At a US congressional hearing on March 14 — the 35th anniversary of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act — US Congressman Brad Sherman asked if Taiwan was doing enough for its national defense.
“It is important that we provide Taiwan with the tools to defend itself, but Taiwan needs to act as well. Taiwan spends less than one-fifth per capita [on defense] than we Americans do,” Sherman said.
As a 19-year-old Taiwanese, I was surprised to hear that Taiwan spends less than many nations that do not face the same external threat. At present, Taiwan’s defense expenditure amounts to approximately 2.2 percent of GDP, compared with the 3 percent considered nominal internationally.
It is the nation’s responsibility and privilege to protect its democracy, liberty and culture.
I have heard a lot of people say that no matter how much Taiwan spends on defense, it would still lose in a cross-strait confrontation with China. That attitude is wrong: Taiwanese should not surrender before the fight has even begun. The people of Taiwan want peace, but freedom and democracy are just as important.
Others argue that the US will not sell Taiwan its latest weapons, so spending money on old military aircraft is a waste. Taipei is seeking to purchase F-16C/Ds, but Washington only wants to upgrade Taiwan’s F-16A/Bs, so purchasing F-35s is impossible. Also, does the nation even have the experts and technical knowledge required to maintain and operate such advanced fighter jets?
Opposition to spending big on national defense is also down to a lack of public trust in the military, in part due to several high-ranking military officials being charged with spying for China or corruption. The government must take action to shake up the military culture, since they are the ones that the public should entrust their lives to.
Taiwan recently implemented an all-volunteer military service system to replace the semi-voluntary one. Joining the military should be seen as a meaningful and courageous career move, but local culture does not encourage pride in serving one’s country.
Some Taiwanese feel that serving in the military is a waste of time and a career for people who do not want to study and cannot find a job. In this digital age, the military is more about brain than muscle. Taiwanese have to change their attitude toward the military and the government should come up with creative ideas to encourage young people to take pride in protecting their nation.
It is a fallacy to think that as long as Taiwan maintains the “status quo” and does not declare independence, war is not going to happen. China has 1,600 missiles aimed at Taiwan and would not hesitate to apply military force if they saw a chance to take the country. Taiwanese therefore need to protect themselves and develop “self-defense consciousness.”
To build up the public’s trust and willingness to invest in national defense, the government needs to be transparent about defense spending, engage domestic industries in supplying military arms and equipment, undertake military reform and provide incentives for outstanding young Taiwanese to serve their nation.
Only with strong enough national military capabilities — which requires spending of at least 3 percent of GDP on defense — will the nation be able to protect the democracy and liberty that Taiwanese have worked so hard to achieve.
Doing this will show Sherman and other international friends of Taiwan’s that Taiwanese do care about national defense and are contributing to peace and stability in the part of the world they inhabit.
Roxie Zhuang is a sophomore at Wesleyan University and an intern at the Formosan Association for Public Affairs in Washington.
China has long sought shortcuts to developing semiconductor technologies and local supply chains by poaching engineers and experts from Taiwan and other nations. It is also suspected of stealing trade secrets from Taiwanese and US firms to fulfill its ambition of becoming a major player in the global semiconductor industry in the next decade. However, it takes more than just money and talent to build a semiconductor supply chain like the one which Taiwan and the US started to cultivate more than 30 years ago. Amid rising trade and technology tensions between the world’s two biggest economies, Beijing has become
With a new White House document in May — the “Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China” — the administration of US President Donald Trump has firmly set its hyper-competitive line to tackle geoeconomic and geostrategic rivalry, followed by several reinforcing speeches by Trump and other Cabinet-level officials. By identifying China as a near-equal rival, the strategy resonates well with the bipartisan consensus on China in today’s severely divided US. In the face of China’s rapidly growing aggression, the move is long overdue, yet relevant for the maintenance of the international “status quo.” The strategy seems to herald a new
To say that this year has been eventful for China and the rest of the world would be something of an understatement. First, the US-China trade dispute, already simmering for two years, reached a boiling point as Washington tightened the noose around China’s economy. Second, China unleashed the COVID-19 pandemic on the world, wreaking havoc on an unimaginable scale and turning the People’s Republic of China into a common target of international scorn. Faced with a mounting crisis at home, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) rashly decided to ratchet up military tensions with neighboring countries in a misguided attempt to divert the
Toward the end of former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) final term in office, there was much talk about his legacy. Ma himself would likely prefer history books to enshrine his achievements in reducing cross-strait tensions. He might see his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore in 2015 as the high point. However, given his statements in the past few months, he might be remembered more for contributing to the breakup of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). We are still talking about Ma and his legacy because it is inextricably tied to the so-called “1992 consensus” as the bedrock of his