Amidst the ongoing war in Ukraine, where Russia is expected to strike Donbas in the coming weeks, its ally China has been keeping a close eye on how the world is reacting to the Kremlin’s invasion. In anticipation of a possible invasion from Beijing, Taiwan has released its first war survival handbook to help prepare the public for any military confrontation with China.

The 28-page handbook, which informs the Taiwanese on possible war scenarios with China, focuses on how to survive in a conflict and how the island should respond to the Chinese. Some of the topics included in the handbook include how to find bomb shelters using a smartphone application, identify different warning sirens, source food and water supplies, and tips on how to prepare emergency first aid kits.

These basic how-to guides are aided by comic strips and pictures to show how citizens can protect themselves during a war. These tips can ultimately save their lives in a time of war in the island nation.

“(We) are providing information on how citizens should react in a military crisis and possible disasters to come,” an official from the ministry’s All-out Defense Mobilization unit Liu Tai-yi said during a news conference.

2015 Chenggongling Camp Opening Event, the Army Aviation Special Warfare Command Special Warfare Battalion team on standby in front of Jieshoutai (玄史生, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons). Source:
2015 Chenggongling Camp Opening Event, the Army Aviation Special Warfare Command Special Warfare Battalion team on standby in front of Jieshoutai (玄史生, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

It is the first survival handbook that the Taiwanese government has released amid fears that China is planning a forced reunification. This is part of the government’s efforts to raise civic awareness about the Chinese threat and aims to teach civilians how to respond to a war scenario with China before the potential attack. In theory, this would help the Taiwanese reduce the number of civilian casualties in a conflict and may even help with guerilla warfare if the need ever arises.

Along with the handbook, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had announced new training and preparation schemes and projects to bolster the island nation’s military readiness. This move includes more intensified combat training and shooting exercises and reservists being required to attend an additional two weeks of training. This came after Taiwan had slowly shifted to a volunteer-based professional force rather than a conscript military, with recruits stating that they had been wasting time on “pointless drills and lectures.”

“The recent situation in Ukraine once again proves that the protection of the country, in addition to international solidarity and assistance, depends on the unity of the whole people,” Tsai said.

Initial planning and work for the handbook began before Russia invaded Ukraine last February 24. This is because most Taiwanese know they have been living under the threat of an invasion since the Nationalist Government was founded in 1912, first by Japan and Russia and then by Communist China after the government relocated to Taiwan in 1949 during their civil war.

The handbook reportedly drew inspiration from Sweden and Japan’s war guides, enhanced by new insight from Ukraine’s asymmetric warfare, which Tsai has also championed. According to the Taiwanese President, she aims to make their military swifter and more agile, making their troops harder to attack and increasing survivability.

Aside from the handbook, Taiwan is also debating whether it needs to extend its compulsory military service to more than four months, according to Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng.

Taiwan is also set to receive new weapons, such as the US-made MQ-9 Reaper drones, which are expected to enter service in 2025. It also plans to increase its annual missile production this 2022. More so, the Taiwanese government has approved some $8.6 billion to bolster the island’s capacity to defend Taiwanese territory.

This increase in military spending is quite necessary as China continues to intimidate the Taiwanese government with numerous sorties and vessels being sent into Taiwanese territory. Last February, China had sent 39 warplanes to Taiwan’s air defense identification zone in one day, which included 24 J-16 fighters, ten J-10 fighters, and one H-6 bomber.

President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen during the 2020 Taiwanese National Military Exercise (中文(臺灣): 中華民國總統府CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

It can be remembered that China does not recognize the sovereignty of Taiwan and considers it a temporary breakaway region. On February 25, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying further reiterated their claims on Taiwan, claiming that “Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China. This is an indisputable legal and historical fact.”

This type of rhetoric was also seen and heard from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian President was recorded saying that Ukrainian statehood is baseless and that it was never really a country to begin with.

If China chooses to invade Taiwan in the future, it will likely face similar fiscal and economic sanctions from the West and Taiwan seems to understand that the threat of sanctions would not fail to deter aggression from China, just as it failed to deter Russia from invading Ukraine. While there are no current signs that an invasion is imminent as of writing. Taiwan has shifted its defense posture away from reliance on a US deterrence strategy of economic sanctions and is instead making military reforms and buying equipment to deter an invasion by Communist China by force, as Tsai had vowed to defend their territory at whatever cost.