Challenge Two: The First Taiwan Crisis of 1954–1955
Soon after the Indochina crisis, the Eisenhower administration faced its second challenge to its China policy. On September 3rd, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was vacationing at the Summer White House in Denver. At approximately seven o’clock that evening, he received a message from Deputy Defense Secretary Robert B. Anderson from Washington, DC. He reported that at two o’clock that morning, the Chinese Communists had begun heavy artillery shelling of Jinmen (Quemoy), one of approximately 25 small islands off the Chinese mainland coast held by the Nationalist regime. Two American members of the Military Assistance Advisory Group had been killed and 14 were being evacuated. Anderson’s message marked the beginning of a nine-month crisis which carried the country to the brink of nuclear war, almost caused a split between the US and its allies, and seriously tested the administration’s ability to uphold its views on national security while preserving domestic consensus for its foreign policy. In the President’s own words, “It was the most serious problem of the first eighteen months of my administration.”
The vast scholarly literature on United States policy during the crisis has treated the Executive branch’s relationship with public opinion, and particularly Congress, as an example of successful public relations management and of Congressional deference to the White House on national security issues during the early decades of the Cold War. Attention has focused on the overwhelming approval by Congress on January 28th, 1955 of the Formosa Resolution, granting the President unprecedented authority to employ US armed forces in the Taiwan (Formosa) Straits.
A more in-depth analysis, however, shows that the administration’s management of public opinion and its relationship with Congress during the crisis are more complex than the lopsided passage of the Formosa Resolution suggests. This chapter analyzes the way which President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles perceived and handled popular and Congressional feelings throughout the entire crisis and argues that their public relations strategy was not always successful.
- Accinelli, Robert. “Eisenhower, Congress and the 1954–1955 Offshore Islands Crisis.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 20 (1990): 329–348.Google Scholar
- ———. Crisis and Commitment: United States Policy Toward Taiwan, 1950–1955. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1996.Google Scholar
- Bachrack, Stanley. The Committee of One Million, “China Lobby” Politics. New York: Columbia University Press, 1976.Google Scholar
- Brands, H.W., Jr. “Testing Massive Retaliation: Credibility and Crisis Management in the Taiwan Straits.” International Security 12 (1988): 124–151.Google Scholar
- Briggs, Philip J. “Congress and the Cold War: US-China Policy, 1955.” The China Quarterly 85 (1981): 80–95.Google Scholar
- Chang, Gordon. “To the Nuclear Brink, Eisenhower, Dulles and the Quemoy-Matsu.” International Security 12 (1988): 98–99.Google Scholar
- Chang, Gordon and He Di. “The Absence of War in the US-China Confrontation over Quemoy and Matsu in 1954–1955: Contingency, Luck, Deterrence?” American Historical Review 98 (1993): 1500–1524.Google Scholar
- Eisenhower, Dwight D. The White House Years: A Mandate for a Change. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1963.Google Scholar
- Foyle, Douglas C. “Public Opinion and Foreign Policy: Elite Beliefs as a Mediating Variable.” International Studies Quarterly 41 (1997): 141–169.Google Scholar
- ———. Counting the Public In: Presidents, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.Google Scholar
- Hagerty, James C. The Diary of James C. Hagerty, edited by Ferrell Robert. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.Google Scholar
- Rushkoff, Bennett C. “Eisenhower, Dulles and the Quemoy-Matsu Crisis.” Political Science Quarterly 96 (1981): 465–480.Google Scholar