Dan­ger­ous Bed­mates

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

In the 1950s, ten­sions be­tween the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China (PRC) and the Re­pub­lic of China (ROC), the na­tion known as Tai­wan, re­sulted in armed con­flict over strate­gic is­lands in the Tai­wan Strait. Jin­men, also known as Que­moy, lies two miles from the Main­land Chi­nese city of Xi­a­men; the other is­land, Mazu, is about ten miles from the city of Fuzhou. Both is­lands are lo­cated ap­prox­i­mately one hun­dred miles west of Tai­wan.

When the Na­tion­al­ist Gov­ern­ment of the ROC un­der Chi­ang Kai-shek lost con­trol of Main­land China dur­ing the Chi­nese Civil War, the Na­tion­al­ist Army fled to the is­land of Tai­wan, es­tab­lish­ing troops on the is­lands of Que­moy and Mazu, as well as the Dachen Is­lands fur­ther north. The lead­er­ship on both sides of the civil war clearly had an in­ter­est in con­trol­ling the is­lands. At the out­break of the Korean War in June 1950, the United States sent its Sev­enth Fleet into the Tai­wan Strait to pre­vent the Korean con­flict from spread­ing south. The ap­pear­ance of the Sev­enth Fleet an­gered the Chi­nese Com­mu­nists who trans­ferred their troops, seem­ingly poised for an invasion of Tai­wan, to the Korean front.

Tai­wan was first known as For­mosa. In the 1600s abo­rig­ines not of Chi­nese de­cent lived there, oc­ca­sion­ally vis­ited by Chi­nese and Ja­panese pi­rates and fish­er­men. In 1623, the Dutch es­tab­lished a set­tle­ment in Tay­ouan bay, near present-day Tainan. From this name, the name Tai­wan evolved. The Dutch set­tle­ment re­mained the prin­ci­ple es­tab­lish­ment for some time, which may be the rea­son why Holland has been such a staunch ally to Tai­wan. Am­bas­sador Tom Chou now holds this im­por­tant post in the heart of the Euro­pean Union – quite a pro­mo­tion af­ter Saint Lu­cia, where he clearly served his own coun­try, as well as his host coun­try, well!

In 1954, the U.S. led the cre­ation of the South­east Asia Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion to unify the re­gion against per­ceived Com­mu­nist ag­gres­sion. Nat­u­rally, the PRC viewed this as a threat to its na­tional se­cu­rity and re­gional lead­er­ship, so, in the in­ter­est of bol­ster­ing its po­si­tion in the Tai­wan Strait, China be­gan to bom­bard Jin­men in Septem­ber, and soon ex­panded its targets to in­clude Mazu and the Dachen Is­lands. The U.S., fear­ing a loss of Jin­men and Mazu to the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China, signed a Mu­tual De­fense Treaty with the ROC. The situation in the Strait de­te­ri­o­rated even more.

In Jan­uary 1955, the U.S. passed the “For­mosa Res­o­lu­tion” which gave Pres­i­dent Eisen­hower au­thor­ity to de­fend Tai­wan and the off­shore is­lands with nu­clear weapons if nec­es­sary. In Septem­ber 1955, the PRC and the United States be­gan talks at Geneva to dis­cuss pre­vent­ing the es­ca­la­tion of fu­ture con­flicts. De­spite this, the PRC re­sumed its bom­bard­ment of Jin­men and Mazu in 1958. Once again, Pres­i­dent Eisen­hower was con­cerned that the loss of the is­lands would be a pre­cur­sor to the Com­mu­nist con­quest of Tai­wan. The United States be­gan to re-sup­ply ROC gar­risons on Jin­men and Mazu. This brought an abrupt end to the bom­bard­ment and eased the cri­sis. Even­tu­ally, the PRC and ROC came to an ar­range­ment in which they shelled each other’s gar­risons on al­ter­nate days. This con­tin­ued for twenty years un­til the PRC and the United States nor­mal­ized re­la­tions.

Af­ter the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist vic­tory in 1949, peo­ple were stranded be­hind bor­ders. Once it be­came clear that the United States would not rec­og­nize the PRC, the Chi­nese ar­rested or de­nied exit per­mits to U.S. mis­sion­ar­ies, busi­ness­men, and schol­ars still liv­ing in China. By the same to­ken, the U.S. Gov­ern­ment pre­vented Chi­nese stu­dents and schol­ars with tech­ni­cal skills ca­pa­ble of aid­ing China from re­turn­ing home. When Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon vis­ited China in 1972, the talks pro­vided China and the United States with an av­enue for ne­go­ti­a­tion, so that mis­un­der­stand­ings would not es­ca­late into out­right con­flict.

Today, China, de­spite its smil­ing face of neo-colo­nial­ism through­out the world, is in­tent on desta­bi­liz­ing the re­gion with its claims to is­lands off its shores and even fur­ther afield. In fact, as we have seen in re­cent months, China, the third largest coun­try in the world, is build­ing ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands in or­der to ex­tend its ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters and gain mar­itime con­trol of the whole re­gion. Put sim­ply, Main­land China is in dis­pute with al­most ev­ery other coun­try in the re­gion over mar­itime and ter­ri­to­rial claims. Not only Tai­wan but also Ja­pan, the Philip­pines, Malaysia, Brunei, Viet­nam, and In­done­sia are all feel­ing the hot breath of Chi­nese glut­tony down their necks.

We can all thank the ‘who­ever’ that our P.M., “the Chief” had the wis­dom, per­spi­cac­ity, vision, po­lit­i­cal courage, gen­eros­ity of spirit, in­sight, fore­sight, and in­abil­ity to do any­thing else but choose to re­main with Tai­wan. As the old Chi­nese say­ing goes, “Those who sleep with ele­phants get squashed!”

Dear Reader, I des­per­ately wanted to in­clude the other Chi­nese say­ing, “Man with hole in pocket feel cocky all day,” but I couldn’t think how to work it in, ex­cept to per­haps point out that a pen­ni­less beg­gar with holes in his pocket might still feel cocky and in charge of his own destiny even though he has no rea­son to feel so – sorry!

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