With conscription ending and budgets limited, Taiwan may have to make do with a smaller defense force
As the gap in military capabilities between Taiwan and China continues to widen, talk of a substantial active forces reduction by Taipei is once again fueling speculation that the island may have given up on defense, perhaps after concluding that resistance is futile and unification inevitable. Is such a decision, occurring while the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continues to enjoy double-digit budget growth, confirmation that Taipei is ready to capitulate, or is it part of a plan to maximize the return on stagnant defense expenditures and ensure excellence among volunteer soldiers?
It all starts with the “Jingtsui Program,” an effort initiated by President Ma Ying-jeou soon after his election in 2008 to phase out conscription and create an all-volunteer military. Under initial plans, conscription, which accounted for approximately one-third of the total active force, was to cease by 2014. However, because of an inability to meet recruitment goals (total recruitment for 2013 was less than one-third of its target of 28,000, with only 8,600 people signing up in the first 11 months), implementation of the program has been delayed twice, and a complete phasing out of the conscription system is now set for 2017.
My feature, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.