Tseng Sheng-kuang (曾聖光), a former soldier in Taiwan’s Republic of China Armed Forces (ROCAF) who also went by the name of Jonathan Tseng, joined the ranks of the Ukrainian army and was sadly killed last week in fierce fighting against the Russians.
Some commentators have claimed that he fled Taiwan because he was in debt. The truth is he stepped forward because he was worried about the peril facing the world’s democracies, and because of his professional military experience. He is not just a hero of the world’s democracies, but also the kind of person that Taiwan would most need in the event of a war.
Going to Ukraine to take up arms was a very risky thing to do. Faced with the threat of battle, anyone would think twice before going.
However, Tseng’s gallantry lies in that seeing how Ukraine was being bullied, he could not allow himself, with his military background and ability, to not help Ukraine resist its powerful adversary.
It had nothing to do with his ethnic background or financial situation. Rather, it is the idea that a threat to any democratic country is also a threat to Taiwan.
During China’s war of resistance against Japan, almost 100 former members of the US armed forces volunteered to go to China to join the fight. No one would say that members of the American Volunteer Group, nicknamed the “Flying Tigers,” left the US for financial reasons, or because they had done something wrong. People praise them for their willingness to leave their homeland, where there was no war, to help a disadvantaged country that lacked a fully-fledged air force. The spirit of the Flying Tigers is a fine example of the US military.
Volunteering to fight in Ukraine is far nobler than the behavior of certain retired ROCAF generals who undermine military morale by fraternizing with China’s People’s Liberation Army, or spread the idea that Taiwan’s armed forces are “useless.”
Since Taiwan became democratic, there has remained the question of what the military is supposed to fight for.
However, by volunteering to serve in Ukraine’s army as a retired ROCAF soldier, Tseng showed the international community that Taiwan’s armed forces are willing and able to fight. By creating greater confidence in Taiwan’s national defense, this can only be a good thing for Taiwan’s security.
China’s threats against Taiwan are making people very nervous, but as more of Taiwan’s allies in the US and Japan emphasize that Taiwan’s security is closely linked to their own, Taiwanese should be more confident that the nation can overcome the fear of war.
The right way to win more friends is to lend a helping hand when others are in trouble.
When Ukrainian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Oleksandr Merezhko paid his respects to Tseng’s family, he was paying tribute to Tseng, but also to Taiwan for its willingness to help Ukraine.
Taiwan should pay tribute to Tseng’s brave soul. If the nation runs into trouble, it would be glad to see people like him coming from all over the world to fight for peace and democracy.
Michael Lin holds a master’s degree from National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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