Taiwan Will Be Defended by the Bullet, or Not at All

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“The ultimate determinant in war is a man on the scene with a gun.”
—J.C. Wylie, Military Strategy: A General Theory of Power Control

Some excellent comments were written in response to last week’s post “Taiwan’s Past Matters Less Than Taiwan’s Present.” Two of these comments were particularly excellent, and I am saddened to see them languish in a little read comment thread. As we can’t let that happen, I will post them here for the benefit of the wider readership.

The first is by commentator writing under the name “J”:

I am Taiwanese, by birth and by blood. My father’s side is 外省人 [TG:  someone who retreated to Taiwan with the KMT], my mother’s side is 本省人 [someone whose ancestors have lived in Taiwan for generations, and whose mother tongue would likely be Taiwanese Hokkien]. This is not an academic distinction, my maternal grandfather went to college in Japan and served in the Japanese Imperial Army as an NCO. He was later involved in the Taiwanese independence movement. Many of his friends disappeared during the White Terror. His personal journal was written completely in Japanese. His last overseas trip was a college reunion. His last gift to me was a book by a Japanese right-wing author. My paternal grandfather was a mid-level officer in the Nationalist forces. After the retreat to Taiwan, he served in the KMT civilian administration. Every new year, we called his brothers in China. His ashes are interred in Taiwan, but his wishes are to be buried, alongside his parents, at the ancestral plot in Shandong. Let’s just say my parents didn’t have the easiest time getting married.

The Taiwanese affinity for Japan is real, but in recent decades, has also been politicized and weaponized. Taiwanese nationalists recognize its usefulness as a cultural wedge, and there has been a romanticization of the Japanese colonial era, and, of course, corresponding counter-narrative. In the battleground for the minds of the young, Japan is winning by a landslide. As a Taiwanese (who also speaks Japanese), it’s a bit embarrassing, honestly. The Japanese national conversation hardly recognizes Taiwan, and only the ultra-rightwing WWII-apologists in Japan bother to acknowledge Taiwanese goodwill, mostly as a weapon in their domestic political disputes. The revival of Taiwanese-dialect culture maps to the same political dynamics.

However, Taiwan is also deeply demoralized. Successive governments have all but given up on the idea of national defense, the conscription term has been cut to almost nothing. What was originally a national rite-of-passage – universal male conscription – is now basically a joke. The military is a pension farm, and thoroughly compromised by Chinese intelligence. Taiwanese industry is very dependent on Chinese markets and labor, and the business elite of Taiwan have all named their price. Similarly, Mandarin Taiwanese pop culture is integrated with China, and must toe the line. At the university level, administrations are dependent on Mainland Chinese students, who, by and large, are more disciplined, more focused, and more ambitious than the native Taiwanese student.

Unsurprisingly, intermarriage between Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese is also ticking up, both at the college-educated level, and at the mail-order bride level. Taiwanese tourism heavily relies on Chinese visitors. As with all of the former Asian Tigers, birth rates are far below replacement nationally, and they are catastrophically low in Taipei.

Even as Taiwanese culture grows (partially by DPP policy) more defiantly differentiated from China, the actual capability to resist Chinese coercion, either economically or militarily, continues to wane. The CCP doesn’t need to do anything, except keep their mouths shut and allow current trends to continue. The Taiwanese attitude towards China appears to be an exercise in denial and wishful thinking. And that takes a toll on the national psyche. The younger generations may have Netflix and sub-titled Japanese TV shows, eating at gourmet restaurants and taking trips to Sapporo, Singapore, and Sydney. They may laugh at the gawking Chinese that are too poor to visit Europe, and visit Sun Moon Lake instead, but these bumpkin Chinese have what they don’t have – a comprehensive vision of the future, and a deep belief that they are standing on the solid rock of history, and that they aren’t going anywhere. Whereas for Taiwan and the Taiwanese, everything is contingent.

So take another trip to the wine countries of France, forget about having kids, and try to enjoy the moment.

