America’s emotional approach to communism escalated when, on October 1, 1949, Mao tse-Tung declared victory over the Nationalist Army in the Chinese Civil War.
Despite US financial assistance and limited troop support, Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist government (KMT) and its supporters were forced to leave mainland China, establishing a new government in Taipei, Taiwan.
Although Taiwan was thought to be important for its natural resources and for the defense of Japan and the larger area of the Pacific, the island was seen to be beyond the capability of the United States militarily,
At least publicly, the US government accepted the island as part of Mainland China. This position encouraged Mao to seek some some sort of diplomatic affinity with the United States. The Truman administration refused, however, just as the Eisenhower administration later refused to establish a relationship with Castro’s Cuba.
Truman’s stance served to justify Mao’s decision to ally China with the Soviet Union.
Once Mao had made his choice, the Chinese government seized American consular property, jailing the American consul and detaining him for more than a year before his trial on spy charges. This action bears an eery resemblance to the hostage crisis in post-revolutionary Iran.
With the outbreak of war in Korea on June 25, 1950, President Truman ordered the US Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Straits to protect the Nationalists and deter Mao from his planned invasion of the island.
While the Soviets were not active participants in the invasion of Korea, they did furnish substantial amounts of material to both North Korea and China. Their support included 3,000 military advisory and training personnel, some combat air back-up, 2,400 aircraft, and sizable numbers of tanks and artillery.
Taiwan had now achieved not only strategic importance, but political significance as a bulwark against communism in Asia.
Economic and military assistance were forthcoming, amounting to $98 million from June 1, 1950, to June 30, 1951, and averaging almost $90 million per year throughout the 1960s.
In addition, a 116-man Military Advisory Group arrived in Taiwan in April 1951, growing to 400 men by May 1952.
Taiwan was fast becoming a fortress. General MacArthur described the island as
an unsinkable aircraft carrier and submarine tender ideally located to accomplish offensive strategy and at the same time checkmate defensive or counter-offensive operations by friendly forces based on Okinawa and the Philippines.
Communist intervention in Korea was seen as a Soviet mechanism devised to protect “concessions in Manchuria, influence events in China, and neutralize resurgent Japanese power.”
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