Taiwan prolongs compulsory military service

(To Antonino Lombardi)

While in Italy the "mini naia" and its possible form, duration and purpose are discussed, more or less seriously, arousing controversy and conflicting opinions, in other parts of the world decisions are made (for better or for worse) and quickly.

The island of Taiwan which, as we know, in recent times is considered the main geopolitical battlefield between the United States of America and China, announces the extension of compulsory military service from four months to one year starting from 2024.

The threat of a confrontation with China (see article "(Dangerous) parallels between Russia and China in Ukraine and Taiwan") is by no means remote and indeed is becoming more and more acute as evidenced by the latest accusations made by Taipei. The ministry of national defense communicated that on Sunday, China conducted exercises close to the island, in response to American and Taiwanese provocations , organizing air and sea raids.About 71 fighter aircraft took part in the exercises (including six SU-30 warplanes) and 47 of the sorties crossed the air defense identification zone of the island (ADIZ). Furthermore, two weeks ago, the defense ministry said that 21 aircraft had entered the ADIZ including 18 nuclear-capable H-6 bombers.

Taipei believes that the current four-month military training and service system, in terms of troop quantity and quality, it is no longer able to cope with the requirements of combat readiness. Under the current system the "garrison force" is formed by the mobilization of reserve soldiers but the rate of these is slow and the four month military training service takes longer to build an effective fighting force.

The new length of military service will apply to those born after 2005 and will begin on January 1, 2024. Men born after 2005 will continue to serve for four months but with a renewed and strengthened training program.

In recent decades, military service had been progressively reduced from two years to the current 4 months. The one-year compulsory service will strengthen the training content and quantitative skills, increase the salary of the military, promote the length of service, and study the smooth transition of the military into the workforce.

The Force Restructuring Plan to Strengthen National Defense comprises four main areas: the "main combat force", the permanent "garrison force" with compulsory service as a pillar, and the "civilian defense system" and the "system of reserve" built by integrating civilian forces, ministries, local governments and alternative service.

President Tsai Ing-wen hopes that “under the new system, the year of compulsory military service is not a waste of a year for the young but of the time to transform into more mature people, learn to survive better, fight better and save people better and at the same time protect their hometowns, their families and their loved ones”.

Recent polls have found that more than three-quarters of Taiwanese think the 4-month military conscription is too short and doesn't provide the training professional soldiers actually need.

The government had reduced it from one year to four months in 2017 as it was reorganizing the army on an all-volunteer basis. Of Taiwan's 188.000 military personnel, 90 percent are volunteers and 10 percent are men completing the required four months of service.

Taiwan has stepped up reservist training and increased the purchase of warplanes1 and anti-ship missiles to bolster its defenses but experts have said that's not enough.

From a survey by Public Opinion Foundation it emerged that the support for an extension of military service is transversal and gathers consensus from voters of the Democratic Progressive Party and the Nationalist Party. Young people in the 20-24 age group, however, said (37,2%) that they oppose extending military service and only 35,6% said they would support an extension.

The challenge Taiwan faces in recruiting enough young people to meet its military goals is compounded by its low birth rate, the interior minister said last week. In fact, since 2020, the population has been decreasing every year.

It seems quite clear that China's expansion continues to have an impact on the international order and affects relations between Beijing and Taipei which are increasingly fragile after the military exercises in August.

1 with the BBC

Photo: Republic of China Army

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