In an alternate universe, Taiwan would be like Israel or South Korea – ferociously devoted to defense, fiercely determined to resist coercion. Or, for a more realistic example, to be at least as devoted as our ethnic cousins in Singapore. But perhaps that is only possible with the iron-fisted rule of a LKW for four decades. It would take herculean effort to shake Taiwan out of it’s current complacent stupor. [1]

J’s observations largely track my own experience in Taiwan (long termers will remember I was in Taipei for most of 2015-2016; my experiences there produced one or two blogposts of note). The “Japaneseness” of Taiwan is real and is readily apparent to anyone who has had experience with people from all three countries. In a way that is difficult to quantify or even articulate, Taiwan simply feels like the child of both of these cultures. This is true even in the north, where KMT resettlement was strongest. J is also correct to note that these differences have been overly politicized. Consequently, they are often exaggerated. But they are real, and folks like J are living evidence of their reality.

From a mainland perspective these differences mean nothing. Taiwanese tend to forget the astounding cultural diversity within China proper. The culture and lifeways of Han Chinese living in Ningxia and in Guangxi are more different from each other than anything that separates Taipei from Shanghai. As different as Taiwan may be, it has more cultural affinity with inner China than Tibet or Xinjiang does, and rare is the Han Chinese willing to entertain the independence of either of those regions.

However, one of the most significant cultural differences I observed when I moved from Taipei to Beijing had nothing to do with cultural heritage. J is right: the people of Taiwan are demoralized. There are benefits to this: Taipei is a less pretentious city than Beijing is. People are less concerned with putting on airs; the wealthy are less gaudy and hedonistic; nobody schemes of dirty, treacherous, or lecherous ways to get ahead. But that is exactly the trouble with the young of Taipei: none of them seem to believe that they can get ahead. Track down a student at Bei-Da and one at Tai-Da and you will find a world of difference. The Beida kid will not be any smarter than the Taida kid, but he will be infinitely more ambitious. Beijing is a city of dreamers and schemers. Chinese travel thousands of miles to live in that smog-choked, traffic-clogged wasteland of a city. Why? Because they earnestly believe that it is the place where they will rise above their origins. That kid from Beida starts high and aims higher. He earnestly believes that he personally is going to change the world. The kid from Taida? He doesn’t even believe he can change Taiwan.

The exception to this is politics. In the realm of politics, it is the young Beijingers who drift as their apathy guides them. The opposite was true in Taiwan—politics was the one place young Taiwanese thought they might make an impact. But that was in 2015. Disillusionment with Tsai Yingwen seems to have dampened that spirit a bit.

I am more optimistic about the military situation. In terms of military culture, J is absolutely correct. Taiwan does not have one. I blame this situation largely on the ROC military itself. One could write a series of essays on the public relations and human resources mistakes the ROC military has made over the last two decades. Their mismanagement of the conscription system—which under normal circumstances would be the ideal vehicle for instilling such a culture—is criminal. The whining rhetoric that emanates from the Ministry of National Defense is also unhelpful. Taiwanese military figures do not shy from emphasizing the weakness of Taiwan’s position, presumably in an attempt to get Washington to care more about their plight. However, by highlighting Taiwanese weakness all they (and their American supporters who make similar arguments) are doing is reinforcing the narrative spun by the PLA: Taiwan is doomed, too weak to be worth fighting for.

The shame in all this is that it is hardly true. This topic deserves its own post, so I won’t delve deeply into it here. I’ll simply share this thought: the same technological trends which make it so difficult for the United States Navy and Air Force to operate near Chinese waters make it equally difficult for the PLA to operate on the wrong side of the strait. The same cost ratios are at play as well. A long range SSM costs far less than any ship it might hit in a U.S. Carrier Strike Group. But the same is true for missiles launched from Taiwan (or, for that matter, Vietnam or the Philippines). We are quickly moving into a weapons regime that strongly favors the defender. Add this to the incredible difficulties inherit in organizing the largest amphibious invasion of human history, the unique hurdles posed by the geography and weather of Taiwan, and the general lack of training and experience on the part of the PLA forces that will be doing the invading. The potential for failure is high in the best of circumstances. With minimal military investment the Taiwanese can ensure it would be the worst of circumstances. [2]

This brings me to the other stellar comment in the thread, this one posted by long-time reader L.C. Rees:

The ROC exists because: 

1. the US doesn’t want the PRC to have it

2. the PRC doesn’t have the strength to take it in the face of American resistance

Until that 1-2 dynamic changes, or some alternative correlation of power (thermonuclear ROC, PLA soldiers who can walk on water, Neo-Imperial Japan with giant robots with friggin’ laser beams,  etc.) arises, all the fine parsing of ancient sources will not amount to Jack Diddley except if it manages to sway gullible Americans. Americans can be gullible: TPM Barnett infamously thought that, if you bought low on Chinese power c. 2010, you could lock in American preferences of how the world should be into a hypothetical 2050 where the PRC dominated the world and the price would be too high.

