Tag Archives: military

[President] Tsai reinstates one-year conscription [for Taiwan] – Taipei Times: Geostrategery, politics, and Taiwan Republic 台灣国 classrooms

Many people have stereotypical views of mandatory service based on their own experience, but the training regimen has undergone drastic changes, Tsai added. To ensure conscripts undergo appropriate training and do not waste time during the longer service period, they would undergo more intense and longer boot camp training to boost their combat preparedness, the president said. Boot camp training is to be extended to eight weeks from five, and is to include physical fitness and exercise, as well as weapons and combat training. Standard courses would focus on discipline, equipment maintenance, basic training and stress training, while physical training would include basic fitness, grenade throwing and a 500m obstacle course. Physical training is to incorporate science-based learning for health management and muscle-building. The arms training section would increase the number of shots fired from 104 to 160 to ensure that recruits know the differences between weapons and how firing position affects accuracy. Combat training is to focus on combat techniques, field medicine and what to do in the event of a biological or nuclear disaster, while the training regimen for recruits is to include marches, camp setting and other skills. The Ministry of Education is in talks with local universities and colleges to develop ways to make the higher-education curriculum more flexible so that conscripts can complete their required one year of service while studying, Tsai said. That would allow them to avoid postponing plans to enter the job market due to the longer military service requirement, she said.

Depending on what ‘altitude’ you fly over news items, for most international news outlets Taiwan reinstating year-long conscription feeds into the “rising tensions-most dangerous place on earth” storyline. And for domestic Taiwan news, arguments about which party made this move necessary, whether American pressure is behind this change if this means the youth vote will shift for 2024, etc etc.

To me, this is classic President Tsai and why I am a supporter. Smart policymaking, aggravatingly careful and slow and boring, good for Taiwan’s democracy, not likely to win her praise or many votes. Kind of like her green energy policy. Legalizing gay marriage. Pension reforms. Pandemic abatement. The opposite of the kind of quick, easy-to-understand modern storytelling to rile up populist emotions.

I have no faith in the ability and resolve of the China KMT dictatorship-dominated Taiwan national security establishment, though I know if they are good at one thing, it is to use their bureaucratic skills to kill reform efforts pushed by civilian, democratically elected leaders. So we will see.

It is politically smart to give the mostly superficial domestic Taiwan press the massively raised salary of the conscripts as their headlines. Once you listen to the press conference and read the details the most encouraging facet of this new policy is the recognition that the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense requires revolutionary change and improvements – a breakthrough for the democratically elected president of Taiwan to acknowledge that former draftees felt their time and talent were not fully respected and utilized by the military, to be smart about using this year-long conscription wisely, to import training regimes (and important, doctrines and concepts) from the US and other leading democracies, to think about how the volunteer military and conscripts enhance one another. This is a difficult and important first step – future elections will determine whether the momentum to democratize and reform the Taiwan military will continue.

An additional breakthrough is in how rapidly and directly the praise came from the American embassy in Taipei – without regard for the thin skin-ness of the Chinese communists and their allies inside Taiwan and in the west. This gets me back to my earlier point that folks generally focus on the headline numbers of the NDAA and aid to Taiwan, I have been fascinated by the detailed plans on interoperability and the “software” of national security – personnel, advisors, new mentality. California and Florida National Guards heroically trained Ukrainian officers – Hawaii National Guard has been paired with the Taiwanese military, is this the model we will see with new, modern training for the conscripts and volunteers alike? And again, having seen too many bright-eyed Taiwanese patriots graduate from West Point, Annapolis, and US Air Force Academy only to file for early retirement due to a reactionary and hyper-bureaucratic Taiwan military leadership. We will see, and we hope for the best. No shortage of talent and vitality from the bottom up in a democracy such as Taiwan – the bottleneck is within Taiwan’s military leadership.

An additional thing to ponder is this paradox of Taiwan. A medium small-ish nation. An oceanic, island democracy with a history of heterodoxy and not following imperial rules. Taiwanese businesspeople are notoriously creative and flexible. Taiwanese cuisine and music and literature are hybrid and ever-changing. The parts of Taiwan dominated by the China KMT dictatorship are reactionary, uncreative, haughty, stuck in trench warfare mentality – hyper-bureaucratic, better to get fifteen stamps than five, hurry up and wait – these facets of Taiwan public life exist in a parallel universe with the vibrant, democratic, can-do democracy that grew up around this China KMT dictatorship.

