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Preventing a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan

Guns of August in the Taiwan Strait, 1958

By Miles Maochun Yu

Any Chinese military invasion of Taiwan will plausibly begin with China’s taking by force of the Taiwanese-held offshore islands, especially the island groups of Quemoy, Matsu, Pratas, or even the Penghus. This understanding is not only informed by geography and conventional military wisdom, but also by history.

In August 1958, the Chinese Communist military launched a massive shelling blitzkrieg against the Taiwan-held islands of Quemoy and Matsu just a few miles off the coast of communist China, prompting a major, prolonged, and first serious nuclear crisis the world had ever witnessed. On August 23 alone, the first day of the shelling, the Chinese artillery fired more than 40,000 shells on these tiny offshore islands, with an average 10,000 rounds per day for the following week. Hundreds of thousands of shells would rain on the Taiwanese islands in the ensuing months, with sporadic shelling continuing for nearly two decades until January 1, 1979, when the Carter Administration officially switched U.S. diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

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