torsdag 10. februar 2022

The small islands that could be the first target in a clash between China, Taiwan, and the US

Everything old is new again, and we walk in footprints that have already been made. In the early stages of the Cold War, the United States and Chinanearly came to blows over a pair of small islands off of China's coast. In 1955 and again in 1958, China and the United States came dangerously close to active combat over control of Quemoy and Matsu, two small islands just off the coast of the mainland PRC. The 1955 crisis incurred heavy bombardment of Taiwanese-controlled islands by the PLA, which the US responded to by threatening the use of nuclear weapons.

The Eisenhower administration worried that the surrender of any Taiwanese territory would have such a demoralizing effect on the Republic of China government that it could cause the collapse of Chiang Kai Shek's regime. A second crisis erupted in 1958 to a considerably more deadly effect. A Chinese attempt to seize the small island of Dongding was repulsed, which triggered a massive PLA artillery response that killed over 500 Taiwanese soldiers. This time the crisis also involved aircraft, as dozens of Chinese MiGs fought against US-build Taiwanese F-86 Sabres.

Due to advantages in missile technology, the Taiwanese prevailed with something along the lines of a 15-1 kill ratio. By October the United States had sufficiently demonstrated its commitment to defending the islands that the PRC backed down. Taiwan and China settled into a desultory pattern of bombarding one another on alternate days of the week, a practice that continued into the 1970s.