From 2013 on, military draftees born after January 1, 1994 will no longer be required to serve one year of military service, and will only need to receive four months of military training, according to a recent report from the Central News Agency. David Lo, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense (MND), said that this policy moves Taiwan’s military from the current “parallel system of both volunteers and conscripts” into an all volunteer system.
The new system will not be implemented without certain challenges, such as the financial resources of increasing wages, incentives for those that enlist and the need to maintain the quality of the military after implementing an all volunteer system. Already, there have been changes. In 2008, the period of compulsory military service was cut from 14 months to one year. Also, a Private First Class professional volunteer receives a salary of NT$29,480 (US$990.00) a month, which is four times the base salary of NT$6,630 (US$221.00) paid to a conscripted soldier. The cost of supporting one volunteer soldier is equivalent to that of four conscripted soldiers.
According to the latest MND volunteer system implementation plan, the military is expected to reach the goal of recruiting all 176,000 volunteers by the end of 2014. Over the past few years, the MND has continued to maintain the parallel systems of both volunteers and conscripts, and the total number of military personnel has gradually fallen from over 300,000 to 185,000
The Taipei-based China Times reported that Li Po-hong, a high school student from Tainan, born in the afternoon of December 31, 1993 was very frustrated to learn that had he been born ten hours later he would have been exempt from military service
Most male students at the New Taipei Municipal Hai-Shan High School argue that without sufficient military training, Taiwan’s military will not be able to cope should war break out, and would inevitably be outmatched. Regarding their opinion about joining the army to fight, all the male students answered in unison that they would click “like” to this new policy, as they would do on Facebook.
Chang Yong-ping, a parent from Taoyuan County (northern Taiwan) believes that at a time of fast technological development, soldiers should be highly trained professionals, rather than the need for a large military population. Chang believes that it is better to let those who are interested in joining the army to have more professional training rather than to enforce compulsory military training on those who are not interested.
Liu Ho-shu from Hsinpei (northern Taiwan) said it is a good thing to consign the conscription system to history. Since both sides of the Taiwan Strait have embarked on a path for peace, it is a waste of life to be a soldier. Many years ago when Liu served in the military, Taiwanese people had a common enemy and knew what they were fighting for, “but now everything works for the economy and peace, there is no need for a military”, he said.
Lin Shi-cheng, whose son is studying at Tainan First High School and is exempt from military service, said he would prefer his son to join the army because soldiers learn more about self-sufficiency through military training.
The United Evening News commented that Taiwan has kept a fair and equitable military service system. In the past, all men were required to join the military when they reached conscription age, whatever their family background. They benefited from a collective life experience which enhanced their awareness of social groups and a sense of responsibility. However, this system delayed a lot of talented young men from investing their time in social and economic development, and had a negative impact on Taiwan’s economic competitiveness. The transition of the military system will enable more human effort to be devoted toward the country’s economic development.
The paper stressed that after adopting the volunteer military system, Taiwan will face major issues such as whether the military structure and the elite recruitment policy can cope with Taiwan’s potential threats, and will call into question whether the government can resolve conflicts through political rather than military means.