In 1935, Mao Tse-Tung’s (Mao Zedong) guerrilla army arrived in North China after the 6,000 mile Long March, and the war of Japanese aggression in China began again. With the wide support of the peasants, Mao is successful in defeating Chiang Kai-Shek and dominating China. Chiang and his army were driven into exile in Taiwan. Chiang then fortified the islands of Quemoy (Jinmen) and Mazu, (8 miles off the coast of the mainland, between Taiwan and mainland China). Hence began the first of two crises in the Taiwan Strait.

The United States warned China against action against Taiwan, but on September 3, 1954, the Communists began shelling Quemoy. President Eisenhower refused to bomb mainland China or use of American troops to resolve the crisis, despite pressure to fight communism in China. However, on December 2, 1954, the United States signed the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Nationalist government on Taiwan. Sensing danger, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill advised against US atomic defense of Quemoy-Matsu. But US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles stated that the American people have to be prepared for possible nuclear strikes against China at a meeting of the NSC on March 10. Dulles followed that up by making the public aware in statements five days later. The very next day President Eisenhower concurred, "A-bombs can be used...as you would use a bullet." NATO foreign ministers quickly denounced the idea of a nuclear attack on China. Pressure subsided when Mao expressed interest in negotiating and on May 1, 1955, shelling of Quemoy-Matsu ended. The crisis was completely resolved when 11 men captured flying over China during the Korean War were released on August 1.

This crisis figured into the cold war and US nuclear dominance in two prominent ways. The U.S.S.R. remained uninvolved, the first example of soviet policy that would not participate in actions where the United States had become involved (even where communism was involved) that did not directly effect their own empire. Also, the world, and especially China, saw that the United States would use the threat of nuclear weapons to push its anti-Communist agenda.

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