Despite a COVID-19 outbreak in China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has not let up with its military intimidation tactics with ships and warplanes entering Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
A US warning that Chinese activity risks “miscalculations and undermining regional peace and stability” has become a routine.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) — taking into account the nation’s military needs under the new strategic structure — announced that the duration of conscription is to be restored to one year for all men born after Jan. 1, 2005, starting next year. Supplementary measures would also be in place with the new policy.
The restoration of one year of conscription has significance, as it shows the unwavering determination and resolve of Taiwan to protect itself — a signal to Beijing that the CCP must not miscalculate and make a reckless move.
It is slightly overdue for Tsai to implement the reform after six years in office, but it was better late than never.
The American Institute in Taiwan commended the conscription reform, which highlights Taiwan’s commitment to self-defense.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden signed a US$858 billion defense bill into law, authorizing for Taiwan up to US$10 billion in security assistance and fast-tracked weapons procurement.
However, the reaction of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) “blue fighters” faction has been baffling. Using “safeguard the Republic of China (ROC)” as a slogan, members of the faction had said that the four-month conscription period was too short to produce capable soldiers and lieutenants ready to join a battle. However, the blue fighters criticized return to a year of conscription, saying that it would seek a return to four-month conscription if the party regains the presidency.
The blue fighters’ stance seems to be based on questions about possible outcomes. Would making conscription one year counter China or would it turn Taiwan into a second Ukraine, where the war has been dragged out, resulting in higher causalities? The blue fighters put the spotlight on Ukraine, but deliberately overlooked the casualties on the Russian side.
Without a righteous cause, Russia’s war machine has failed to live up to its name due to corruption, bad logistics and outdated equipment. It has resorted to targeting Ukrainian civilians.
With the Chinese People’s Liberation Army having been influenced so much by Russian doctrines, force structure and equipment, there is doubt that it would live up to its “wolf warrior” reputation.
Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed a joint meeting of the US Congress in Washington. Zelenskiy, who has bravely led Ukrainians in their defense of freedom against Russia, said in his speech: “The Russian tyranny has lost control over us... The Russians will stand a chance to be free only when they defeat the Kremlin, in their minds.”
He promised the US lawmakers that Ukraine would never ask “the American soldiers to fight on our land instead of us. I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves.”
In sharp contrast, the blue fighters faction, which proclaimed itself to possess the “spirit of fighting,” should instead use the name “the blue surrenderers.” While it has never stopped worshiping former presidents Chaing Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), it does, ironically, regard the mission of facilitating the “reunification” of CCP-led China and Taiwan as a goal of the KMT. It has spared no effort to undermine Taiwan’s attempts to become a normal country.
What it would love is for China to pursue its plans to annex Taiwan under the framework of a “civil war.” That is why the faction has been pushing relentlessly for realization of the “one China” principle — it wants to access the Chinese market, buy cross-strait peace and end conscription.
The silver lining is that Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) has so far been supportive of policies that would boost national defense. He has not — at least so far — followed in the footsteps of the former presidents with the same family name.
There are people who did nothing to help the transition from autocracy to democracy in Taiwan, while some people today put forward narratives that whitewash the autocratic period under the Chaing presidencies or praise China’s one-party regime.
As a result, notions such as “democracy does not put food on the table,” “Chinese officials are inherently better than Taiwan’s,” “Taiwan is sliding toward being an ‘illiberal democracy’ or ‘elected dictatorship’” or “Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) might be autocratic, but he is still more democratic than the Democratic Progressive Party” have been circulating.
Such ideas are used to condemn Taiwan’s democracy and eulogize Chinese autocracy in a bid to rationalize “unification.”
As Chinese nationalism and rejuvenation is the priority of those who propagate the ideas, they regard the CCP and its digital autocracy as following “the mandate of heaven,” without sparing a thought for the freedom and rights of 1.4 billion people.
The quote “the Russians will stand a chance to be free only when they defeat the Kremlin in their minds” is also applicable in China.
Regarding Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Taiwan’s pro-China cohorts apparently side with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Xi. What they care about more than anything is who calls the shots and holds the reins, not what would benefit Chinese in the long run.
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) once praised the CCP, saying that China’s economy flourished for two decades while the lives of Chinese improved vastly after the Tiananmen Square Massacre. In other words, Ma implied that the slaughter of civilians was a necessary evil.
However, the development of Chinese society has been tied to stricter control and surveillance. As China has advanced, its economic clout has enabled it to expand its military, which has escalated cross-strait tensions, damaged regional ties and undermined its relationship with the US.
From the COVID-19 pandemic to the war on chips — a trade barrier designed by the US to undermine the Chinese economy and its global prestige — the two greatest powers on Earth are now engaged in a “100-year marathon” rivalry.
Taiwan is in a critical position, so it should seek stronger ties with other democratic countries by touting its democracy, proficiency in chips and pandemic prevention capabilities.
Some people, feeling exhausted by China’s aggression, have given up and show signs of Stockholm syndrome regarding the “one China” princilple. If China ever gambles on an invasion, supporters of capitulation and appeasement could become turncoats. It would be hypocritical for them to hide behind those who support “countering China and safeguarding Taiwan.”
Reinstating one-year conscription was necessary to counter China’s escalating aggression and provocations. What the government has not addressed is a supplementary measure to bolster penalties for treason.
Others who support China have been using fear tactics in preparation for net year’s presidential election, saying that a “vote for the DPP would send young people to war.” Little do they know that submission due to fear only invites increased intimidation.
If Taiwanese buy into their narratives, Taiwan would become a “second Hong Kong,” where people are forced to protest for simple rights, or Taiwanese would face the conditions that Chinese did, being incarcerated at home in response to a pandemic or other excuse. If Taiwan does reform, it might wake up to find people on their way to re-education camps.
To prevent such scenarios, one year of conscription is not a sacrifice or bad luck, but an invaluable and essential investment for the nation’s future.
Translated by Rita Wang
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