INR-NIE files

No. 13
National Intelligence Estimate1


Chinese Communist Capabilities and Intentions with Respect to Taiwan Through 19522

the problem

To estimate Chinese Communist capabilities and intentions with respect to Taiwan through 1952.


The USSR will continue to support Communist operations in the Far East but will not intervene directly and overtly.

[Page 24]



Except for a substantial increase in air capabilities, the overall capabilities of the Chinese Communists to launch either a large-scale invasion or limited surprise attacks against Taiwan remain substantially unchanged since April 1951 when NIE-273 was published.

Chinese Nationalist capabilities to defend Taiwan have not improved substantially since that date.

Provided that present US policy with respect to Taiwan continues unchanged, and provided that US naval and air forces are available to defend Taiwan, Chinese Communist operations against Taiwan would almost certainly fail.
We do not believe that, under present circumstances, the Communists could achieve surprise in a large-scale attack. A large-scale Communist invasion attempt would almost certainly fail unless surprise were achieved to assure a fait accompli before US air and naval forces could be brought to bear.
A Communist attack with a limited number of their best troops probably could achieve surprise, but the Nationalists alone could almost certainly contain such an attack, unless the Communists received timely large-scale reinforcements. US naval and air forces could almost certainly prevent such reinforcements.
If US policy with respect to Taiwan should change and the US did not participate in the defense of Taiwan, the Chinese Nationalist forces could not successfully defend Taiwan against a large-scale Communist operation.
The Nationalist Government is relatively stable and serious factional strife is improbable so long as President Chiang Kai-shek heads the government. In the event of the overthrow or death of Chiang, factional strife would be intensified and a period of instability would probably follow before another Nationalist leader could establish his authority.
The weight of military, propaganda, and other indications suggests that the Chinese Communists do not plan an early attack against Taiwan.
Irrespective of developments in Korea, we believe that the Chinese Communists will not make either a limited surprise attack or a large-scale attack against Taiwan during the period of this estimate provided that present US policy with respect to Taiwan continues.
During the period of this estimate, the Communists will probably conduct reconnaissance, nuisance, or destruction raids (either by air or sea) against Nationalist-held offshore islands and may assault and capture some of these islands. However, we do not believe such actions will necessarily indicate an imminent invasion of Taiwan.
Over the longer term, we believe that the Chinese Communists will attempt to secure control over Taiwan by diplomatic means if possible; otherwise by military action when a favorable opportunity presents itself. So long as the relative military strength of the United States and the Communists in the Far East remains substantially unchanged, and so long as US policy with respect to Taiwan remains unchanged, we believe the Chinese Communists will not hazard a military attack on Taiwan.

[Here follow a discussion of Chinese Communist and Nationalist military capabilities and an analysis of Chinese Communist intentions with regard to Taiwan; three annexes concerning the capabilities of the Chinese Communist and Nationalist air forces, ports and landing beaches, and weather conditions in the Taiwan Straits; and a map of Taiwan and South China coast.]

  1. National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) were high-level interdepartmental reports presenting authoritative appraisals of vital foreign policy problems. NIEs were drafted by officers from those agencies represented on the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC), discussed and revised by interdepartmental working groups coordinated by the Office of National Estimates of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), approved by the IAC, and circulated under the aegis of the CIA to the President, appropriate officers of Cabinet level, and the National Security Council. The Department of State provided all political and some economic sections of NIEs.
  2. A note on the cover sheet reads as follows: “The intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Joint Staff participated with the Central Intelligence Agency in the preparation of this estimate. All members of the Intelligence Advisory Committee concurred in this estimate on 27 March 1952.”
  3. The text of NIE-27, “Chinese Communist Capabilities and Intentions With Respect to Taiwan,” Apr. 10, 1951, is printed in part in Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vii, Part 2, p. 1623.