So I have been wondering about creatively deconstructing how the Taiwan public health – less dominated by the China KMT dictatorship because during the martial law era this was a safe harbor for educated Taiwanese – could serve as a model for how a reformed Taiwanese military could democratize and harness the creativity and energy of this democratic nation. Taiwanese public health and healthcare were not flawless during this pandemic – yet compared to the Taiwan military, it has been far more flexible and responsive to criticism and suggestions from citizens, civilian authorities, and foreign experts. Pandemic management had features and characteristics that are warfare-like – the “enemy” was not just the virus, but foreign and domestic bad actors, fear, rumors, anxiety, and fake news. What is it about the Taiwanese public health leadership, bureaucracy and regulation, institutional culture, and how it relates to the rest of this democracy, that enabled it to successfully meet these challenges? And what lessons might the democratically elected civilian leaders of Taiwan seeking to democratize and reform the Taiwan national security establishment draw from this model? 28.12.2022

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台灣首艘原型自製潛艦 台船:明年9月下水 First Taiwanese ‘indigenous’ submarine to be launched by September 2023 – 自由時報 Liberty Times: Geostrategery and Taiwan Republic 台灣国 classrooms

〔記者洪定宏/高雄報導〕台船公司今天發布新聞稿指出,總統蔡英文交付台船執行史無前例的「潛艦國造」任務,雖然過程中外界多所揣測、評價,無論正面肯定抑或是曲解錯誤認知,台船仍全力、全工時趕工,目標明(2023)年9月下水。據了解,國造潛艦原型艦的設計藍圖即有700多份,並採用雙殼、部分單殼的混合艦殼,以及X型尾舵的構型設計,總排水量2000餘噸,可搭載MK48 MOD6 AT重型魚雷及潛射魚叉反艦飛彈,有效反制中共水面艦艇。

Even though Taipei appears full of doom and gloom over President Tsai’s electoral defeats during the recent local elections, future historians will study this ‘indigenous’ Taiwanese submarine project as an example of her administration’s success.

If the project proves successful, President Tsai and her team would have overcome decades – since the 1960s – of American, Chinese communist, China KMT interference and sabotage against a Taiwanese submarine fleet. No doubt rapidly shifting geopolitical realities enabled the change in American policy. This shift then brought along critical technology from other democratic allies, the UK, maybe South Korea, maybe Japan, and others. I remain fascinated and a bit confused at the relatively muted reactions from the Chinese communists and their allies inside Taiwan – is this because they have other problems and crises to deal with, or do they have other angles?

What remains true is this, if we compare the three democratically elected Taiwanese presidents, Lee, Chen, and Tsai – a bureaucracy of Taiwan’s central government, particularly the national security establishment, ensconced in decades of China KMT party-state external authoritarian occupation, a similar project under Presidents Lee and Chen that did not leak like a sieve would have been unimaginable. The relative success of the Tsai administration in preventing the vestiges of the authoritarian bureaucracy from sabotaging this project has been a noticeable success in Taiwan’s democratic consolidation.

As to whether or not these ‘indigenous’ (even a global empire like the US can no longer manufacture high-end weapons without global supply chains and know-how, much less Taiwan ….) submarines will deter and defeat a Chinese invasion – are eight enough? Should they be paired with unmanned underwater vehicles? Should they be armed with defensive and offensive ordinances? Are they linked with other Taiwanese military units as well as US and Japanese units? Maybe the first step in a genuine democratization of the Taiwanese military is to have an open national debate on why the Taiwanese Navy has been circling in step since the 1990s – unable to match the surface nor subsurface fleets of the region? In this, I suspect advice and know-how from American and Japanese officers will play a critical role in ensuring the money invested in hardware such as submarines will be properly deployed during a future war to defend Taiwanese sovereignty and democracy – a kind of AUKUS+ regional submarine chain – Australian and Japanese long-range submarines plus smaller Taiwanese and others to contain the China threat. This is also where the significance of the US NDAA is never about money or hardware/weapons per se, but the infusion of American expertise into the stagnate and reactionary Taiwan national security establishment. 27.12.2022

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Bibliography: US defense bill authorizes fellowships [of American officials to Taiwan] – Taipei Times: Geostrategery and Taiwan Republic 台灣国 classrooms 

MILITARY GRANTS ADDED: Ten US officials per year are to study Mandarin and local issues, and return to Washington to bolster understanding of Taiwan’s needs. The US Senate on Thursday passed the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is to set up a fellowship for US federal employees to work in Taiwanese government agencies, in addition to greenlighting US$2 billion in annual military grants to Taiwan. The first year is to be spent studying Mandarin and related topics, followed by a year working in a government agency, legislative office or approved organization related to their field of expertise, the Taiwan Fellowship Act says. At least 10 fellows from the three branches of the US government — executive, legislative and judicial — are to be selected annually. In the first two years of the program, no fewer than five fellows are to be selected, the bill says. Returnees would be required to continue serving in the US government for at least four years after completing the program, with the goal of enhancing understanding of Taiwan’s central government and regional issues, it says. The American Institute in Taiwan would be required to begin negotiations with Taiwanese agencies within 30 days of the bill’s enactment. The legislation is modeled after the Mansfield Fellowship Program between the US and Japan. Under that program, established in 1994, US government employees are provided more than one year of Japanese-language education and placed in a Japanese agency, where they work full-time for 10 months alongside Japanese colleagues.

