260. Despatch From the Embassy in the Republic of China to the Department of State 0

No. 409


  • Embassy despatch No. 382, March 5, 19571


  • The Future of Taiwan; Return to the Mainland; Unilateral Action; “Deal”; “Two Chinas”?


Any projection of the future of Taiwan and the GRC involves a calculus of imponderables—psychological, political, economic and military. For the foreseeable future, consideration of Taiwan cannot be divorced from the context of the thirty-year-old, now stalemated, civil war between the GRC and the Chinese Communists. Either Peiping or Taipei would, if it saw a clear chance of success, seek a military resolution of this civil war. The estimate presented in this despatch, which is primarily political and psychological, is based on the premises that the various deterrents against unrestrained military action by either side will continue effective and that satisfactory economic conditions will be maintained on Taiwan. However, these premises are uncertain particularly in regard to the military prospects. No immediate probability is seen of a “disengagement” involving GRC withdrawal of its forces from the offshore islands. Apart from the offshore islands, a destruction of the delicate balance of military considerations could result from a Communist miscalculation of the United States intentions, or it could come about in other ways.

The outlook for the GRC in psychological and political terms is considerably less bleak than might appear on the basis of logical calculations alone. The hope of return to the mainland still continues an essential element in the rationale of the GRC, and an expression of the aspirations of mainland Chinese on Taiwan. However, it now seems unlikely that the mere perpetuation of the present situation, with consequent indefinite deferment of return hopes, will of itself impel the GRC to any irrational action, such as a “deal” with the Communists, or “unilateral action” against the mainland.

Thus, the immediate prospects are for a continuation of the present situation—a divided China with civil-war overtones. Over the longer [Page 528] run, dissatisfaction with various aspects of the present uneasy equilibrium will probably grow, perhaps causing some sectors of United States public opinion and some of our allies to urge the establishment of some other situation, such as a “two-China” situation in the sense of two separate Chinese governments concurrently recognized and dealt with by other nations. Of all proposed “solutions” of the Taiwan problem, this would seem the most unrealistic at the present time. There may also be a growth of sentiment, particularly among the Taiwanese, in favor of the establishment of a “two Chinas” situation in the sense of an independent Taiwan. An independent Taiwan would be feasible only if the GRC had already lost all powers of resistance or had given up all hope of returning to the mainland. Nor would such a situation seem to be intrinsically preferable to that which exists at present, from the point of view of United States policy interests.

Note: This estimate was prepared by the Embassy, but was coordinated within the Country Team group (State, Army, Navy, Air, USTDC, and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] which collaborated in the production of daily telegraphic reports during the Strait Crisis.

[Here follow 34 paragraphs of discussion. The complete text of the document is in the Supplement.]

For the Ambassador:
David L. Osborn
Counselor of Embassy for Political Affairs
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/2–1259. Secret.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid., 793.5/3–557) For a memorandum summarizing it, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. III, p. 510.