China’s might is forcing Taiwan to rethink its military strategy

26-Jan-2019 Intellasia | Economist | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Taiwan “must and will” be reunited with the mainland, declared Xi Jinping, China’s president, on January 2nd. Chinese leaders have been saying such things since the retreating Nationalists separated the island from the rest of the country after losing the civil war to the Communists in 1949. But Xi has done more than just talk: he has sent bombers and warships to circle the island, held live-fire drills in the narrow Taiwan Strait and, Taiwanese generals say, instructed the People’s Liberation Army (pla) to be capable of seizing Taiwan by force by next year. Back in 1996, the most recent cross-strait crisis, China’s military spending was barely twice Taiwan’s. Now it is 15 times greater. That has left Taiwanese leaders rushing to rethink their defences.

Taiwan already does a great deal to make itself indigestible to invaders. The island is “honeycombed with bunkers”, says Ian Easton of the Project 2049 Institute, an American think-tank. Tanks are hidden away in bustling neighbourhoods of Taipei. The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Highway Number One was built to handle not only rush-hour traffic, but also ten-tonne fighter jets, since the island’s airfields would quickly be destroyed by Chinese missiles should war break out.


Category: Taiwan

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