While the headlines and focus will be about the amount of US military aid to Taiwan Republic, and the weapon systems transferred, to me this is the most significant breakthrough in this year’s NDAA. Ten American officials per year to Taiwan is not significant – the mental-psychological breakthrough on the part of DC – the real pivot to the Indo-Pacific, understanding the China threat, and realizing the nature of the Chinese threats against democratic Taiwan – those are decades in the making. And one suspects once the breakthrough occurs, more will (and should) follow.

Even just the simple yet monumental step of normalizing the interactions between these two democratically elected national governments of America and Taiwan – official to official, bureaucracy to bureaucracy.

If the billions in direct military aid authorized by the NDAA are funded, and if the Biden administration does not waste more time fighting Congress, then I would expect more American advisors and officials to follow that money. I cannot find a previous case where Congress authorized large military foreign aid without request from the foreign party – nor was such an amount being transferred without direct US involvement (advisors, etc.) Because humans always refer to the most recent historical experience as a template, I have read many articles referring back to the US-RoC Mutual Defense Treaty/US Advisor era. Times change, the nature of the governments are different, and characteristics of modern warfare shift – the era of large contingents of US and Japanese troops stationed in Taiwan makes little sense. Rapidly rotating in units for realistic training and coordination – advisors in key units, teams from the US and Japan to help locate and fix weakest links in Taiwanese strategic and tactical planning, intelligence and counterintelligence, logistics, civil defense, sabotage, and infiltration, etc., in 2023 these will make more difference to the security of the Indo-Pacific and countering the China threat than anything else.

Five Notable Items for Asia Watchers in the National Defense Authorization Act

美參院83:11壓倒性通過// 挺台國防授權法案 送拜登簽署

美參院通過國防授權法案 提供台灣百億美元軍援

U.S. Senate passes annual defense bill with Taiwan provisions

US bill features up to US$10bn for Taiwan security

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US House passes US$12bn aid for Taiwan military, Taipei Times: Geostrategery and Taiwan Republic 台灣国 classrooms

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes up to US$12 billion in grants and loans to Taiwan to buy US weapons over the next five years. The bill passed the Democratic Party-controlled House on a 350 to 80 vote. It is expected to clear the Senate next week before being sent to the White House for US President Joe Biden to sign into law. The act would authorize up to US$2 billion in annual grants from next year to 2027, and an additional US$2 billion in loans for Taiwan to use to bolster its military capabilities with weapons from the US. It also authorizes a regional contingency stockpile for Taiwan that consists of munitions and other appropriate defense articles costing up to US$100 million a year for use in the event of a conflict.

Have we ever had a case in American history where a designated aid nation did not request aid, and US Congress generously, voluntarily provide such a massive amount? And instead of debating whether this is good policy, perhaps the first prudent thing to do is to ponder what is going on in this moment of world history that such an unusual move has been taken.

Novices and bad actors will focus on the dollar amount, while experts and those with a sincere desire to protect democracy in the Indo-pacific will notice that the direct military aid is only the tip of a very large spear against the China threat — technology, education, trade, democracy, law enforcement, intelligence, and counterintelligence, etc. are other realms where this global struggle are occurring.

The most important part of the NDAA is Congress forcing a lumbering executive branch to pivot to face the China threat for real — i.e., increasing production of critical munitions, money for base protection, a stockpile of critical munitions in the region, etc. Novices and bad actors will focus on allegedly “provoking” the Chinese communists and rising tensions even though the communists are experts at self-provocation — they will fuss about budget and deficit, and they will spread lies that the Taiwanese prefer to surrender. Experts from this point on will avoid focusing on weapons sold and transferred, and see if Congress is able to force the executive branch and the Pentagon to do real interoperability — i.e., to abandon the idiocy of Jimmy Carter and invite the Taiwanese military to participate in US-Japan-Australian-NATO exercises. I wonder, and this is speculation on my part – would the US government voluntarily grant this massive amount of foreign military aid without sending American military advisors? Taiwan’s archaic and dated military leaders require a push and a nudge re: modern warfare – rapid pace, technology-centered, intelligence-counterintelligence, modern logistics, and creativity. What the Taiwan military leadership requires most, and perhaps this is where American, Japanese, and European advisors can best provide, is the lesson of Ukraine – a national military divorced from the democracy of its nation cannot and will not fight. Taiwan’s national security establishment requires democratization so that it can absorb and adhere to the strengths of the democracy it is suppose to protect.

I am against large US military presence in Taiwan, having nothing to do with the easily hurt feelings of the Chinese in China and the Chinese in Taiwan — but that it makes little tactical and strategery sense. Quick and thoughtful public and routinized rotations of American and Japanese units in and out of Taiwan to work on interoperability and training, with a small officer-advisor corp in Taiwan as advisors to the Ministry of National Defense and Taiwan’s democratically elected civilian leaders, and massive munitions and platforms depot in the area ready for the fight immediately are hopefully enough to deter the communists.