I doubt Barnett’s option contract would have any more persuasive power in and of itself in a world where the PRC held sway any more than the VOC’s claim on Formosa c. 1650 has power in and of itself to sway Washington or Peking today. If the VOC still dominated the Strait of Taiwan, then such a piece of paper might have kinetic force. The Dutch Navy sailing up the Yangtze and burning the PLA Navy at anchor would be as amusing as it is unlikely. However, the VOC is long gone and His Majesty’s government in the Netherlands shows no sign of reviving it. Dutch naval power in the Pacific has been nil since 1942.

On the subject of the inception of the Korean War, I’ve encountered a thesis I was unfamiliar with: Stalin pushed the war by letting his sock puppet Kim off the leash in order to drive a wedge between the PRC and the West, leaving the PRC reliant on the USSR for modernization. The Korean War was intentionally started to divert Mao’s military resources away from Taiwan (Mao was pestering Stalin for help with Formosa) into an alternative theater Stalin had more control over. If this alternative scenario is accurate, it largely succeeded: Stalin’s option contract here, festooned with the legal authority of T-34s and MiGs, is a better example for how to buy into PRC power while the price is low or property titles are being accepted. [3]

Rees is correct. The debate over whether the legal status of Taiwan was decided by the Cairo Declaration or the Treaty of San Fransisco irks because it is irrelevant. At the end of the day, the freedom of Taiwan depends on two things only:

  1. Are there men and women willing to die to keep Taiwan free?
  2. Do the Chinese understand how committed they are?

That is it. All of that other stuff about blood brotherhood and historical claims is irrelevant. What matters is who can get their man to stand on the scene with a gun.

But here is where I part ways with Rees, who—if I understand him correctly—seems to think that only American men and American guns matter. U.S. military support is a necessary, but not sufficient, precondition for Taiwanese autonomy. Much depends on the Taiwanese themselves. The United States will not stop Taiwan from seeking reunification, if that is what Taiwanese voters ask for. But more importantly, the American military is tethered to the American public, and if that public has lost faith in Taiwan, they will not be willing to see American soldiers die for it. The whole structure rests on the Taiwanese people. If they are willing to sacrifice what must be sacrificed to maintain a credible deterrent, then their autonomy will be preserved. If they are not, no number of American fleets can save them.


[1] Comment by “J” on Tanner Greer, “Taiwan’s Past Matters Less than Taiwan’s Present,” Scholar’s Stage, 13 August 2018.

[2] Those interested in exploring this topic further ought to read two books (well, one study and one book): Andrew Krepenvich’s Maritime Competition in a Mature Precision Strike Regime and Ian Easton’s The China Invasion Threat: The Defense of Taiwan and American Strategy in East Asia

[3] Comment by “LCRees” on Tanner Greer, “Taiwan’s Past Matters Less than Taiwan’s Present,” Scholar’s Stage, 14 August 2018. 

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"At the end of the day, the freedom of Taiwan depends on two things only:

Are there men and women willing to die to keep Taiwan free? Do the Chinese understand how committed they are?
That is it."

I think there might be another important factor to consider: would the CCP really want to invade Taiwan, even if it could? The answer is not as obvious as it seems.

The Chinese government certainly benefits from keeping its population mired in a condition of ignorant, aggressive nationalism and from ensuring that young Chinese see the government's irredentist claims as a key part of their identity. This keeps the population supportive, and focuses their frustration on foreign targets.

Having said that, it is by no means clear that the leadership would really want to start a war over Taiwan, regardless of whether they thought they might win it. While the Chinese public would probably be more supportive of the idea of Chinese soldiers fighting and killing Japanese or Americans, the image of Chinese soldiers killing what are seen as other Chinese might well be hard to stomach. The issue of people's children coming home in boxes might not be such a big deal in a huge country like China, which has no need to enforce conscription to fight a war, but the idea of soldiers dying while fighting fellow Chinese would rankle, no matter how the media tried to spin it. 中国人不打中国人 is a well-known slogan after all.

