Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced on Tuesday, December 27, 2022 that Taiwan will prolong its compulsory military service from four months to a year starting in 2024, as the self-ruled island faces China’s military, diplomatic and trade pressure.
The longer military service applies to men born after 2005, and will start on January 1, 2024. Those born before 2005 will continue to serve for four months, but under a revamped training curriculum aimed at strengthening the island’s reserves forces.
Taiwan, which split from the mainland in 1949 during a civil war, is claimed by China. The decades-old threat of invasion by China into the self-governed island has sharpened since China cut off communications with the island’s government after the 2016 election of Tsai, who is a member of the Democratic Progressive Party and seen by Beijing as pro-independence.
China has stepped up its military harassment of Taiwan, sending fighter planes and navy vessels toward Taiwan on a near-daily basis in recent years.
In response, the island’s military actively tracks those movements, which often serves as training for its own military personnel.
“No one wants war. This is true of Taiwan’s government and people, and the global community, but peace does not come from the sky, and Taiwan is at the front lines of the expansion of authoritarianism.”President Tsai Ing-wen
Under the plans due to come into effect in 2024, conscripts will undergo more intense training, including shooting exercises and combat instruction used by US forces.
Conscripts will be tasked with guarding key infrastructure, enabling regular forces to respond more swiftly in the event of any invasion attempt by China.
Taiwan requires men over 18 to serve four months in the military, with the first five weeks in a basic training boot camp. The new plan will put mandatory recruits on eight-week basic training.
“As long as Taiwan is strong enough, it will be the home of democracy and freedom all over the world, and it will not become a battlefield. Taiwan wants to tell the world that between democracy and dictatorship, we firmly believe in democracy. Between war and peace, we insist on peace. Let us show the courage and determination to protect our homeland and defend democracy.”President Tsai Ing-wen
The defence authority also plans to raise the monthly wage of regular conscription soldiers from about NT$6,500 (US$211) to NT$26,307 (US$856), almost in line with the minimum wage.
73.2% Of Taiwanese Adults Support One-Year Military Service
A poll from the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation in December revealed that among Taiwanese adults, 73.2% said they would support a one-year military service.
The survey discovered that the support was across party lines, spanning the Democratic Progressive Party and the more China-friendly Nationalist Party.
Taiwan’s current 4-month military conscription requirement was widely panned by the public as being too short and not providing the training that professional soldiers actually need.
The previous government had slashed it down from a year to four months in 2017 as it was transitioning the army into a volunteer-dominated professional force.
However, China’s growing assertiveness towards the island, as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have prompted debates about how to boost defence.
Ninety percent of Taiwan’s 188,000-person military are volunteers and ten percent are men doing their required four months of service.
Paul Huang, a research fellow at the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation opined, “This is one of the basic steps that should have been done a long time ago.”
Huang also noted that the implementation period in 2024, when Taiwan will elect a new President, meant that Tsai was “passing the buck” to her successor.
Among the youngest demographic group of 20-24, however, 37.2% said they opposed extending the military service, and only 35.6% said they would support an extension.