Will Formosa touch-off World War III?

As this article is being written shells are raining down on Quemoy and every day some of the 125,000 military and civilians on the island are being killed or maimed. As the news is heard over radio and television in the comfort of our homes, or read in the papers, some are asking, or at least thinking, “Is this the start to World War III?”

Mr. Dulles said:

“Military dispositions have been made by the United States so that a Presidential determination, if made, would be followed by action both timely and effective.
“The President and I earnestly hope that the Chinese Communist régime will not again, as in the case of Korea, defy the basic principle on which world order depends, namely, that armed force should not be used to achieve territorial ambitions. Any such naked use of force would pose an issue far transcending the offshore islands and even the security of Taiwan.
“It would forecast a widespread use of force in the Far East which would endanger vital free world positions and the security of the United States. Acquiescence therein would threaten peace everywhere. We believe that the civilised world community will never condone overt military conquest as a legitimate instrument of policy.”

How it started
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 amounted to U.S. 3,875 million dollars. (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. Quemoy is one of the islands between Formosa and the Chinese mainland.

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.

It would be a feather-in-the-cap for the Chinese Government to capture Quemoy and help to develop a spirit of chauvinism in the Chinese people, who so far seem somewhat lacking in patriotic fervour. And, in any case, Quemoy is a step towards Formosa itself.

American Strategy
Formosa, together with the outlying islands, including Quemoy are an island crossroads, 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 the U.S.A.) control these routes. Another aspect of the island’s strategic position is that along with Japan and the Phillipines 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.SA 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. American assistance is vital for the defence of Formosa, even apart from the fact that every year the personnel of Chiang’s forces get a year older. There is little in the way of replacement as the families of these men have mostly been left on the mainland. Although some native Formosans have been drafted into the army, these are unreliable troops. There have been a series of rebellions throughout the islands from time to time, including trouble amongst the Formosan cadets. The Chinese administration is loathed as alien and corrupt. But the “democratic” American Government regard Chiang’s control of Formosa as vital to their interests at present.

Formosan capitalist class
But Formosa, with a population of over nine millions, has its own rapidly developing capitalist class which, supported by the workers, would no doubt oust the Chinese administratfon and resume trade with the huge Chinese market on the mainland. It is simple for the capitalists in Formosa to attribute the workers’ problems to the foreigners in control. This, of course, is a time-honoured dodge, but it always seems to work, because the workers there, as elsewhere, are not Socialists and do not understand their class interests.

The development of Formosa reads like an American success story. The index of industrial production, for instance, has risen from 49.4 in 1949 to 142.2 in 1957, and it is very much the same story for other aspects of the economy.

Wealth is produced whenever a good investment appears, as was shown last year in the successful sale of stocks and bonds amounting to 40 million Formosan dollars of the Ta Tung Engineering Corporation and the Formosan Cement Corporation. How fortunate these Capitalists are to have such industrious workers slaving away for them!

Also, the progress of the Chinese Petroleum Corporation in the island must be a great comfort to the shareholders; present plans in course of fulfilment are providing an output over four times the 1947 figure. But this is not sufficient for them. Like Capitalism elsewhere they need an efficient and economical administration with as little graft as possible, although there is always a certain amount of corruption in present-day society where money opens so many doors.

But Chiang Kai-shek does not provide what is required and the more Capitalism develops in Formosa the more is the need felt for a better administration. The pot is reaching boiling point, with the Nationalists sitting on the lid.

Probably neither the governments of U.S., China, Russia, or even Chiang Kai-Shek or Formosa particularly want war. But there is always the chance that the sparks now flying may ignite these fire-eaters and the situation may grow out-of-hand and embroil the world.

The Hope for Peace
Should war result, no benefit will accrue to the workers, who will be induced to fight the war. Whatever side they support they will be the losers, even though some of their masters may win markets, trade routes and sources of materials to enable them to increase the profits their workers turn out for them. THE ONLY ANTIDOTE TO WAR LIES IN THE SPREAD OF SOCIALIST KNOWLEDGE. When the workers realise the Capitalist cause of wars they can no longer be misled by their ruling-class into support of them and this alone will see the end of these scourges of mankind. This is one of the reasons why the spread of Socialist knowledge is so very urgent.

One Damned Thing After Another
But let us face it—even if the fighting over the Formosian islands is settled, the threat of war will remain —and possibly on a grander scale. Chinese Capitalism has designs on Indian territory and is steadily working towards a showdown there. The July issue of China Pictorial, an official Chinese organ, showed a big chunk of North-eastern Assam and parts of Bhutan and Ladakh as belonging to China. On September 4th the Indian Premier, Mr. Nehru, said that “the Chinese Communist Government had failed, in spite of repeated reminders, to revise its maps of China so as to exclude territories which are indisputably Indian.”

Elsewhere Chinese exports of manufactured goods are ousting the Japanese products, among others and relations between the governments are growing more strained.

Capitalist development generally is making the whole world a danger zone for war. It is difficult to foretell the result of the present fighting because of the complications that lie behind, but certain it is that the Formosan incident will not be the last.


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