Facing facts in Formosa

A new war scare is going the rounds. General Eisenhower, in his State of the Union announcement, says that the American fleet would no longer be used to prevent raids by the Nationalist Chinese against the Chinese mainland. Such a decision would be in the fashion these days—of a big power using a small one as a cat’s paw. This contemplated extension of the war in Korea to the great Asian mainland, has aroused the fear that this may be a step towards World War III.

Formosa was part of the Chinese Empire for 400 years from the time of Kublai Khan until European traders arrived on the scene, since when it has been a bone of contention. The Dutch who occupied the tip in 1624 were ousted by the Spaniards. The Dutch retook the island after defeating the Spaniards. A Chinese force from the mainland defeated the Dutch and took possession in 1662. Then came the Japanese in 1895 who took six years to subdue the islanders. After the conclusion of World War II, the Chinese Nationalists then in power in China, took possession in 1945. The Communists on the island revolted in 1947 but the attempt was put down with great severity.

Immediately after the defeat of Japan, the U.S.A. backed Chiang Kai-Shek in the civil war against the Communists. American post-war financial backing from 1945 until 1949 amounts to U.S. $3,875 million. (“China Stands Up” by R. K. Karanji). This turned out to be a bad investment for the American Capitalist class because the Nationalist military machine lost the war, and took refuge in the Island of Formosa where they have since remained as a quisling government, lavishly supported by the U.S.

The British Government considers that support to Chiang Kai-Shek is throwing good money after bad, and with their long and intimate experience in China were amused at the American policy of pouring money into Chiang Kai-Shek’s coffers. Much of this money is lost in graft and most of the arms have found their way into the hands of the opposing Communist side.

American Strategy
Formosa is an island cross-roads, halfway between Shanghai and Hongkong, and halfway between Tokyo and Saigon, so that control of the island by the Chinese Nationalists means that they (on behalf of their mentors) appear to control these routes. Another aspect of the island’s strategic position is that along with Japan and the Philippines it acts as a bastion of American defence, or as a spring-board in case of invasion to the Asian mainland.

Another use of Formosa to the U.S.A. is that so long as control is invested in the Chiang Kai-Shek clique, there is always the inherent danger of invasion of the mainland, and this risk keeps large bodies of Chinese troops tied down—soldiers who would otherwise be available for service against the Allies in Korea.

But viewed from Peking, the American threat may take on a different aspect—it may appear as a sign of weakness. The Chinese may think that after two and a half years of fighting, the armies of the West can no longer see hope of victory arising from action on the battlefield, and are therefore casting about for some other means.

The Clash Between British and American Interests
Britain and the U.S.A. in the Far East have been traditionally hostile to one another—the friction arising over sharing the spoils from the China trade. Britain, the first on the scene, got the lion’s share—an untenable state of affairs for American interests.

The temptation to grasp this juicy plum has tantalised the U.S. even more since the atrophy of British power and the rise of American power in the “free” world.

The lusty adolescent U.S. capitalist power is swashbuckling with a full purse in the Far East, with the cynical, older and more experienced Chinese and British rulers watching for the main chance.

A blockade would destroy the prosperity of the British Crown Colony of Hongkong—before the Korean War, China consistently accounted for over one-third of Hongkong’s total trade, and moreover, British ships are the leading cargo-carriers on the Hongkong/Shanghai route. Furthermore, the British presumably still remember the consequences of their aggressive action against China in the 1st Opium War of 1839/1844, which resulted in driving China into closer diplomatic and economic relations with Russia.

If China were Blockaded
A study of the situation would not be complete without estimating the probable effects of blockading the China coast. On the credit side for America capitalism firstly, the previously stated tying-down of Chinese forces to counteract the possibility of Nationalist landings on the mainland. Secondly, to the extent that a blockade was effective, it would mean that fewer supplies, directly or indirectly useful in prosecuting the war in Korea, would be received by China—the real enemy of America on the Korean peninsular. Thirdly, the loss of trade that would undoubtedly result from a blockade might increase to danger-point the opposition to the present Chinese government, and thus induce them to sue for peace terms in Korea to the advantage of American imperialism.

Against the above factors, we must remember that the risk of offensive action by Chiang Kai-Shek on the mainland, has in fact already tied down a million Chinese troops, and that possibly the Chinese Government would not need to increase this number.

As to the cutting down of supplies—the Chinese Government has, since its inception in 1949, pursued a policy of economic self-sufficiency, coupled with development of trade with Russia and with other East European countries. Thus the Chinese, never a seafaring race, have of recent years become even less dependent on sea routes. The Financial Times (11-2-53) states that:—

“In 1950 Chinese trade with other Communist countries accounted for 26 per cent. of her total trade. By 1951, according to Chinese sources, the percentage had risen to 61 per cent; and in 1952 the figure is expected to be over 70 per cent.
Trade between China and the United States has almost ceased. There have been no shipments of U.S. goods to China since 1950 and licences for U.S. imports from China are now restricted to cases where the refusal to grant a licence would cause severe distress to U.S. importers.
The general conclusion which emerges is that China has little to offer of which the world cannot secure adequate supplies elsewhere, with the possible exception of bristle and tung oil, and that China needs little, except rubber, which she cannot buy from behind the Iron Curtain.”
Against the third point—of exciting internal opposition, it may be doubted whether there is any possibility of effective opposition from the capitalists in China.”

For the purposes of this review, we are assuming that a blockade by Chinese Nationalist forces, even with the assistance of the U.S. 7th Fleet, will be efficient, but this is most unlikely. The corruption, and consequent ineffectiveness, of the Chiang Kai-Shek clique has been a major scandal even in the Orient (where venality is taken almost for granted). Moreover, smuggling is big business in China and has been practised successfully for years in opposition to an efficient administration. It would be surprising indeed if a blockade from Formosa brought sea-going traffic to a standstill.

In considering the possibility of a successful invasion of the mainland, it may be useful to recall the behaviour of Nationalist troops in contact with the Red Army during the civil war which ended in 1949; these peasant troops, favouring the Communists Party’s Land Reform programme, had no stomach for fighting and were glad to surrender and get the opportunity of returning to their homes. There seems to be no reason why this could not happen again.

Is Eisenhower Bluffing ?
We must not forget that Eisenhower has only just been elected President of the U.S.A., and his sponsors, the Republican Party, in their first success in this direction for many years, are much concerned in maintaining the interest of the electors. General Eisenhower, as a soldier, is expected to talk tough, and anyway, tough talk costs nothing.

But whatever the next move by the ruling class in the dangerous game of power politics, in the final analysis it is the workers who make the armaments and fight the wars for the protection of their masters’ interests and their acquiescence is necessary for the carrying out of policies. At the present time, for instance, the workers may be sufficiently fed-up with war and war conditions to make themselves heard in opposition to a government extending a local war into a world war.


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