On Tuesday, Taiwan responded to increased threats from China by expanding its compulsory military service from four months to 12 months for all men over the age of 18. It will also nearly double the duration of basic training from five weeks to eight, and quadruple conscript salaries.
“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,” said Taiwanese President Ing-wen. She added, “China’s expansion continues to impact the international order, threatens regional peace and stability, and affects cross-strait relations” according to a translated version of the press conference.
Our decision to extend military service aims to strengthen #Taiwan’s🇹🇼 self-defense capabilities in the face of #China’s increasingly bellicose rhetoric & military activities. We do not seek conflict, but we remain unwavering in defending our sovereignty & democracy. https://t.co/lCgdlLiKtx
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) December 27, 2022
Conscripts in Taiwan have been required to serve for just four months since 2013, including five weeks of basic training. However, with the new policy going into effect in 2024, conscripts will now serve for a period of one year including eight weeks of basic training.
Salaries for conscripts will be drastically increased as well. Current monthly salaries of just $211 per month will skyrocket to $856 per month once the new plan takes effect.
Basic Training will be revamped too, now including marksmanship and combat instruction from the U.S. military, according to The Guardian. Ultimately, the new training will prepare conscripts to guard key pieces of Taiwanese infrastructure, freeing up professional forces to respond to a potential Chinese invasion.
Estimates by Taipei-based think tank the National Policy Foundation suggest the change could boost Taiwan’s forces by nearly 40% by 2027, according to researcher Chieh Chung. Currently, Taiwan has a professional force of approximately 165,000.
Tensions between China and Taiwan have been on the rise in recent years, coming into the international spotlight following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. That’s because, though different, the conflict between China and Taiwan has many similarities to that of Russia and Ukraine.
China views Taiwan as a province of its mainland that has merely broken away in the form of democratization. Ultimately, President Xi Jinping has openly stated that the “reunification” of Taiwan and China must be achieved.
On the other hand, Taiwan feels it has achieved independence from mainland China. It has implemented its own constitution, elected its own leaders democratically, and built its own defense forces. It also maintains one of the most strategically vital economies in the world.
The island of Taiwan is vital to the rest of the technology-dependent world. Though a small island, Taiwan produces a large portion of the world’s computer chips. One company, in particular, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is estimated to have over half of the world’s semiconductor market share alone.