Fears that China will try to take over Taiwan are of concern to US military planners and administration officials. Few of them think the Taiwanese military could hold up.
Soldiers, strategists and government officials in Taiwan and the United States say the island’s military is torn apart by internal problems, many of which have accumulated over years of economic calm and prosperity and are now eroding Taiwan’s ability to deter China.
Among the most pressing concerns are poor preparation and low morale among the nearly 80,000 Taiwanese who enlist each year and the nearly 2.2 million reservists.
Xiao Cheng-zhi, a 26-year-old from central Taiwan, said his four months of basic training that ended last year mainly consisted of sweeping leaves, moving spare tires and pulling out tires. weeds. Other than some marksmanship training, he said, his lessons made no sense.
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Mr Xiao referred to his cohorts as strawberry soldiers, a term used in Taiwan to describe young people raised by overprotective parents who bruise easily. Although he said he was ready to serve, he doubted the island would have much of a chance against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
The Chinese Communist Party considers Taiwan to be part of its territory although it has never ruled it. Although there is no sign of an impending conflict, Beijing has made it clear that it intends to finally bring Taiwan under its control.
In interviews, Taiwanese soldiers and reservists expressed concerns about training and preparation. One said he watched American war movies during training after running out of useful things to do. Another said he spent a lot of time reading and drawing, and there was nothing to worry about anyway. Opinion polls and interviews suggest that many Taiwanese expect the United States to take matters into its own hands if serious danger arises.
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Two young men described how they gained extra weight to be disqualified from military conscription, a common practice according to some young Taiwanese. One said he gorged himself on large meals every four hours for a month, including combination meals from McDonald’s, to gain enough pounds to be exempt.
Grant Newsham, a retired U.S. Marine colonel who spent 2019 in Taiwan studying the island’s defenses, said Taiwan has a strong core of well-trained troops and “superb officers ready to fight.” . Other military experts compare the best pilots and officers in Taiwan to the best in the world.
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But the Taiwanese military is underfunded and its reserve system is a mess, Newsham said. He needs better wages, and he could become much more efficient by training with the United States and its allies, he said.
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