Taiwan Strait Crisis and Diplomacy

First Taiwan Strait Crisis:

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the United States were bitter rivals throughout the Cold War. China and the United States engaged in combat in Korea. The two countries almost went to war again five times between 1950 and 1953: over Vietnam in 1954 and 1965; over Taiwan in 1954–1955, 1958–1959; and in 1962. On September 3, 1954, Chinese artillery began shelling Quemoy (Jinmen), an outlying island ruled by the Kuomintang. This sparked the first Taiwan Strait Conflict. This article focuses on the crisis and analyzes the following three questions:

(1) what was the policy the U.S. took towards the Republic of China (R.O.C), especially towards the offshore islands, to try to end the Taiwan Strait Crisis?

(2) What were the intentions of the U.S. government in trying to end the Taiwan Strait Crisis?

(3) how should U.S. policy towards the R.O.C. which led to solving the Taiwan Strait Crisis be positioned in the history of Sino-American relations? In short I analysis the Sino- American diplomacy in the conflict.

This article comes to the conclusion that a de facto “two-China” was created as a result of the U.S. taking a stance to resolve the situation that stopped China from “liberating Taiwan” and the Kuomintang from “attacking the mainland. “Situation”.


After World War II China was split into two parties. The communist People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the nationalist Republic of China (ROC). The PRC, under the rule of Mao Zedong, managed to expand over the entire main land of China. They pushed the ROC away to the island of Taiwan.

The United Stated of America (USA) decided that they had to intervene. They prevented the PRC from invading Taiwan and made a pledge in 1955 to prevent any invasion in Taiwan in the future.

The Eisenhower administration ordered the 7th Fleet to resume patrolling the Taiwan Strait. However, During the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait Crisis was a ticking time bomb that might have resulted in a significant military conflict between the United States and China and the United States once more. But, the United States chose against following a route that may have drawn China and the United States into a direct military clash.

Instead, it chose to settle the disagreement through a number of nonviolent means.

Importance of Taiwan Strait: 

Taiwan has been a strategic island and a source of conflict between Japan and numerous Chinese dynasties over the past many centuries. Whoever is in charge of the island gains a decisive advantage over its rivals? In the event that China takes control, it would be able to project influence not only in the Pacific but also towards Japan, the Philippines, and other ASEAN nations. But, the ruler will be able to project itself over China if Taiwan is ruled by any other country or if Taiwan declares its independence.

Taiwan Strait

Although it does not yet have its own nation, Taiwan is the United States’ 11th-largest trading partner, has the 22nd-largest economy, and controls the silicon chip markets. It is still used today as the port of entry for ships of all sizes traveling to and from essentially every key port in Northeast Asia. On the Taiwanese side of the strait, Chinese ships have been excavating sand and engaging in illegal fishing as of 2020. Major wind farms are being built in the strait by Taiwan.

Historical Background: 

Throughout the 1950s, the conflict in Korea and the United States’ strategy of containment and isolation towards China strained relations between the two countries. Besides this mistrust on the diplomatic and military levels, a clearly stated policy against the use of force in the Taiwan Strait, which divided Chinese Nationalists from Chinese Communists, gradually changed.

On the other hand the US government concluded that “the fall of Taiwan to an administration open to exploitation by Kremlin-directed communists” would pose a danger to US military assets in the Far East. On September 3, 1954, the Republic of China (ROC)-controlled island of Quemoy came under heavy artillery shelling from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) near the port of Amoy on the coast of mainland China. When Jiang Jieshi’s Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) administration retreated to Taiwan in 1949 as Mao Zedong and his Communist forces secured power over China, the ROC had conquered Quemoy and other outlying islands (Burch, 2013).

The first Taiwan Straits Conflict of 1954–1955 was started by this invasion on Quemoy and this was continued over Ten month, Ten months that gripped the entire world in fear of a third world war, And the very real possibility of an atomic exchange. Because to this incident, the 1954 US-Taiwan Mutual Defense Treaty and the Formosa Resolution were both significant pieces of legislation.


President Dwight Eisenhower planned to launch a nuclear assault on the People’s Republic of China during the Taiwan Strait Crisis, which started in the fall of 1954 and concluded in the fall of 1958. This was done to safeguard Taiwan. Throughout the 1950s, conflicts and nuclear pitfalls agonized relations between the PRC, ROC, and US. therefore, as the multitudinous tumultuous politic occurrences of the Taiwan Strait heads from 1954 to 1958 unfolded, it came clear the complexity of aggressive and coalition diplomacy, which was so directly captured in the numerous complications of PRC- ROC- US relations the” silent poetry” of diplomacy, the allowances for recessions, the muted propaganda. There were secret addresses, and ordnance bombardments that were loud and violent.


US Objective:

  • From the beginning of the crisis, the PRC continually took precautions to prevent conflict with the United States, while the Eisenhower administration attempted to avoid war with the PRC as well as protect Chiang’s government on Taiwan.
  • The US’s threat to deploy nuclear weapons had no impact on its goals. Instead, it heightened the threat of conflict and weakened the ROC’s already waning international backing. Also, it speeds up international attempts to accept PRC claims to the outer islands, China’s UN seat, and Taiwan itself.
  • The Eisenhower administration intervened by persuading Chiang to renounce the belligerent diplomatic and military actions he believed were necessary for the ROC leader’s political legitimacy. Nonetheless, PRC when Mao sparked the crisis, the PRC lost the advantage it had earned in the autumn of 1954.

