage to gain a leverage over its Cold War rival.

“Ping Pong Diplomacy” and the historic meet between Nixon and Zhou Enlai
On 10 April 1971, the American table tennis team was invited to Beijing, China. The friendly sporting event was considered unprecedented, given the strained bilateral relations ever since the PRC’s involvement in the Korean War of 1950.

In July 1971, the Nixon administration’s National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, made a secret visit to Beijing. Pakistan, an ally of China, facilitated the meeting.

On 21 February 1972, US President Nixon met Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing. Nixon also met Premier Zhou Enlai. More importantly, the visit concluded with the signing of the Shanghai Communiqué on 28 Feburary 1972.

The document signified the mutual interests of both USA and China in the normalization of bilateral relations. As such, USA agreed to recognise the “One-China policy” and reduced military support for Taiwan. Also, China occupied Taiwan’s position as one of the P5 members in the UNSC.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– To what extent do you agree that the Cold War rivalry was a major reason in shaping the Sino-American relations from 1950 to 1979? [to be discussed in class]

Following the assessment of the changing bilateral relations between USA and China, it is important to attempt History essay questions to review your conceptual application. Alternatively, you can join our JC History Tuition as we teach you to organise your content, develop your critical thinking skills and form persuasive and coherent arguments. Lessons are conducted with the aim of preparing you to answer essay and source-based case study questions effectively and feasibly within a given timeframe.

Besides, you can join our JC tuition, such as GP TuitionEconomics Tuition, JC Chemistry Tuition, JC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we offer Secondary English Tuition, Secondary Math tuition, Secondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to find out more.