"Look for the invariants." 1 "One of the principal objects of theoretical research in any department of knowledge is to find the point of view from which the subject appears in its greatest simplicity." 2
In September 1954, January-March 1955, and August-October 1958, it seemed as if the United States of America and the People's Republic of China might go to war over a few small islands lying off the China coast. The purpose of this book is to explain how and why such an impression arose. The theme of the work is that Peking was striving to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, 3 and that this meant not the capture of a few small coastal islands, but rather the prevention of any change in the status of Taiwan that might put the island forever beyond Peking's reach except at the price of a world war. 4 The Taiwan affair of 1954-55 was not about the Tachens or Quemoy, but rather one episode in a long struggle by Peking to prevent the United States from detaching Taiwan from China, as Czarist Russia and the Soviet Union have detached Outer Mongolia. Chapter VIII shows that the 1958 Taiwan affair was both a sequel to the earlier affair and another episode in the same struggle; and a final chapter expands on the analogy with Outer Mongolia.
In constructing a framework for the analysis of the events involved, one can usefully combine elements from the work of several scholars in the fields of international politics, foreign policy analysis, and Chinese foreign policy.