If they won, they would then be faced with the issue of trying to incorporate a province in which most people hated them and everything they stood for. Simply locking all the Taiwanese up in re-education camps is just not practical.

I think it is possible to suppose that the Chinese leadership would rather just keep Taiwan as a constant point of contention and prevent it from officially declaring independence, rather than actually taking it over. But then again, the leadership isn't homogenous, and some of them may also feel that being a superpower or "national security" interests genuinely require taking the island for good. Also, if faced with serious internal upheaval, starting a war might seem like the best way out to the government.

But Tanner Greer, Taiwan is chinese territory, what is the business of America for interfering with Taiwan?

The "Japanese" influence in Taiwan is only limited to older generation. I see ZERO Japanese influence amongst younger Taiwanese.

Even if the entire population of Taiwan becomes anglo saxon white, Taiwan will still be chinese territory.

Nothing on the face of this earth can change that.


I see you missed the first post in this series.

Ji Xiang–

You may be right. But this is why I would rather keep the balance tipped towards Taiwan. The more difficult and bloody a fight that is for the Chinese, the less likely it will happen.

Ji Xiang–

There may also come a time when an independent Taiwan isn't a problem for the PRC anymore – when 1) their regional or global economic dominance is so complete that no sizable economy can afford to stand against it for long and 2) their internal position is further consolidated and fears of separatism are less acute (regional Chinese languages are roughly a generation away from functional extinction outside of the countryside). There's a big difference between a Chinese Canada and a Chinese Cuba…they just need to make sure that Taiwan transitions from a Cuba to a Canada.

American Imperialists also need to understand the other side of the equation. Do they and the Taidunese traitors they enable understand just how committed the Chinese are to the recovery of Taiwan (aka the sixteen prefectures) and how many they are willing to kill for it. Killing hanjian isn't a crime, it is a service. All the party needs to do to raise the blood lust of the Chinese is simply publish the choicest bits of independence propaganda that the Taiwanese themselves publish and I doubt the mob would have many qualms about a more thorough cleansing of the traitorous elements than Chiang Kai Shek was willing to commit to. I find liberals have a laughable understanding of the ability of coercive violence to reshape human behavior.

All this talk of "balance" vis-à-vis Taiwan and the mainland is laughable. There are 1.4 billion committed nationalists on the mainland. There are barely 20 million confused weebs on Taiwan. There can never be anything close to resembling balance across the straits, let alone one in Taiwan's favor.

True nationhood is forged in violence, in struggle, in revolution by the blood of martyrs and heroes. That is the history the party teaches on mainland. Taiwan is sad pathetic chimera pretending to be a nation because it has faced no actual adversity and instead grasps at trivialities like homo marriage, night markets, stinky tofu, and groveling displays of weeabo behavior to distinguish themselves from the "uncouth" mainlanders. Willing to risk nothing but token gestures of inflammatory defiance because they are at heart cowards. To change the behavior of the Taiwanese to be like the Israelies would require them to develop a blood and soil mythology. Funny thing is, one already happens to exist on Taiwan, it just happens to be the ideology of the KMT and Chinese racial nationalism.

Thanks for your comments on my comments! It seems there is a lot of agreement in our assessments. I am not even an amateur military expert, but I do have some thoughts on a realistic defense for Taiwan.

At the national level, Taiwanese need to begin seriously contemplating full conventional warfare in their cites and homes. There need to be signs marking areas that would be mined in times of war, and streets need to be marked with areas slated for civilian evacuation and fortification by ROC infantry. These signs should not be comprehensive or even accurate – but the people need to be psychologically prepared for war. Civil defense drills should be comprehensive and serious. Popular culture should have movies, video games, and TV shows envisioning invasion and occupation. People should have emergency evacuation plans. They should know first aid. There should be a strong consensus on what the national will-to-fight actually is. Should the government evacuate to exile? At what point is the loss of life too dear and at what point should the government sue for peace?

