The Cold War: Impact on Taiwan

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Introduction to the Cold War

Post-World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as two rival superpowers of the world. Despite defeating the European powers together, they had several long-held disagreements. The nations started to compete with each other by strengthening their global presence, military power, economy and government in order to rise as a sole global superpower.

A series of events proved that the United States held superior power: it dropped two atomic bombs over Japan; lost 3,00,000 soldiers in the war as compared to 10 million men lost by the Soviet Union; entered the war later which gave them less economic damage; made heavy profits from supplying weapons to its allies; the Korean War, the Vietnam War and more. Soviet Union could not keep up with the aggressive expansion of US power.

Cold War leading its way to Taiwan

The involvement of China as a third party led the war into Taiwan. China supported its fellow communist nation, the Soviet Union who together signed the Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance. The Soviet Union extended massive support to China in the form of loans and assistance. However, there was an ideological gap between the nations which led them to drift apart, after Soviet Union leader Stalin’s death.

Taiwan, the way we looked at it in 1949.

One instance of disagreement between the nations introduces the war to Taiwan: in July 1958, the Soviet Union and PCR were discussing a joint Sino-Soviet naval, to prevent US involvement in East Asia. The deal was put off as Mao (PRC ruler) accused Khrushchev (Soviet Union authority) of trying to build Soviet dominance on PRC’s coast. Soon, Mao attempted to impose PRC hegemony on Taiwan by invading the Matsu and Kinmen islands.

Unfolding of the War

Taiwan was ruled by the Republic of China and largely supported by the United States. The Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China were rivals as a result of land-related issues. The Sino-American Mutual Defence Treaty was signed between the US and the Republic of China in which the US provided military assistance and support to the ROC forces. On 11th August 1954, the PRC declared that Taiwan must be liberated and sent troops to invade Kinmen and Matsu Islands. The PLA (People’s Liberation Army- PRC’s military force) launched heavy airstrikes on Kinmen Islands, Tachen Islands and Yijiangshan Islands over the months.

The Formosa Resolution was passed on January 29, 1955, allowing US powers to protect the Republic of China and its territories in the Taiwan Strait from military attack by the PRC. US threatened the use of nuclear weapons against the PRC. In March 1955, U.S. President Eisenhower, publicly declared that he planned to destroy the “Red China’s” defence forces. Threatened by the risk of a nuclear strike, the PRC agreed to negotiate which subsided the issue for a brief period; however, in 1958, the PRC continued their activities. Consequently, the United States reinforced their Naval power on the Taiwanese coast and their Airforce monitored the areas constantly. The PRC became weak and incapable to fight the U.S. causing the intensity of the war to decrease, however, continue.

Then U.S. President Eisenhower. Image source: CNN

How the war concluded

Ultimately, the Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China was signed on January 1, 1979, which established a formal relationship between the two nations. The treaty led US troops to withdraw from Taiwanese protection and gave room for the PRC and ROC to settle their disputes. Despite the official conclusion of the “war”, there continued to be small scale conflicts in Taiwan.

Effects of the war on Taiwan

Just as one could imagine a warzone to look like, Taiwan was majorly affected: resources and necessities were scarce, inflation was at a peak and the economy went downhill. Long after a government was established, Taiwan regained its stability just as it was pre-war

Taiwan-China Present Relations

The two countries are still caught up in distressed relations ever since 1949. China has been aspiring to claim power over Taiwanese land while the island has always demanded to be a free and democratic country. However, tensions between the countries are passive for the most part. Over the years, they have been amending “formal” relations for good because they need each other. Taiwan needs to be on good terms with a giant superpower like China, so as to benefit economically. And China needs to use Taiwan as another mode of expanding its operations. Although the countries are amicable on the table, they are both ready for another possible conflict- China with its communist views and Taiwan with its democratic ones.

Image source: Getty


“Did the Cold War weaken Taiwan’s competence or strengthen it- perhaps both?”

In order to draw a conclusion, we must compare the political, social and economic status of Taiwan during the war and presently. Nearly 70 years after the war, both the ROC and the PRC continue to claim Taiwan as a part of their respective territories. The political situation is still a hot topic for debate with different parties claiming their ideologies. However, one positive political outcome is the continued support from the United States despite the end of the war the aid provided by the US, gives Taiwan strong base support.

Beyond question, the war disturbed the Taiwanese society who are still paying social costs, years later. The brutal activities in their homeland ruined their society and peace. Moreover, the unstable political situation gives them greater uncertainty of their peace and security. Taiwanese society is largely influenced by Chinese culture after the invasion; and over the years, has embraced it. Currently, amidst the insecurities, society is an established one with rising popularity.

Post-war, Taiwan’s economy was fragile and exhausted. The island did not have basic amenities for its society and the funds to rebuild its land. However, after the war, the people of Taiwan started finding ways to uplift their economy. Soon, Taiwan’s rapid economic growth was fuelled by growing labour efficiency, attentive reform, government regulation, overseas investment, high rate of savings and trade. The contribution of the government, the people of the nation and foreign help changed the future of Taiwan from an island in a slump to a powerful hub for trade and international relations.

The question that arises: was this economic and social growth, a result of the war? No.The appropriate argument to put forward for this is that- the war only delayed the growth of Taiwan, it was bound to happen. Had the war not occurred and damaged the island, it would have progressed to become a global hub ages ago, along with fellow Asian countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea. It would be wrong to say that the development in Taiwan was fuelled by revenge from the war. It was merely the only way for the country to live again. After considering the given arguments, the research question can be answered as follows: The cold war weakened Taiwan’s competence”. 


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7. Ling-I Chu and jinn-yuh Hsu: Cold war islands and the rebordering of the nation/state: Kinma in the Taiwan Strait. (2018, June 18). FOCAALBLOG | Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Arya Patel

Arya Patel is a second-year Business Student

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