In September, a Taiwanese billionaire, owner of the semiconductor company United Microelectronic Corp, Robert Tsao, announced at a press conference his intention to donate $32 million to create an armed civilian force.
Tsao, 75, explained the goal was to train 3 million people in the use of weapons to turn them into warriors. Whatever their role in society – parents, workers, students – they would all be given the chance to defend the island against a possible invasion by China. His idea also includes the selection of 300,000 people to create a sniper corps.
Although the idea sounds audacious and ambitious, according to the entrepreneur, it is feasible.
Tsao, of Chinese origin but raised in Taiwan, amassed his fortune in the semiconductor industry, being part of the group that made the island the world’s leading producer in this field. In 2011 the Taiwanese government opposed an investment project of his company with China, so he renounced his Taiwanese citizenship as a form of protest. In the political field he defended in 2007 the idea of a referendum to know the opinion of the population on the unification with mainland China, which he supported following a peaceful path.
But today, with the constant pressure and intimidation by the Chinese regime, he believes less and less in a conciliatory solution and thinks that the Taiwanese should prepare for a possible military incursion. He gave up his Singapore passport and regained his Taiwanese citizenship. In an interview with the BBC, he commented, “I think as long as people are in Taiwan, they will be willing to defend their country. They are not afraid of Chinese military aggression.”
For 70 years, the Taiwanese have been able to escape the CCP’s plans to incorporate the island into its sphere of power. The islanders are already accustomed to the regime’s threats, so they became immune to them and continued to develop their society along democratic lines of free speech. But alarm bells rang after the events in Hong Kong.
Xi Jinping has shown a firm determination to “reunify” China, and impose the communist system without exception. The “one country, two systems” policy, which by agreement with the United Kingdom Hong Kong enjoyed after the regime took control of it, quickly disintegrated, while the repression suffered by its citizens during the demonstrations of 2019 showed the model of society that awaited them under the authority of the CCP.
In Taiwan, those who support a pro-China policy, always promoted the Hong Kong model to gain followers. But after seeing what happened in the city, all confidence in that system was lost and the voices of independence began to gain ground.
Intense Chinese military activity in the waters near the island and the re-election of Xi heightened fears and reinforced nationalist sentiment.
The military exercises conducted by the CCP in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s arrival in Taipei were not just a show of intimidation.
Aircraft carriers, submarines, ten destroyers, support vessels and more than 100 aircraft carried out live-fire maneuvers. Missiles were fired over the island. Many consider it a practice invasion.
David versus Goliath
In a further step to show his commitment to the defense of the island, Tsao pledged to donate money for the development of military drones, needed to complement the defense strategy.
His drive and optimism clash with the data revealed in military resource comparisons between the two countries.
The U.S. Department of Defense released data in 2021 analyzing Chinese and Taiwanese military forces.
China has 1,040,000 troops, compared to Taiwan’s 88,000.
China’s 6,300 tanks contrast with 800 tanks on the island.
China’s naval force is composed of one aircraft carrier, 32 destroyers and 48 frigates, compared to 4 destroyers and 22 Taiwanese frigates.
Beijing also has 9 nuclear submarines and 6 ballistic missile submarines, plus 56 diesel-powered subs, like the two that Taiwan possesses.
In the air, the advantage remains Chinese, with 1,600 fighter planes and 450 bombers, compared to the island’s 400 fighters.
The military budget managed by both countries makes even more of a difference, with China spending at least 15 times more than Taiwan.
Military service is compulsory in Taiwan, but over the years it has been reduced from two years to 4 months. In recent polls on the subject, a majority would agree to extend it.
Despite the unlevel playing field, Taiwan has growing support internationally, including the United States, with the world’s most powerful navy.
Although Tsao thinks Taiwanese should be responsible for their own safety.
He said, “I wanted to show my commitment. … I thought I would be encouraging many people and other businessmen or leaders who might follow.”
Tsao said, “”What I’m working for is to let Taiwan people be confident in themselves.”
As public opinion shows, the Taiwanese are more committed to defending their island.
Max Chiang runs a training company that teaches basic gun skills. The training is conducted with airguns. Chiang said, “Since February, the numbers joining has jumped by 50% and the number of women is now 40-50% in some classes.” In an adjacent building, a more advanced group trains with bulletproof vests, helmets, and radio communication equipment in a street guerrilla theater.
Lisa Hsueh, one of the trainees said, “If our tensions with China lead to war, I’ll stand up to protect myself and my family. That’s the reason I learned to use a gun.”
She added, “Women like me don’t go fight at the front line. But if a war breaks out, we will be able to protect ourselves in our homes.”
Hsueh went on, “I cherish our freedom. We live in a democratic country. So these are our basic rights. And we must uphold these values.”
She concluded, “China is a country without democratic rights. So I feel blessed to have grown up in Taiwan.”