With improved relations across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan has set the goal of turning its military into an all-volunteer service by the end of 2014. All males born in 1995 and after will no longer be required to complete a 14-monthlong compulsory military service.
The Ministry of National Defense has announced a new military recruitment policy that will rely on an all-volunteer military service system during peacetime, but that maintains the current reservist system, (approximately 1.65 million people), to be activated in the event of a military conflict, reported the United Daily News. Taiwan currently has 275,000 people in its armed forces, which it hopes to reduce to 215,000 by 2014.
In order to defend against a possible mainland Chinese invasion, Taiwan has maintained a conscription policy for all qualified males of military age since 1949. At the height of military tensions with China during the 1950s and 1960s, Taiwan had a total of 430,000 draftees.
Meanwhile, the paper also reported a standing military’s regulation that barred those born in the Chinese mainland from attending Taiwan’s military academies. It is estimated there are a million Taiwanese doing business in China with many of their children being born there as well. This means their children are prohibited from applying to Taiwan’s military academies.
The military balance in the Taiwan Strait is shifting in favor of China, according to Japan’s Defense White Paper 2009. However, with an all-volunteer military, Taiwan hopes to build a small, but strong, elite force that will offer a “solid defense and effective deterrence.” Redefining its new direction, Taiwan cannot compete with China in the arms race. Winning is no longer a matter of “an all-out elimination of enemies” but rather in “defending every inch of the territory by expelling the enemies from landing,” according to the Ministry of National Defense.