At the civilian government level, there should be a massive hardening of infrastructure. Bridges and tunnels should be pre-wired for demolition. Tank traps should be pre-positioned, or directly built at major intersections and highway arteries. The mountainous terrain of Taiwan provides natural funnels and choke points from beachheads to population centers and between population centers. Any port large enough to support RORO ferries should be wired for demolition, and fortified against capture. Every fishing boat pier should be pre-registered with the nearest artillery battery. Bomb shelters should be part of the building codes. There should be large national reserves of energy and basic supplies to resist blockade. Power and communication grids should have hardened backup systems. Major government functions should have hardened backup facilities. Government buildings of high symbolic value should be fortified against decapitation raids. There should be a robust and clearly-understood government succession plan. Obviously, conscription would have to be brought up to have the necessary manpower. High-school military training class should go from parade marching and military songs to serious physical conditioning and small unit contact drills. There should be an overhaul of the military to rid them of old-guard pensioners, and the officer corps should be compensated well-enough to attract competent (and loyal) young Taiwanese. There should be a large reservist and civil-defense force.

At a military level, there needs to be a realistic defense strategy. The symmetric, force-on-force fantasy needs to be abandoned. The ROCAF/N cannot go toe-to-toe with the PLAAF/N. In my opinion, the Taiwanese should take our cue from cold-war Switzerland, or the Japanese defense of Iwo Jima, and use the mountainous terrain to create dispersed shelters and fortifications. Virtually no part of Taiwan is more than 50 km from a mountain range, which means artillery can hit almost any beachhead from concealed mountain fortifications. They should be protected by a large number of short to medium-range road-mobile SAM batteries. Long-range SAMs, even mobile ones, are too cumbersome and have too large a signature to survive for very long against PLA sensor dominance. They are also too expensive to trade at adequate exchange ratios with the PLAAF's numerical superiority. The ROCAF should do what it can with its existing fighter force, but any fixed-wing force operating from airfields has a life-expectancy measured in hours. The ROCAF's main mission should be peacetime airspace sovereignty enforcement, its wartime value would be as an initial screening or delaying force only. The ROCN has a similar role. For future procurements, the ROCAF should focus on stealth drones for target acquisition, and the ROCN on submarines and stealth patrol boats to launch anti-ship missiles, and UUVs for target acquisition. They would pass back targeting information to road-mobile anti-ship and surface-to-surface missile launchers based in mountain hide-outs. The ROC armor and mechanized infantry/artillery should be organized into brigade-level combined arms units, with organic logistics, signal intelligence, and communications, as it is unlikely that unified command-and-control would survive for very long. They would primarily hide in the mountains, preserving their strength for counter-attacks at opportune moments. The rest of the infantry would be organized, at the battalion-level, into light mountain infantry for force protection of mountain redoubts, and heavy urban infantry for urban guerrilla warfare.

And most controversially – the nuclear option. Any serious discussion of national sovereignty must include nuclear weapons. My personal opinion is that the risks outweigh the rewards. It would immediately alienate Taiwan from whatever informal support Japan or the US might provide, and it would be massively destabilizing. Should Taiwan and China go to full-scale war, by the time casualties reached four- or five- digits, it is unlikely that Taiwanese nuclear weapons would be much of a deterrence – the internal pressures on the Chinese government would almost certainly mean overwhelming nuclear retaliation if Taiwan struck first. And, as a person of who, like many Taiwanese, retains a deep sense of stewardship for Chinese civilization, a Chinese civil war with nuclear weapons would be a crime to history. But I could easily see an ardent Taiwanese nationalist, looking at the long odds Taiwan faces in a conventional war, deciding that death by nuclear fire is preferable to CCP rule. May it never come to that.

@Ji Xiang: would the CCP really want to invade Taiwan, even if it could?

If there is no American presence in Asia, certainly yes. Had the US not ever intervened in Taiwan affairs, this should happen 50 years ago, and we all know that ROC alone has no chance againt PRC today. If the US is publically declare its will to protect Taiwan with at all cost and the US military strength is far superior than PRC in Taiwan theatre, then certainly not.

However, the US tends to hold an ambiguous position in this affair, so the cost of invading Taiwan becomes unpredictable for PRC. This is the true reason of Beijing's hesitation.

As for "keeps the population supportive" or "focuses their frustration on foreign targets", these are only subsidiary effects from current situation. Do you think CCP really cares about "population supportive", given its infamous records in domestic affairs? Or, do you think a infighting and declining Taiwan is big enough to divert the public frustration of the whole mainland? Given the 1989 incident, do you think the party really believe in the "Chinese not fight Chinese" slogan?