China’s Objective:

  • The Chinese communist leadership had two key objectives at the outset of a crisis and Mao created to obtain them. The most important was to raise the international profile of the Taiwan issue.
  • Second was to halt ROC military harassment of the mainland from the offshore islands. By the end of the crisis in fall 1958, the PRC had achieved both objectives.
  • The PRC strategy was to use military force to create a tense atmosphere that put pressure on the United States to negotiate with the PRC on the problems created by ROC forces on the offshore islands and the Ultimate status of Taiwan. Although, US nuclear threats did not alter PRC strategy or behavior. More important, they did not prevent the PRC from obtaining its objectives.


Historically, During the Cold War, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the United States of America (USA) were direct rivals. In Korea, China and the U.S. engaged in combat between 1950 and 1953, and on five other occasions, the two nations came dangerously close to going to war: over Vietnam in 1954 and 1965, and over Taiwan in 1954–1955, 1958–1959, and 1962. These events attracted preventive diplomacy and a notable range of methods of preventive diplomacy applied, particularly Taiwan crisis also attracted the coercive diplomacy.

Preventive diplomacy:

Preventive diplomacy as a concept is a relatively recent one. It signifies efforts to head off conflicts mitigate their effects and prevent their recurrence.  It aims to steer away from the conflicts by proactive diplomacy. It keeps evolving during peacekeeping missions. The crises concerning Taiwan in 1954, 1958, and 1962 gave rise to the exercise of preventive diplomacy.

For example Taiwanese leader to display patience and to agree to treat the islands as ‘airbases,’ the U.S. proposed and completed a defense pact deal with Taiwan (US-Taiwan Mutual Defense Treaty). Finally, Premier Zhou Enlai said that the PRC was prepared for negotiations and had no intention of starting a conflict with the United States.

The U.S. seized on this statement, which led to negotiations between the two ambassadors. This successfully put an end to the problem.

Coercive diplomacy:

Coercive diplomacy is a holistic “stick-and-carrot” crisis management strategy and this is also defined as the diplomacy of threats. This was seen during crisis for example, in Korean War, The Chinese communists advised the United States repeatedly to stay away from the ancient line between northern and southern Korea. Mao was likely to step in if that line was crossed, but PRC military leaders weren’t so sure.

Once the Chinese communists interfered in Korea, Truman did in fact threaten to deploy nuclear weapons against the PRC during a news conference. Unlike Korean War, The US also threat to deploy nuclear weapons but this time it goes in favor of PRC (China),as it confirmed its seat UNSC.


  • It cemented the US’s obligation to Taiwan’s security and denoted the start of its well-established strategy of supporting Taiwan against Chinese animosity. The current dynamics of the Taiwan Strait region are still influenced by this policy.
  • Also, the emergency featured the weakness of Taiwan and the potential for additional contentions later on.
  • It set the stage for subsequent conflicts, including the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1958 and the PRC-Taiwan relationship, which is still very complicated.
  • Last but not least, the crisis brought to light the international community’s concern regarding peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

It prompted diplomatic efforts to manage tensions between the two sides and raised awareness of the possibility of conflict. Even though efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Taiwan issue have increased since the crisis, no permanent solution has been found.


After the crisis of 1954-55, China and USA want for the same crisis in 1958–1959, 1962, and in mid-1990. The US-PRC Taiwan conflict is still unsolved, and the people of Taiwan are rejecting the 1972 modus vivendi by adopting democratic reforms to express their autonomy.

The US-China relationship is steadily deteriorated, and both countries are actively planning for the next armed battle over the island’s sovereignty. Another disaster can occur at any time. The main lesson from the Taiwan Strait Crisis of the 1950s is that PRC leaders is unlikely to be stopped by American threats to use low-yield or non-strategic nuclear weapons.

It’s far more possible that employing them in the event that deterrence is unsuccessful than it is to resolve the issue. It is more likely to intensify the conflict than put a stop to it when deterrence fails.


In conclusion, the First Taiwan Strait Crisis, which lasted from 1954 to 1955, was an important moment in the relationship between Taiwan and China. The emergency arose due to heightening pressures between Individuals Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) over the situation with Taiwan. The ROC-controlled islands of Kinmen and Matsu were the targets of a series of artillery attacks by the PRC during the crisis. The goal of these attacks was to get the ROC government to give up its claim to Taiwan and bring it back together with mainland China.

The Seventh Fleet was sent to the Taiwan Strait and the United States, which had a treaty of mutual defense with the ROC, offered military assistance to Taiwan in response to the attacks. The U.S. intervention demonstrated its dedication to Taiwan’s defense and deterred further PRC aggression.

The emergency additionally saw political endeavors by different gatherings to stop pressures. A ceasefire and negotiations to settle the conflict peacefully were proposed by the United Nations, led by the United States. Nonetheless, the discussions between the PRC and the ROC neglected to accomplish any huge leap forward, and the emergency at last finished at an impasse.

Generally speaking, the Primary Taiwan Waterway Emergency was a basic occasion that molded the international scene in East Asia. It set the stage for future confrontations and diplomatic efforts to manage the PRC-Taiwan relationship’s complex dynamics, highlighted Taiwan’s significance to regional security dynamics, and emphasized the United States’ role in the region.

This Article is written by Hajra Khan, who is currently doing BS International Relations at the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad. She is interested in Global Politics, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution. The views expressed in this article is authors’ own views and do not reflect the views or opinions of the Youth Diplomacy Forum.

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