An opinion poll released in Taiwan recently shows that less than half of Taiwanese people are optimistic about Taiwan’s ability to resist the Chinese People’s Liberation Army if Beijing decides to reunite the island with mainland China forcefully.
According to the latest poll conducted by the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation on June 21, 51% of respondents said that if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) decided to launch an invasion of Taiwan, they did not believe that Taiwan could last for 100 days.
In addition, polls also show that nearly half of the Taiwanese do not approve of the Tsai Ing-wen government’s approach of “not seeking Taiwan independence to avoid war.”
On May 24, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Wu Zhaoxie told the US media that Taiwan would maintain the status quo and not seek formal independence to avoid war. 47.7% of the respondents in Taiwan disapprove of this position, and only 31.4% of the people agree.
The Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation chairman, You Yinglong, believes that the Tsai Ing-wen government is on the opposite side of the mainstream public opinion on this significant issue.
The opinion poll also points out that the percentage of Taiwanese who believe the US military will come to the aid of Taiwan in an invasion by China has increased from 34.5% in March 2022 to 40.4% in June.
Fan Shiping, a professor at the Institute of Political Science at National Taiwan Normal University, told the BBC that there are contradictions in the poll. Half of the people believe they should seek “Taiwan independence” even if there is a war, but half of the people also think that Taiwan cannot resist for more than 100 days.
“It can be seen that the Taiwanese still feel very willing to seek independence, even if there is a war, but Taiwan is worried that relying on Taiwan’s strength, it may be difficult to survive 100 days without external assistance, and it still needs external assistance, and support,” said Shiping.
The lack of confidence among the people of Taiwan about their ability to resist the Chinese invasion appears to have come from the ongoing Ukraine war and the several videos and images coming out of Ukraine that must have helped the Taiwanese visualize the brutal realities of war.
Reports suggest that the war in Ukraine remains a constant theme on television sets across Taiwan, and in the past four months, Taiwanese people have been rushing to sign up for first aid lessons and weapons training courses.
Whereas before the Ukraine conflict, the situation was the opposite.
Taiwan’s Military Not Well Integrated With The Civilian Society
According to Bonnie Glaser, an East Asia analyst at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Taiwan’s military is not well integrated with its civilian society, and part of the reason is the gradual decrease in the military service requirement from two years to just four months over the past few decades.
In addition, the active-duty military is not willing to work with the reserve force, which is seen as insufficiently trained, Glaser told Politico.
Taiwan’s reserve force, meanwhile, is large but limited in capability, Glaser said.
“These people get called up for something like two days a year, so it’s not a serious reserve force,” she said.
“Part of the problem in Taiwan is there isn’t much enthusiasm among the civilians to work with the military or the military to work with civilians,” Glaser continued.
Even the US officials are urging Taipei to improve its reserve institutions and take measures to realize the capability of mobilizing the population in the event of an invasion.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an April hearing that a vital lesson Taiwan could draw from Ukraine is “a nation in arms.”
“If your opponent tries to invade you, and every military-age man [and] woman is armed, and they have a little bit of training, that can be a very effective use,” Milley said.
According to Taiwan’s official representative to the US, Hsiao Bi-Khim, Taiwan officials have had extensive communications with their American counterparts on rebuilding the reserves system, and intensive reserve training have begun in Taiwan, the timing of which coincides with the onset of the Ukraine war.
Also, last year, Taiwan established an All-Out Defense Mobilization Agency, responsible for mobilizing reservists during wartime and disaster relief.
The agency is drafting an all-out defense handbook” that will increase public awareness about military response efforts during wartime and peacetime emergencies.