Perhaps the PRC can go online and crowdsource its way to victory over the ROC. A digital Yangtze.

As a digital platform, vTaiwan should optimize its use case for drawing fine distinctions or shades of meaning in everyday words, PRC, ROC, Taiwan, Formosa, VOC, &tc. The world lacks a truly anal solution for carrying out the rectification of names.


Glad to have you here. Helps to get people focused when they see comments like this.


You will be happy to know that some of your reccs (e.g., "At the civilian government level, there should be a massive hardening of infrastructure. Bridges and tunnels should be pre-wired for demolition. Tank traps should be pre-positioned, or directly built at major intersections and highway arteries.") has already been happening. As you are interested in this topic I suggest the Ian Easton book mentioned in a footnote above. There are many things like this that are built into the system.

It disappoints me though that so few Taiwanese know about them. A lot of the real prep needed is psychological.

As an aside, do you live or have you lived in the states? Your english is excellent–much better than I could manage in Chinese (or most of our other native Chinese speaking commentators here, ala Duke of Qin above).

@Tyler H-I think you underestimate the danger to the Party caused by the mere existence of Taiwanese democracy. It gives a lot of fuel to the 'we don't necessarily need no Party' fire in some Chinese quarters.


I agree that the US's implicit protection of Taiwan's de facto statehood is the most important factor.

On the other hand, if you think that keeping the population supportive is not a priority for the Chinese government, then I think you are missing an important part of the picture. The narrative of "national humiliation" and the "unity of China above all" that they have been pushing in Chinese schools and in society for decades, and especially since the nineties, creates an extremely important part of their legitimacy in the eyes of the public. The issue of Taiwan is a part of that. These things do work to divert public frustration in China, look at how well the Diaoyu islands issue worked in 2012.

As for "Chinese not fighting Chinese", the party may not believe it, but the public has been brought up on this stuff.

@Tyler H

I think both your points are unlikely to happen. China's regional and global "economic dominance" will never be so complete nobody can stand up to them, and their internal position is consolidated precisely *because* of fears of separatism, not the other way round. The Chinese political system as it currently stands needs a constant fear of separatism and enemies who want to break up the country, both internal and external, in order to shore up its support.

Thanks for the book recommendation, I've already added it to my reading list.

I think most Taiwanese are aware of some preparations (for example, the sections of highway that double as wartime runways), but, from my uninformed vantage point, they seem to be mostly symbolic or totemic, rather than part of anything comprehensive or systematic.

I have lived in the US before, and currently live in the US now. Like many higher-SES Taiwanese, I have family, friends, and business connections on both sides of the Pacific. As to English ability, I think a few years in the US during my early childhood probably explains most of it, and I've always had an interest in languages.

Duke of Qin isn't wrong about the DPP/KMT. One of the path-dependent outcomes of Taiwanese domestic politics is that the Taiwanese nationalists, who, in the 50's and 60's, were an ethnically-driven independence movement, basically morphed into a human-rights and Western liberalism party, partially as a response to authoratiaran suppression by the KMT. The DPP then picked up a whole menu of left-leaning positions, including, for example, anti-nuclear power, which seems counterproductive for a pro-independence party. As a consequence of all this, Taiwanese independence has now been erroneously mapped onto a left-right domestic political spectrum, leading to a farcical situation where the DPP is reflexively anti-military, and the military returns the favor. Both organizations are fundamentally unserious about their declared core interests. There is no significant right-wing Taiwanese nationalism – and that may be a significant limiting factor in Taiwan's ability to implement the necessary policies for effective national defense.

Nah, Duke is full of it. If Taiwan is a land of 23 million weeaboos, what does that make China? The PLA is as corrupt; its foot-soldiers are uneducated, and frankly, not in very good physical shape. China is only ten years behind Taiwan demographis-wise. The children of its big cities are soft. Talented folks don't join the PLA if they can help it. Their parents won't let them. They have no more experience with actual war than the Taiwanese do.

What they do have is 6% economic growth per annum and a ruthless leadership able to subordinate the PLA to its will. That counts for something. But all his 'rah rah, blood of martyrs and heroes' stuff? I mean, c'mon. The country couldn't even get its tweens to stop spending on Korean facial creme when the THAAD split went down. The spirit of modern China can be found on 伪娘 tieba boards. When I see those boys gearing up for martyrdom I'll take his talk of nationalist fervor forged through adversity a bit more seriously.

