“While a Chinese invasion is unlikely to be imminent, it isn’t out of the picture”Wikimedia Commons

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, like any other war in history, has been painful. Towards the Far East, however, this war serves as a stage for Xi Jinping to observe how the West reacts in times of political turmoil. In a short span of three months, Western media platforms have seen a strong, renewed interest in discussing what the current war implies for China’s long-planned invasion of Taiwan. Ukraine is bleeding — will Taiwan be next?

“There is simply no military event in history that mirrors similar circumstances”

Much of the West’s coverage on the matter circles around the technical difficulties for China to actually invade Taiwan, citing geographical layouts, the island’s globally unparalleled semiconductor industry, as well as involvement from the USA. All these points are reasonably argued — indeed, it would be excruciatingly difficult for Xi if he ever decides to up his game across the strait. Putting these elements together, some believe that the complexities of invading Taiwan would be unprecedented. There is simply no military event in history that mirrors similar circumstances, one that could accurately inform us of the potential consequences if China were to invade Taiwan.

However, neither of these arguments is a promise that Xi will never attack. As current circumstances show, the US has not intervened directly despite the war going into its fourth month soon — which could perhaps be explained by Russia’s nuclear power.

Russia has not yet ceased to continue military acts in Ukraine despite sanctions from the West either. Like Russia, China possesses nuclear weapons; with China’s economic might, it is likely that, in any case, the West would find it hard to meaningfully sanction China.

Thus far, Western media has explored defence strategies that the Taiwanese military could use in the event of an attack, such as the Porcupine strategy. What Western media has yet to cover pertains to Taiwanese people’s preparedness for the invasion.

“While a Chinese invasion is unlikely to be imminent, it isn’t out of the picture”

As a concerned Taiwanese, I can’t help but question whether the population is mentally prepared for the potential turmoil that lies on the horizon. Although the Russian invasion of Ukraine did revive some attention towards a possible attack from China, the local news has not placed continuous focus on the matter, with some outlets even convinced that the Russian-Ukrainian war should rather discourage China from launching any invasions. Only last month did the government distribute a safety and defence handbook to advise citizens of steps to take if Beijing were to really strike. However, the contents of the handbook, filled with QR codes for information on refuge spots, were said to be problematic, as Internet access may not be possible in the event of an actual attack.

The situation with Taiwan’s army isn’t optimistic either. The government reduced the length of mandatory military service from around two years in 1990 to a mere four months in 2013 — the motive behind which I struggle to understand, despite having researched the topic extensively. Many Taiwanese men with certain skill sets are also allowed to fulfil the so-called ‘substitute military service’ — this may include helping with the government’s administrative tasks and I fail to see how this meaningfully adds to the preparation of defending Taiwan.

Growing up on the island, I also felt that military defence classes in high school were never regarded as important. As I recall, teachers of other subjects would sometimes ‘borrow’ these defence classes to catch up with course progress in Maths and Mandarin. But surely, neither our excessive knowledge of linear algebra nor of Confucian literature would help us as much as a strategic defence plan for when the siren sounds.


Mountain View

How to approach the wrong side of history

These factors lead me to think that it is high time we Taiwanese begin to gain awareness of a possible attack. Thinking back to early February this year, many Ukrainians seemed to calmly believe that Russia was not going to invade despite the ongoing threats. As such, they were caught off guard when the invasion actually took place on February 24th, and that is a lesson we must learn from.

While a Chinese invasion is unlikely to be imminent, it isn’t out of the picture. It is likely that Xi is brushing the dust off China’s 70-year-old military plan to invade Taiwan, revisiting it and taking notes of Putin’s mistakes. He could be flipping the page, and as a collective whole, we Taiwanese will need to be mentally ready.