Quemoy and Matsu are part of a group of fifteen islands located off the coast of Fujian Province. In the 1950s the two islands, which belong to Taiwan, became the focus of political crises between China, which controls the other thirteen islands, and Taiwan.

The islands of Quemoy and Matsu are part of a group of fifteen islands located in the Min River estuary about 12 kilometers off the coast of Fujian Province in China. The two islands, which were occupied by the Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang) forces during the Nationalist evacuation of the mainland in 1949, belong to Taiwan. The larger island is Quemoy (also known as “Kinmen,” “Chin-men,” or “Jinmen”), which covers an area of 132 square kilometers, whereas the smaller island of Matsu (also known as “Ma-tsu” or “Mazu”) covers only 12 square kilometers.

The heavily fortified islands became the focus of political crises between the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which controls the remaining thirteen islands in the group, and Taiwan, 210 kilometers to the east.

Historically the islands have served as refuges for people fleeing wars on the mainland or as shelter for pirates. The pirate Cheng Cheng-kung (Koxinga) fought the Manchus and the Dutch from his stronghold on Quemoy. After the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 the U.S. Seventh Fleet was placed in the Taiwan Straits to prevent the Chinese Nationalist Party and the Communists from attacking each other. Having just been elected U.S. president, Dwight D. Eisenhower withdrew the fleet in February 1953, and in August 1954 the Nationalist government in Taiwan moved fifty-eight thousand soldiers to Quemoy and fifteen thousand to Matsu. In September the two islands came under heavy bombardment from mainland forces, and the fighting spread to other islands in the East China Sea. In the early months of 1955 the fighting further escalated and involved coastal ports on the mainland. In the United States nuclear strikes against the PRC were considered, but this action was opposed by leading European members of NATO. In April 1955 the PRC offered to negotiate a cease-fire, and the bombardment of the islands stopped on 1 May 1955.

In 1958 the crisis flared again, and the islands were shelled once more. This time the United States extended its mutual security pact with Taiwan to include Quemoy and Matsu and once again deployed the Seventh Fleet to the area. Observers have proposed that large numbers of native Taiwanese soldiers were sent to the two islands in order to prevent them from staging an armed rebellion in Taiwan. The island of Quemoy has now been opened to tourism. Agriculture is the main occupation on Quemoy.

Further Reading

First Taiwan Strait Crisis: Quemoy and Matsu Islands. (2005). Retrieved December 30, 2008, from

Szonyi, M. (2008). Cold War island: Quemoy on the front line. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Source: Nielsen, Bent. (2009). Quemoy and Matsu. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1861–1862. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Quemoy and Matsu (J?nmén-M?z? ????)|J?nmén-M?z? ???? (Quemoy and Matsu)

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