Taiwan’s military is not prepared for a Chinese invasion whatsoever.

In light of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) increasing military presence in the Taiwan Strait and Taiwan’s commitment to ensuring its own defense, the role of conscription in Taiwan’s defense system should be reconsidered. In order to gain a better understanding of conscription in Taiwan, I interviewed young Taiwanese men about their thoughts on the military and issues with Taiwan’s defense.

According to a Taiwanese poll in late February, 74% of Taiwanese citizens were willing to defend their country if the People’s Republic of China invaded it. The issue is not whether they will fight but rather how prepared they are.

All men are conscripted into the military in Taiwan. However, the period of service has been reduced in recent years – from two years to one year as of 2008 and now to just four months as of 2018.

However, the invasion of Ukraine and the Chinese military drills after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to Taiwan have brought war a step closer. In late March, Taiwanese Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng suggested extending compulsory military service.
Rather than considering how long conscription should last, discussions should also examine how conscription could be reformed to better defend Taiwan against the People’s Liberation Army. I interviewed young Taiwanese men about their time in the military and problems in Taiwan’s defense to learn more about this issue.

Shared Pessimism and a Broken Connection

Some interviewees had completed the standard four-month military service; others had completed the 12-day replacement service, an alternative option for men with physical or mental health issues, dependent families, or low-income households.

17% of men from Kaohsiung City opted for the replacement soldier service rather than the standing military reserve service in 2021.

All of the men in this group seem to have a shared feeling of pessimism. “We were not adequately prepared to be on the frontlines,” said one of the men. That is a conviction that all of them seem to agree on.
What caused Taiwanese society to become indifferent to conscription?