Anglo-American tensions over the Chinese offshore islands, 1954-1958
The purpose of this thesis is to explore the 'special relationship' between the United States and Great Britain and their ability to work together in the Far East despite widely divergent policies towards the People's Republic of China. The American policy of non-recognition of the PRC and its active support of the Republic of China, in opposition to Britain's early recognition of the PRC, did not hamper British and American efforts to work together to wage or contain the Cold War. In reference to the crises in the area of the Chinese offshore islands of Matsu and Quemoy, I would argue that the US and Britain put their differences aside during tense periods because they agreed generally on over-all policy, to disengage the PRC from the influence of the Soviet Union, but used different means to attain this goal. Both Britain and the US, to different degrees, attempted to establish 'two China's' in order to stabilize the situation in the Far East which left unchecked might trigger a third world war. The skirmishes in the offshore islands in 1954-55 and 1958 highlighted the danger of this situation and affected the related issues of the China seat in the United Nations, the embargo placed on trade with the People's Republic at the time of the Korean war, Hong Kong and the diplomatic relationships in the region. This thesis examines the impact of these issues on Far East policy, particularly, how agreements reached on the United Nations and trade issues affect British policy during the 1958 offshore islands crisis. The change in British policy from 1954 to 1958 is striking, reflecting external issues such as Suez and Harold Macmillan's rise to the office of prime minister. American policy, although less inflexible than is traditionally assumed, shifts slightly over the same period and attempts to normalize the situation by placing tighter controls on its ally, Chiang Kai-shek. As will be seen, British cooperation on Far Eastern issues was an important prerequisite for American manoeuvres in the region.