J's point about the lack of right-wing Taiwanese nationalism is correct though. I can't imagine things staying like that very long, however, given demographic tides. What exactly is the KMT's plan? Their base is literally dying away. If they don't move away from the mainland identity politics, in ten years, who will vote for them?

Brief comments:

The city-born little emperors are soft and full of bluster, but don't count out their rural counterparts. Due to the gender imbalance, they will go to incredible lengths – including signing up for years of grueling and dangerous construction work in remote parts of Africa – to make a little money and attract a wife. The PLA is a comparatively attractive option, especially as they professionalize. Add a little propaganda and rah-rah-hero-of-the-revolution and they'll go pretty far. The one-child policy will put some domestic pressure on acceptable casualties, but the CCP has a pretty tight grip. If Putin can survive Chechnya-level casualties, I don't see this as a limiting factor.

KMT: I have no idea what their plan is. Right now, they basically represent establishment business interests. The urban youth in Taiwan are looking for their DPP-Bernie, and understandably so, given their economic fortunes. Of course, they will also face all the inherent contradictions of such a position, which will limit their ultimate potential. Perhaps taking the American analogy too far, I'm expecting another populist wave (basically a 宋楚瑜 2.0), which is non-ideological on the Taiwan question, but addresses the concerns of the parent's generation, as to why Ah-Bao won't get a house, a wife, and some kids.

As an aside, 宋楚瑜 (James Soong) is an intrinsically interesting a political character. He lost the plot in later decades, maybe out of desperation, but in his political prime, he was a force to be reckoned with, and (arguably) was responsible for a partial reformation of the KMT, which, sadly, seems to have disappeared. The constant churn of KMT splinter groups speak to the internal conflict within the KMT.

KMT will get its act together when the young “out-province people” finally decides what to stand for. And that, in turn, partially depends on the DPP and the ming-nan people.

At the moment China aint strong enough to take over Taiwan in the face of
US opposition.However all good things must end . If Taiwan want to be independent,it must depend on a war between the US and China ie Ww3.
Maybe during Maos time the costs for the US defeating Chinas military not regime
change was acceptable. To prevail ,the US will suffer immense destruction of its military asset. Shd it at attack China mainland,all bets are off.The US mainland will be hit.Of course China's losses will be more than the US as at 2019.
With time,China will be become more powerful and the destruction unleashed on the
US will increase. The US wont be able to prevail on the cheap like in the Iraq war/Vietnam or Kosovo. You can be sure US bases will be under attack.
The problem is there are many hardliners working under Trump. They want to ride rough shod over other other countries with the belief the US is an anexeptional nation.
It is exceptional because it is the country involved in wars in history.Btw,the missile defences aint going to give it 100 % immunity it launches a nuclear attack.
Believe me the US can destroy China an Russia many times it would suffer unacceptable damage.
This is unacceptable to the US hawks.Well they will have to live with the treat of nuclear retaliation

The first letter's observations re: Taiwan's general torpor are interesting (and troubling). Do you think that the situation has changed at all over the past couple years? It seems that there is a considerable feeling of solidarity between the Taiwanese and Hong Kongers stemming from China's ongoing crackdown on HK's protests, and there are the more recent developments re: the coronavirus and the "Milk Tea Alliance". I wonder what effect, if any, these developments have had on Taiwan's fighting spirit (or lack thereof).

Two years on and this post, as well as J's points, are even more relevant than before. The worrying thing is that despite the weapons purchases by Taiwan and the visits by US officials, Taiwan is still not doing much to get its people prepared for any sort of conflict. I would even say the government has not done any of what J recommended in trying to build up public awareness, instead focusing purely on soft power messaging and actions.

And now after an American election of a president who is, by all accounts, thoroughly behold to the PRC for…well, who knows how much he owes them?

Seems to me that if that event (plus the SJW-ization of the Pentagon's upper layers and the hollowing out of the US Navy) doesn't produce serious alarm in Taipei, nothing will. But of course, things move at the speed of politics, so perhaps Taipei has some breathing room yet. But they'd be fools to expect that situation to last very long.

To put it another way, if the PRC is going to move, they have roughly another year of a compliant administration and Congress in Washington (or wherever the puppetmasters hang their hats).