Now that the American aid is here, Taiwan must increase its annual war budget by the same amount — we have to increase our war budget so that our American congressional allies will have cover from domestic bad actors, united front fellow travelers. All multinational policies regarding the China threat is to prevent Beijing from even considering starting a war of annexation against Taiwan.

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Taiwanese Navy’s first ‘indigenous’ submarine scheduled for 2024 潛艦國造路迢迢 原型艦2024年下水 Liberty Times: Geostrategery and Taiwan Republic 台灣国 classrooms


A history of why the Taiwanese Navy, in 2022, is still using two World War Two era GUPPY II conventional submarines would be a fascinating book – covering dictator Chiang Kai-shek’s delusional dreams of recovering his fictional China, to US Cold War policies, to misguided US policies on offensive versus defensive weapons, to the complications of Taiwanese domestic politics during the democracy era, that one of the two major political parties – the China KMT – has a national identity crisis (and hence, blocked the conventional submarine project for a decade.)

For a leaky Taiwanese national security scene, I have been impressed with how tightly the Tsai administration has held information on this ‘domestic’ submarine project. The fewer leaks the better, not just for the submarines project, but a sign that systemic problems in the national security apparatus are being fixed. While there were rumors of South Korean, or maybe Japanese involvement, recent reports indicate that the US and UK are the primary actors – with the recent British parliamentarians visiting Taipei indicating that discussions were held re: the submarines most interesting. A kind of soft AUKUS+ emerging – nuclear submarines for Australia and maybe Japan, conventional submarines for Taiwan.

What remains missing, I think, is a discussion-debate inside Taiwan, and then between Taiwan and its democratic allies, on an overall strategy to deter and defeat the China threat. Are eight submarines enough? Should they have offensive cruise missile capabilities? Are the submarines designed to operate with CSIST’s mini/unmanned underwater vehicles? Are they designed with interoperability with the Japanese and American Navy?

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Taiwan’s Jong Shyn Shipbuilding and American Lockheed Martin signs MOU to build warships for ASEAN nations 洛馬將委託中信造船造艦 售予東協國家: Geostrategery and Taiwan Republic 台灣国 classrooms

美國軍武大廠洛克希德馬丁公司(Lockheed Martin;簡稱洛馬)已與高雄中信造船(2644)簽署合作備忘錄(MOU),未來將委託中信造船建造軍艦艦體,再由洛馬公司安裝武器系統,交付給印尼、馬來西亞及菲律賓等東協國家,以強化這些國家海軍實力,因應南海日趨緊張情勢。中信造船董事長韓碧祥低調証實此事,表示只要洛馬下單,中信造船會立即備料騰出產能,滿足美方的需求。中信造船的造艦實績與品質受到洛馬公司注意,先前曾派員到高雄考察工廠及相關設備,並與中船造船負責人詳談,經美國總公司評估認可後,已與中信造船簽署備忘錄。洛馬在2022年5月再度派員到高雄中船造船廠,現場勘查船塢設備,並再中信造船負責人及主管晤談,委託造艦業務將視美國政府與南海諸國協商後,隨時都會展開。中信造船目前有4個造船船塢,最大造船噸位5萬噸,過去已承造過3000噸級、2000噸級及1000噸級巡防救難艦,目前海巡署委託的12艘600噸級安平級(原型為沱江艦)正建造中,已有5艘交船下水執行海巡任務。

Taiwanese shipbuilder responsible for its double-hulled fast attack corvette has signed an MOU with Lockheed Martin for Taiwan to build the hulls while Lockheed Martin coordinates and fits their weapons and sensors. These small naval ships will be sold to Southeast Asian nations. The fact that usually hypersensitive to Beijing’s opinion Southeast Asia may be involved is fascinating. If this deal proceeds accordingly, this is good news for Taiwanese and regional security – anything which further integrates democratic and independent Taiwan into the US-Japan-led global democratic supply chain is good. Not clear if this is a part of the purposeful news leak from the latest Taiwan-US military summit where the US plans to collaborate on weapons manufacturing. Also, a very good sign that a civilian, nonstate-owned Taiwanese shipbuilder is involved in this deal. Previous plans to integrate aviation and aircraft maintenance with global arms suppliers faced stiff resistance from Taiwan’s archaic and complicated military-state (and formerly, authoritarian China KMT party) owned enterprises. Israel, South Korea, and Singapore are three good models of small-mid sized nations surrounded by larger hostile powers, and how they have focused their resources and rationalized the collaboration between military-state led R&D, civilian corporations and manufacturing, and links to global military supply chains.

