Whether President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would be able to find a civilian minister or vice minister of national defense is an important issue that everyone should pay more attention to.
Article 4 of the Organization Act of the Ministry of National Defense (國防部組織法) states that the ministry must have one minister, two vice ministers, and two administrative deputy ministers or a lieutenant general. The ministry’s strategic planning department must also be headed by a senior official, a lieutenant general or a vice admiral.
In other words, such key posts can be held by civilian officials.
A look at the Tsai administration’s slate of top defense officials shows that the minister, vice ministers, deputy ministers and strategic planning department director all either have a military background or are career officers. There is still some way to go before Taiwan abides by the spirit of a civilian-led military.
March 1, 2002, marked the unification of Taiwan’s military administration and command, when the Organization Act of the Ministry of National Defense and the National Defense Act (國防法) — known as the “two defense laws” and aimed at building a civilian-led military — took effect.
The spirit of a civilian-led military is about more than just appointing a retired general who just exchanges a uniform for a suit as defense minister. Instead, key defense posts should also be held by civilians. Doing so would change the culture of the defense organization and improve administrative efficiency, while moving toward the institutionalization of military affairs.
In advanced democratic countries such as the US, the UK and Japan, defense ministers and vice ministers, as well as many top defense officials, are often “pure” civilians. The main purpose is to ensure that the defense system consults not only military leaders, but also experts in other fields when formulating defense policy or military strategy.
It helps defense organizations modernize and makes defense policymaking more complete, not to mention that it likely solves the problem of the conservative way in which a military operates.
The British and Japanese defense ministers are civilians, as are those in Australia, France, Germany and the Netherlands, where the posts are held by women. Before taking office on Wednesday last week, US President Joe Biden nominated academic Kathleen Hicks as US deputy secretary of defense, which would make her the first woman in the position in US history, if approved.
It has been 19 years since Taiwan unified its military administration and command. During the tenure of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), one defense minister and four vice ministers were civilians, and under former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), one defense minister and two vice ministers were civilians.
Civilian-led militaries have become the norm in advanced democracies, which is an inevitable democratic trend. If Taiwan is to continue to carry out the important tasks of defense reform and putting defense laws into practice, the government should make a greater effort to appoint civilians as defense ministers and vice ministers, in addition to increasing the proportion of expert civilian officials in the defense system.
Yao Chung-yuan is a university professor and former deputy director of the Ministry of National Defense Strategic Planning Department.
Translated by Eddy Chang
Rather than a “diplomatic win,” the recently announced opening of a Taiwan office in Guyana proved to be a source of disappointment and displeasure. The government in Georgetown decided to halt the mutual establishment of representative offices less than 24 hours after the agreement was announced. Unsurprisingly, the “China factor” appears to have been the primary reason behind this reversal. The Guyanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs explicitly stated that the country would “continue to adhere to the one China policy” as it nixed the agreement with Taipei. Why does Guyana matter, though? International attention on this Caribbean nation of less than 1
The rise of China as a major economy and military power has been a major development this century. While China’s economic clout is felt across the world, it has also been aggressively pursuing a military modernization program. One study published by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies in May last year said that since 2016, China’s annual defense budget has been 7.2 to 8.1 percent of total government spending. Although China has projected its rise as peaceful, the truth is that Beijing has begun to redefine the power structure in Asia in its favor, leading some international relations
The Olympic Charter in the sixth Fundamental Principles of Olympism prohibits discrimination based on nationality or political opinion. It also requires that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) maintain political neutrality and take action against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic movement (rules 2.5, 2.6 and 16.1.3). The Japanese Olympic Committeeis required to ensure the observance of the charter and take action against discrimination carried out within Japan (Rule 27.2). The committees are failing to carry out their missions. Athletes from Taiwan are discriminated against on the basis of their nationality, and it must stop. Every country that participates in the
With a new US president in the White House, Beijing might have to rethink its approach toward Taiwan following a public meeting on Feb. 10 between Representative to the US Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) and a US Department of State official. Prior to his inauguration on Jan. 20, there was little known about what then-US president-elect Joe Biden’s China policy would be, and there were reports that Beijing had hoped to influence members of the incoming administration over Taiwan and other areas of contention. A BBC report on Dec. 3 last year cited a US intelligence official as saying that China