Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty
Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty was a treaty between the United States of America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

; it was signed on December 2, 1954 at the Zhongshan Hall
Zhongshan Hall
Zhongshan Hall is a historical building which originally functioned as the Taipei City Hall. It is located at 98 Yanping South Road in the Ximending neighborhood of the Zhongzheng District in downtown Taipei City, Taiwan...

 in Taipei
Taipei City is the capital of the Republic of China and the central city of the largest metropolitan area of Taiwan. Situated at the northern tip of the island, Taipei is located on the Tamsui River, and is about 25 km southwest of Keelung, its port on the Pacific Ocean...

 and came into force on March 3, 1955.

Article 10 of the treaty provided that either Party could terminate it one year after notice had been given to the other Party.

According to the provision of Article 10, this treaty was terminated on Jan. 1, 1980, one year after the United States established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 on January 1, 1979. The right for President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 to unilaterally annul a treaty, in this case the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty, was the topic of the Supreme Court case Goldwater v. Carter
Goldwater v. Carter
Goldwater v. Carter, 444 U.S. 996 , was a United States Supreme Court case which was the result of a lawsuit filed by Senator Barry Goldwater and other members of the United States Congress challenging the right of President Jimmy Carter to unilaterally nullify the Sino-American Mutual Defense...

in which the court declined to rule on the legality of this action, given the political nature rather than judicial nature of the case, thereby allowing it to proceed. Shortly after the United States' recognition of the People's Republic, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act
Taiwan Relations Act
The Taiwan Relations Act is an act of the United States Congress passed in 1979 after the establishment of diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China and the breaking of relations between the United States and the Republic of China on the island of Taiwan by President Jimmy Carter...

. .

Treaty obligations and impact

This treaty consists of ten main articles. The content of the treaty includes the provision that if one country came under attack, the other would aid and provide military support.

In the context of Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 and the confrontation between capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 and communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 worldwide, this treaty secured the Republic of China from invasion by the People's Republic of China in the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 on mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

, from 1949 until its termination.

This treaty was limited in application to the defense of Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 and the Pescadores
The Penghu Islands, also known as Pescadores are an archipelago off the western coast of Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait consisting of 90 small islands and islets covering an area of 141 square kilometers....

 only. Kinmen
Kinmen , also known as Quemoy , is a small archipelago of several islands administered by the Republic of China : Greater Kinmen, Lesser Kinmen, and some islets. Administratively, it is Kinmen County of Fujian Province, ROC. The county is claimed by the People's Republic of China as part of its...

 and Matsu
Matsu Islands
The Matsu Islands are a minor archipelago of 19 islands and islets in the Taiwan Strait administered as Lienchiang County , Fujian Province of the Republic of China . Only a small area of what is historically Lienchiang County is under the control of the ROC...

 were not protected by this treaty. Therefore, the US stood aside during the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis
Second Taiwan Strait Crisis
The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, also called the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis, was a conflict that took place between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China governments in which the PRC shelled the islands of Matsu and Quemoy in the Taiwan Strait in an attempt to seize them from...


This treaty also prevented Republic of China from initiating any military action against mainland China, since only Taiwan and Pescadores are included and unilateral military actions were not supported.

From the viewpoint of US Senate, in conjunction with the ratification of the MDT, a report issued Feb. 8, 1955 by the US Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations specified: "It is the view of the committee that the coming into force of the present treaty will not modify or affect the existing legal status of Formosa and the Pescadores."

To avoid any possibility of misunderstanding on this aspect of the treaty, the committee decided it would be useful to include in this report the following statement:
It is the understanding of the Senate that nothing in the treaty shall be construed as affecting or modifying the legal status or sovereignty of the territories to which it applies.
Reference: Appendix 17 -- Report on Mutual Defense Treaty with the Republic of China, U.S. Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations (1955)

Historical significance

Diplomatically, this treaty prolonged and assisted Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

in maintaining legitimacy as the sole government of the whole of mainland China until early 1970s.

During the Cold War, this treaty also helped US policy makers to shape the Policy of Containment in East Asia together with South Korea and Japan against the spread of Communism.
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