An important part of Taiwan’s democratic consolidation is to push into the last mile – the national security apparatus is the most resistant to democratic change and modern transformation. This is also the sector where modern management techniques and manufacturing would go a long way in aiding Taiwan to modernize its own domestic arms manufacturing. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated, even a global superpower like the United States cannot manage the logistical challenges of a modern medium-intensity war alone – so it serves vital American national security interests to coordinate with global democracies such as Taiwan, Japan, Korea, EU partners by creating a global arms supply chain. We hope for peace of course, but any potential democracies versus authoritarian China conflict in the future will be far more intense than the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The ability of the US, Japan, Taiwan, and democratic allies to restock high-end high technology munitions (THAAD, Patriots, AMRAAM, etc.) in a high-intensity war will play a critical role in any future conflict in the region. 24.11.2022

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Bibliography: Taiwanese antiradiation UAVs with a range over 1,000 km capable of striking Chinese coastal radar systems 劍翔無人機 可攻擊中國沿岸雷達: Geostrategery and Taiwan Republic 台灣国 classrooms

〔記者涂鉅旻/台中報導〕因應中共解放軍威脅,國軍持續強化「不對稱戰力」,中科院昨對外展示無人機研發成果,其中,「劍翔」反輻射無人機現已進行量產,中科院首度公開實機與性能諸元,中科院航空所長齊立平表示,「劍翔」無人機的攻擊距離可超過一千公里、滯空五小時,俯衝攻擊時速更可達五、六百公里。劍翔機 俯衝時速逾500公里 – 國防部自今年至二○二六年執行二三六九億餘元的「海空戰力提升計畫採購特別預算」,其中一一九億餘元投入量產「劍翔」無人機。國軍規劃,這型無人機年產量可達四十八架以上,並區分尋標、攻擊二型機,可偵蒐敵雷達輻射訊號後,高速撞擊摧毀敵目標,且壓制目標包含中共沿岸、內陸及海上雷達。中科院也首度公布「劍翔」無人機確切諸元,齊立平表示,「劍翔」反輻射無人機若採直線飛行,其攻擊距離超過一千公里,可滯空五小時,若距離敵目標五百公里,則尚有約五百公里的餘裕,可於目標區上方盤旋。而「劍翔」無人機飛行時速約兩百公里,俯衝攻擊階段時速則可達五百至六百公里左右。

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense is at least two decades late in terms of unmanned vehicles – in the air, at sea and submersed, for coastal defense. The gap between Taiwan’s vibrant and creative civil society – economy, commerce, technology, innovation – and its national security establishment cannot be wider than in the UAV sector. And I suspect while the obvious gaps are in the hardware, the greater threat to Taiwan’s national security exists in the ‘software’ – strategy, tactics, openness to new ideas, thinking creatively, and learning from the world. The Chinese communist military has invested decades in unmanned technology – the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense is still discussing bayonets. This Ministry of National Defense is reactive, conventional, and prefers copying past practices, refusing to learn from global counterparts such as the Israelis. A Martian traveling to earth in the 1990s and assessing the balance of power between communist China and democratic Taiwan, would surely assume smaller Taiwan would focus its energy and attention on unmanned vehicles. That it is 2022 and Taiwan’s national security apparatus has barely just started – much less engaging its talented civilian sectors in a wide-ranging discussion of strategy and tactics, is astonishing. Though, better late than never. 

There are other public policy discussions a democratic nation such as Taiwan should engage in. The role and purpose of CSIST, for example – should it focus on R&D and subcontract the manufacturing to civilian firms? Should it try to engage R&D in all sectors as it appears to do now? In what ways can CSIST play a leading role in placing Taiwanese high-technology manufacturing into the global democratic supply chain? If Taiwanese civilian firms have an edge on CSIST in UAV technology, what are the global best practices to ensure the talent and creativity of the private sectors are harnessed while maintaining national security? As Admiral Lee and others have rightly argued, Taiwan’s democracy requires open and honest discussions and debates on its national security options. 16.11.2022

《TAIPEI TIMES》 New drones to boost military’s capability: institute

攻擊距離超過1000公里 劍翔無人機 實機首公開

104 locally developed Chien Hsiang ‘suicide drones’ to be made by 2025

Taiwan’s NCSIST unveils new single-rotor drone: UAV will be deployed for reconnaissance, surveillance missions

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Reviews: The Overall Defense Concept: An asymmetric approach to Taiwan’s defense, Part Two – Democratizing and modernizing Taiwanese national security台灣的勝算 李喜明: Geostrategery and Taiwan Republic 台灣国 classrooms

For Part One of the review, see HERE

Admiral Lee’s main argument is that smaller, resource-poor Taiwan’s best defense policy is to transform its national security establishment’s long-held mentality and focus on smaller, mobile, survivable platforms-munitions in all branches while emphasizing resiliency, mobility, and survivability in surveillance, intelligence, and logistics. These are difficult changes because they revolutionize how things have been done within the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense since 1949. These proposals also revolutionize how the nation’s elected leaders and citizens evaluate their national security and express their sense of national pride – pouring concrete and making small mobile communication vehicles and producing thousands of cheap, replaceable drones make national security sense, but challenges the psychology and emotions of all sectors of this nation.

