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The China ThreatMemories, Myths, and Realities in the 1950s$
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Nancy Bernkopf Tucker

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231159241

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231159241.001.0001

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Back to the Strait

Back to the Strait

(p.139) 9 Back to the Strait
The China Threat

Nancy Bernkopf Tucker

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines how the end of the 1958 Taiwan Strait crisis which affected China and the United States. For Dwight D. Eisenhower and Mao Zedong, the 1958 Strait confrontation—which arose when China shelled the islands of Kinmen and the nearby Matsu Islands along the mainland's east coast (in the Taiwan Strait)—reflected different definitions of security, trouble with domestic constituencies, and clashing cultural assumptions, even as both sought to avoid a military collision. The crisis evolved slowly from the inconclusive outcome of the earlier Taiwan Strait confrontation in 1954. Eisenhower viewed the crisis as a clarion call to defend the free world and to wage peace. He believed he must prevent the expansion of Communism but also avert military exchanges with China and the Soviet Union. For Mao, the decision to instigate the conflict most importantly served the goal of domestic reform. The end of the 1958 Strait crisis did not satisfy China's yearning for unification, Chiang Kai-shek's plans to return to the mainland, or Washington's desire to end the risk of war in the area.

Keywords:   Taiwan Strait crisis, China, United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mao Zedong, Taiwan Strait, Taiwan, Communism, Soviet Union, Chiang Kai-shek

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