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The coming China war over Taiwan needs American leadership before it's too late

U.S. military support for Ukraine and Taiwan is stretching its thin budget to dangerous levels, and this must change: U.S. allies should do their part to defend themselves, too.

Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping directed his military to deepen war and combat planning, the latest sign that Beijing is getting ready to execute China’s grand plan to re-establish control over Taiwan. 

President Biden, having explicitly pledged in September that U.S. forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, made a stunning admission in early July - the United States is running perilously low on ammunition supplies after a year and a half of arming Ukraine to help it defend itself from Russia. 

Recent war games conducted by the Pentagon to simulate a U.S.-China battle over Taiwan underscored just how depleted America’s war chest is. In a fake battle simulated in April by the Center for a New American Security, U.S. forces ran out of key munitions in a matter of days, in addition to losing thousands of service members, dozens of ships, and hundreds of aircraft. This brings up a critical question – is Taiwan committed to its own defense? There are multiple indications that the answer is no.


First, it appears that Taipei would rather let Washington empty its war chest than commit some serious funds for its own defense. Republicans on Congress’ foreign affairs and armed services committees have pushed for even more military aid for Taiwan – $2 billion – in fiscal 2024 budget, while slashing the overall foreign aid budget, according to Defense News. 

And the White House is preparing a presidential drawdown package to quickly transfer U.S. arms from existing stockpiles to Taiwan – as Washington has done for Ukraine. Meanwhile, Taipei spends only 2.4% of its budget on national defense, up from a paltry 1.6% as recently as 2016, according to the Taiwan Times. The United States spends 3.5% to protect its citizens and global interests.

Second, congressional hearings reveal that Taiwan’s military is lacking adequate personnel, training, doctrine, arms, equipment, and, most importantly, motivation to defend itself against an invasion by China. As recently as two years ago, Taiwan’s 153,000 service members across Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, represented only 80% of its authorized end strength, while front line combat units were manned as low as at 60% of full strength, according to a report in Defense News. 


While Taiwan has grown its active duty personnel to 169,000, China holds a superior advantage in manpower with its 2-million-strong armed forces. To make matters worse, the length of mandatory service for Taiwanese conscripts is only four months, insufficient to attain optimum combat training. Compare this with the militaries of South Korea and Singapore, whose conscription programs last 18 to 21 months and 24 months, respectively.

While Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced in January that the compulsory conscription service will be extended to one year, the new "force realignment plan" will not take effect until 2024.

Third, and perhaps most alarmingly, some Taiwanese youth, it turns out, are reluctant to die for their country. Tsai herself admitted in December that many Taiwanese view military service as "just a waste of time." Former conscripts, recently interviewed by CNN, criticized Taiwanese military service as boring, outdated and impractical. 

A 25-year-old Taiwanese reservist who served last year complained that while his assigned mission was as an artilleryman specializing in cannons, he never learned to fire them because his instructors were concerned about the recruits’ safety. Instead, he spent the bulk of his time washing the cannon carts. 

Research conducted by The Taipei Times newspaper in 2018, revealed similar shortcomings. Large numbers of young Taiwanese were "apathetic toward the military and averse to service." 

"My time in the army was a complete waste. I wish I could get those four months back," a Taiwanese conscript told his interviewers, complaining that he spent much of his compulsory service cleaning the barracks, sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets.

For decades, U.S. leaders have doled out military aid and promised security guarantees to foreign partners, without demanding that they pony up their fair share. Now that American families are being crushed by Bidenomics and our treasury and our combat arsenal are depleted to dangerous levels by Washington’s misguided policies, it is high time to change the paradigm in Washington when it comes to foreign military aid. 

Before squeezing the American taxpayers any further by underwriting foreign nations’ security, let's compel our friends to do everything they can protect their own citizens and safeguard their vital interests first.

Biden must show leadership now, before it’s too late, and force Taiwan to participate much more in its own defense. Our young men and women from Tulsa should not be sent to Taiwan to die if the kids from Taipei aren’t willing to do the same.


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