Which gets us to the mystifying process of how the Taiwanese Navy has been pursuing its surface fleet since the early 1980s. I am not a partisan in intra-Taiwan Ministry of National Defense factions and arguments – I find those arguments, dating back to their China days (big northern fleet versus small attack craft southern command ….) tiresome. It is fascinating to think carefully about Admiral Lee’s stillborn manned and unmanned stealth missile crafts versus recent news that once again the Taiwan Navy will reverse course, delay its larger AEGIS/VLS surface vessels, and build smaller non-AEGIS/VLS frigates.

I do not have the professional-academic background to argue which model makes the most sense. Whether Taiwan is better off with a large vessel fleet, small fast attack craft fleet, a combination of both, and/or focus on submarines (and if so, what size and how many ….) I do have the background to conclude that Taiwan has not had an adequate, democratic, public policy debate over such an important issue. Admiral Lee’s argument is that if the US warning that dictator Xi and the Chinese communists want to be ready for a war of annexation no later than 2027 – then quickly getting hundreds of small, cheap, rapidly manufactured missile crafts into service is far more sensible than programs requiring decades. He further makes the argument, convincingly, that the Chinese communists would like nothing more than a grand, conventional, force-on-force battle – reminiscent of how Chiang Kai-shek’s army melted into thin air in 1948-1949 China I think.

And if these smaller frigates take too long to build, require too many sailors to staff, take too long to train to bring online, and are too easily sunk by the Chinese – well then in the same issue of this Taiwan-based military magazine, the additional mystery of Taiwan Navy building a massive amphibious landing vessel. In an ideal world – say if you are cheating in a computer game and money can be infinitely replaced, then sure you buy everything. In the real world, Admiral Lee argues correctly, one needs to prioritize – and the priority is not choosing weapons that make people proud, but choosing weapons that will survive the initial strikes from China and be able to inflict enough damage on the invaders so as to deny them the victory they seek.

But then the peculiar modern history of Taiwan is this. In the early 1980s when Taiwan was still under China KMT martial law military publications began to appear, but military affairs were very much seen as highly confidential, only the military ought to discuss the military. Taiwan has a long history of civilians rightly avoiding politics, military, history, and diplomacy – no one wanted to become yet another political prisoner of the China KMT. This is what I thought of when Admiral Lee pointed out Taiwan is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high-end speed seacrafts – one of many, many areas where the democratic, civilian Taiwanese civil society thrives, yet this historically created chasm between the national security establishment and Taiwanese civilians remain. In this sense, the greatest proposal from Admiral Lee’s book is not about a particular model or approach, or a particular weapon or munition – I’ve noticed in publications and online discussions these shorthands, asymmetry, porcupine, Javelins and Stingers. I think the main conclusion from Admiral Lee’s book, and the experience of Ukraine, is that a democracy cannot compartmentalize its national security policies from other realms of democratic policy debates. That in order for a democracy to make difficult national security decisions, in order for the democracy to harness all of its talents, its national security apparatus must be as democratic and modern as the rest of the nation. Admiral Lee pointed to the thriving and creative ship design and building industry in Taiwan – contrast that with the uncreativity and directionlessness of the Taiwan Navy since the 1980s. I see similar gaps in unmanned vehicles (design, manufacturing, deployment-uses), in gaming, in information warfare, etc etc. Taiwanese businesses are perhaps some of the most creative and resilient in global logistics – whereas the Taiwan military has had a reputation for weaknesses in logistics. Democratizing and modernizing the national security establishment are the only ways forward to ensure Taiwan’s national security can withstand the challenge posed by its imperialistic autocratic neighbor.

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Reviews: The Overall Defense Concept: An asymmetric approach to Taiwan’s defense 台灣的勝算 李喜明: Geostrategery and Taiwan Republic 台灣国 classrooms

This is an important book regarding the national security of Taiwan, and it is a pity that it has provoked little earnest discussion and debate among Taiwan’s civilian and military leaders. This does not mean I believe Admiral Lee’s ideas should all be adopted – but the lack of debates is indicative of the greatest danger posed to Taiwan’s national security – the inability of its hyper-conservative (in this instance, I mean not ideology but a culture – reluctance to embrace new ideas, take risks, debate openly) national security apparatus to adopt democratic and modern norms in order to make necessary and rapid adjustments.

At nearly five hundred pages, this book could have used more thorough editing. The writing can be repetitive. In a polarized national identity climate, nothing in public policy Taiwan can escape quick and ideological dismissals. Probably I disagree with Admiral Lee on most political and diplomatic issues. I respect his expertise, and I see no reason as other reviewers have, prematurely jump to conclusions regarding his patriotism and loyalty.

