After the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) leader Chiang Kai-shek retreated to Taiwan in 1949, the Matsu islands—together with Kinmen farther south—became known as the Republic of China’s “frontline islands,” the northern anchor of an offshore defence chain just a few kilometres from the Communist-held mainland.

For Chiang, they were also an advanced staging ground for the forces of “Free China” to retake the country they had lost to Mao Zedong.

Matsu is one of just four counties nationwide still dominated by the party that once ruled with an iron fist, but is now struggling just to keep itself together and remain relevant.

Read more in HKFP’s feature by Ryan Kilpatrick: Voting on the Frontline: After crushing defeat, Taiwan’s KMT clings to islands on China’s shore.

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Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Kilpatrick is a local writer, journalist and editor. Formerly National Online Editor for the That's magazine group in China, his work on the history and politics of the region has earned him the CEFC Award in Modern China Studies and has also appeared in China Economic Review, Asian Studies Review, China Green News, e-International Relations, Shanghaiist and various publications at his alma mater, the University of Hong Kong, where he is currently enrolled in the Master of Journalism programme.