On Wednesday the Ministry of National Defense released its defense report for this year. By coincidence, a similar report by China has also just been released. This timing is by no means intentional, but it was certainly convenient for both reports to be published in the same month, so that the international community can compare the national defense policies of both countries.
The focus of Taiwan's report is the establishment of mutual trust across the Taiwan Strait. In the short term the ministry would like to seek goodwill and common ground on contentious issues; in the middle term it wants to establish norms of conduct and consolidate mutual trust; and in the long term it is looking to put an end to enmity and ensure peace. To realize these goals, the report suggests having a "set of norms of military conduct across the Strait" consisting of seven measures.
With all eyes on the mutual military escalation across the Taiwan Strait, this is clearly showing the softer, more peace-oriented face of Taiwan, and should give cause for reflection to China's leaders, who are refusing to rule out military force against Taiwan.
Most attention will focus on what the reports say about the development of military capability. Both reports emphasize the importance of a "revolution in military affairs." The crux of this is a reassessment of the form that any war will take, shifting the focus from a comparison of individual weapons, to one of integrated systems, including C3I systems (command, control, communication, and intelligence), and how they are integrated with weapons systems and logistics.
In recent years the military has been trying to consolidate its air power with aircraft such as the Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF), F16 and Mirage, and naval power with Lafayette and Cheng Kung frigates, to integrate C3I and firepower systems.
In addition, the ministry is avidly trying to secure the purchase of Patriot 3 missiles, P-3C anti-submarine aircraft and diesel submarines, all of which are earmarked for integration into these systems, following the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is all intended to act as a deterrent, to ensure that China would sustain heavy losses if it attacked Taiwan.
Since both sides are emphasizing this revolution in military affairs, any future war will consist of the orchestration of integrated systems. According to Major-General Zhang Yuliang (
Today, China's study of the integration of combined operations focuses on a naval blockade, amphibious landings and other strategies. To unify these strategies, they have focused on regulating military deployments and command structures.
Meanwhile, from the defense report, we can see that Taiwan's military build-up also focuses on the integration of various operations. This is where the key lies in the cross-strait military contest. Whoever achieves the capability for seamless combined operations will have a greater chance of victory in the event of a conflict.
Of course, peace and stability in the Strait is desired by the international community, and both sides of the Strait have a responsibility for achieving this. Taiwan expressed its goodwill by proposing military mutual trust. We certainly hope that China, which will soon publish its defense report, will express the same goodwill. The two transparent defense reports can be used as a bridge, to help achieve peace and stability across the Strait.