If I were to choose a few pages as a microcosm of what makes this book important, it would be the section on Admiral Lee’s proposed manned and unmanned stealth mini-attack naval crafts (pages 344-357). Many words have been spilled by many parties over this aborted proposal – but the admiral’s convincing explanation here, and the unhealthy political process by which other leaders in the Taiwan national defense establishment ended this project without engaging in a proper and fair democratic debate, serves as an important example for what policymakers in Taipei, Tokyo, and DC ought to focus on – not merely weapons and platforms, not how much money to provide for military aid, not denial versus control, not porcupine or not – but that Taiwan’s military leadership is in dire need of a revolutionary change in culture.

Elsewhere I have noted this, that in the decades of Taiwanese democratization, the national security institutions have been the least touched by democracy and openness to engage the rest of the world. One may generally argue that this is the case in most nations. Yet I think one can reasonably argue that this phenomenon is particularly pronounced in Taiwan. And Taiwan’s civilian leaders from all parties lack the expertise, and rightly fear the instability of a menacing authoritarian neighbor, by pushing for democratization and openness within its military.

This is where a constructive avenue is to adopt the models of the 1950s, where Taiwan turned to Japanese and American officers – retired and active service – for advice. Again, refusing to participate in simpleminded name calling one sees in some Taiwan-based military publications – this is not about whether Taiwanese officers have expertise and insight. I think they do, no less than foreign officers. I have never had doubt about the quality of the Taiwanese rank-and-file military – only doubts and worries about its generals and admirals. The problem is not expertise, but bureaucratic, institutional inertia, decades in the making – requiring a push from the outside to cut through decades of habits and precedence. In many ways while reading this book and other related articles the inertia in the Taiwanese military leadership reminds me of the American higher ed thought leaders – everyone knows a demographic tsunami is coming, everyone agrees that the economic model makes no sense – yet there is zero incentive structure for anyone to be the one to say this, much less to make substantive changes.

So then back to Admiral Lee’s mini-missile crafts. I do not have the expertise to decide whether they were the right approach for the defense of Taiwan. I think the fact that there was basically no national discussion and debate, from the proposal, and adoption, to the removal of both the policy and Admiral Lee himself from office, illustrates the gap between Taiwan’s democracy and its national security policy-making apparatus. Even the fact that this book has received relatively muted responses from Taiwanese political leaders, military establishment, journalists, and scholars, illustrates this dangerous gap – an otherwise vibrant democracy, yet cannot engage in honest and direct conversations and debates regarding its fundamental survival.

And I admit, as I read Admiral Lee’s thorough proposals, moving away from jet aircraft and large warships and armored vehicles, my initial reactions were emotional and reactive – my decades-long sense of Taiwan’s national defense and identity intertwined in these weapons and systems. Yet Admiral Lee’s analysis is rational and thoughtful – how does a smaller nation invest very limited resources so that it could deny a larger neighbor the military victory it seeks? And Admiral Li is a rare Taiwan military leader who is neither defeatist/too political, yet is willing to risk the unpopularity of speaking the unvarnished truth.

This reminds me of something I have thought about for decades as I watch Taiwanese military maneuvers and read interviews and articles published by the Taiwanese military – a core question for me has been: Are these generals and admirals honestly preparing to fight for real? And I think Admiral Lee has convincingly answered this question as sadly being no. This is where Taiwan’s civilian democratic leaders require the most assistance from their US, Japan, and other democratic allies – expertise and credibility to push for a revolution in Taiwanese military leadership. A few recent examples are alarming indications. That the Taiwan military leadership reacted so slowly to the Chinese communist unmanned aerial vehicle intrusions is a clue of deep-seated institutional problems. The recent special forces maneuver preparing for a Chinese communist landing at the mouth of the Tamsui River – they have been practicing against that scenario for as long as I have been reading the news – do you suppose the Chinese communists have noticed that too? And if so, why would they follow the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense’s scenario? And finally, this is subtle but to my thinking indicative and fundamental. A Taiwanese college student, a music major, on his own initiative used open-source information to map out major Chinese communist military installations on Google Map. In most functioning democracies he would have been invited by the Ministry of Defense – if only for the PR/marketing/recruitment drive – and an even smarter military would see this as a way to draw strengths from the democracy it is trying to protect. Yet thus far, to my knowledge, the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense has not reacted.

