“From the legal standpoint, Taiwan is not part of the Republic of China,” a declassified CIA report on Taiwan written in March 1949 says.
“Pending a Japanese peace treaty, the island remains occupied territory in which the US has proprietary interests,” the report continues.
The report says that communist control of the island would have “seriously unfavorable strategic implications” for the US.
It says that the native population of Taiwan would welcome release from Chinese control, but was not strong enough to stage a successful revolt.
“The Taiwanese are increasingly restive, however, because of the influx of Nationalist officials and military forces, and will become more susceptible to Communist influence,” the report says. Records show that the report, titled Probable Developments in Taiwan, was first declassified about 20 years ago and has since been gathering dust in the National Archives. It was unearthed this week by researchers who believe that it may not have been written about before.
“Assuming US inactivity, Taiwan will eventually pass under the control of the Chinese Communists,” the report says.
“In any US program to prevent this, the advantages to be gained from the strategic military viewpoint would have to be weighed against unfavorable political consequences, the extent of which would vary depending upon the selection and timing of measures for implementing the program,” the report says.
The CIA expected the early establishment of a communist-dominated government over all China and “it can be assumed that such a government would strive to establish its authority in Taiwan.”
When first written in 1949, the report was classified as “secret.”
“There is a strong sentiment in Taiwan favoring autonomy, but the situation is complicated by the conflicting interests of the native Taiwanese and Chinese Nationalist element,” the report says. “The Taiwanese bitterly resent the performance of the Nationalist administration on Taiwan since VJ [Victory over Japan]-day,” it adds.
According to the CIA, the Chinese rulers had exploited the native population “to the limit” without regard for their welfare or the preservation of the island’s resources. The report says that a Nationalist “rump government” on Taiwan could not be relied upon to prevent the communists from gaining control of the island.
“The Nationalist Army, Navy and Air Force are not only inefficient, but their loyalty and will to fight are questionable,” the report says. “In addition, such a refugee regime would be unstable because of the hostility of the local population which, in these circumstances, would be increasingly susceptible to Communist influence.”
The report concludes that the situation in Taiwan was growing more critical for the US because of Taiwanese discontent, Chinese Nationalist preparation of the island as “a last bastion” and increasing Chinese communist interest in, and capabilities toward, the island.
However, the strategic implications to US security of a takeover of Taiwan by China “would be seriously unfavorable,” it says.