This is where Admiral Lee’s policy suggestions should meet actual global policy moves. All of the particulars he has offered are debatable in a democratic process. I think one of the most important first steps for Admiral Lee’s proposal to have a chance of taking root inside Taiwan’s national security institutions is for a US-Japan led global effort to share expertise – civil defense and modern military concepts by Finland, Sweden, and Norway; logistics and civil defense by Israel; how to modernize the Ministry of National Defense by the US. And perhaps a pressing issue is to find ways to send Taiwanese and American officers to learn from their Ukrainian counterparts. How did Ukraine manage to transform its authoritarian, Soviet-based national security apparatus to adapt to its modern democratic reality? How did Ukraine manage to deal with members within its national security apparatus who had loyalty-identity issues without violating democratic norms? How did Ukraine manage the vast logistical and supply issues [recent Taiwan military publication rightly focuses on this issue – where will foreign military supplies reach Taiwan during a war? Has Taiwan planned on how to move them from air and sea ports to storage and distribution?] What lessons have the Ukrainians learned regarding the resiliency of local governments, police, reserve forces, transportation, and communication?

Taiwan has had a long history of sending officers and fact-finding teams abroad, similar to those US higher ed task forces and committees, where findings and reports sink slowly into an entrenched bureaucracy full of reasons why needed reforms cannot occur. Taiwan Can Help, Taiwan in military affairs needs that push from abroad – expertise, resources, reassurances – so that it can transform its mentality from fielding a force for the parade grounds, into a military force prepared to fight, prepared for the unexpected. Admiral Lee has provided invaluable service to his nation by writing this book – a thankless task really, he could have easily kept his mouth shut, become the head of another state-owned industry, and collect his pensions, he should have the gratitude of everyone who cares about Taiwan’s democracy. 12.11.2022

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Glory to heroes – honor the first Taiwanese warrior, Tseng Sheng-Kuang (曾聖光), to perish on the battlefield in defense of Ukraine and democracy: Taiwan dispatch, national identity, and Taiwan Republic 台灣国 classrooms


This emerging Taiwanese national identity.

In a world full of cowards, only a few heroes emerge. Something I tell students often — when assessing actions of historical figures and others, we tend to imagine a utopian standard for ourselves — surely we would face down the Nazis, of course we would risk jail or worse when the Chinese communist tanks rolled in the streets of Beijing, we would never ponder our livelihood by ratting out friends to the China KMT dictatorship — this is not making excuses for evil acts, just a caution that while watching films and reading novels we like to transpose ourselves as the hero, in beliefs in previous lives somehow we are almost always prince and princess and never dirt poor peasants, yet in reality, most of us do not make the cut. We are not rockstars. We are average, and fallible. A more cautious, realistic, humble view of human behavior — whether in warfare or in everyday life.

All a long-ish way to pay tribute to this fallen Taiwanese hero — most of us will think and talk and feel behind our phones and keyboards, and few of us will get on a plane, pick up a gun, and kill and die for democracy.
Taiwanese hero Tseng’s criticism of the Taiwan military leadership excerpted above should not get lost, either, it is nothing new – Taiwan has sent hundreds and thousands of talented young women and men abroad to study modern military doctrines, only to have them return and get chewed up by the China KMT national security apparatus. The best way to honor his memory is to take these ideas to heart and engage in difficult reforms of the Taiwan national security establishment.

This slowly emerging, complex modern Taiwanese national identity based around democratic sovereignty is another way to honor his sacrifice, and it relates to Taiwan’s pandemic slogan Taiwan Can Help. The China KMT dictatorship brought to Taiwan a contradictory identity – at once self-pitying (refugees forced to a barbarous hinterland island, dependent on American generosity and Taiwanese tolerance but unable to face this embarrassment directly ….) and arrogant (“we” are the real China, the cream of the crop, “we” brought the gold and high culture and the essence of real Chineseness to you lessers ….) One sees a microcosm of this pitiful interplay among the Taiwan national security press – the inaccurate often repeated myth that the Taiwanese defense industry would have made world-class weapons had it not been for American manipulation; one still sees the China KMT legislators at parliament asking whether foreign nations will come to Taiwan’s assistance when the Chinese communists attack.

A slow but significant transformation in democratic Taiwan, and a significant feature of this emerging Taiwanese national identity, is to normalize this democratic nation by stepping away from this self-pitying/arrogant prison brought by these outsiders. Taiwan, as any democratic must, should not focus on who will help during an invasion but must focus on what we must do to defend ourselves. Taiwan Can Help is an important democratic and universal human rights principle – we are not beggars, we are a member of a democratic community and we have a duty to help others whenever we can. This principle applies domestically, and globally. A small detail I noticed when Taiwanese Vice President Lai briefly chatted with US Vice President Harris in Honduras – VP Lai did not ask VP Harris for anything, instead, VP Lai offered Taiwan’s assistance to US-led humanitarian work in Central America. A seachange in attitude from the China KMT dictatorship days.

May the Buddha bless this Taiwanese hero and his family, and may the Buddha protect Ukraine, Taiwan Republic, America, and all democracies.

Hualien man becomes 1st Taiwanese combatant to die in Ukraine war

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