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STRATEGIC VISION Volume 5, Issue 27


for Taiwan Security

August, 2016


ISSN 2227-3646

Facing Taiwan’s Defense Challenges Editorial Staff

North Korean Regime Stability Dean Karalekas

Risks from Unmanned Systems Tobias Burgers

South China Sea Troubles Shaheli Das

Aggressive Innovations China’s ‘Three Warfares’ Doctrine Ying-Yu Lin


Volume 5, Issue 27

for Taiwan Security w

August, 2016

Contents Beijing’s doctrine of Three Warfares...............................................4

Ying-yu Lin

Dear Leader consolidates power in DPRK.................................... 9

Dean Karalekas

Uncertain trajectory in South China Sea...................................... 14

Shaheli Das

Unmanned military vehicles and risk........................................... 19

Tobias Burgers

Challenges facing ROC defense transformation..........................24

Editorial Board

Submissions: Essays submitted for publication are not to exceed 2,000 words in length, and should conform to the following basic format for each 1200-1600 word essay: 1. Synopsis, 100-200 words; 2. Background description, 100-200 words; 3. Analysis, 800-1,000 words; 4. Policy Recommendations, 200-300 words. Book reviews should not exceed 1,200 words in length. Notes should be formatted as endnotes and should be kept to a minimum. Authors are encouraged to submit essays and reviews as attachments to emails; Microsoft Word documents are preferred. For questions of style and usage, writers should consult the Chicago Manual of Style. Authors of unsolicited manuscripts are encouraged to consult with the executive editor at xiongmu@gmail.com before formal submission via email. The views expressed in the articles are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of their affiliate institutions or of Strategic Vision. Manuscripts are subject to copyediting, both mechanical and substantive, as required and according to editorial guidelines. No major alterations may be made by an author once the type has been set. Arrangements for reprints should be made with the editor. Cover photograph of an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter conducting search and seizure training in the South China Sea is courtesy of Elesia Patte.

Editor Fu-Kuo Liu Executive Editor Aaron Jensen Associate Editor Dean Karalekas Editorial Board Tiehlin Yen Raviprasad Narayanan Richard Hu Guang-chang Bian Dahua Mo Lipin Tien STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 5, Number 27, August, 2016, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University. All editorial correspondence should be mailed to the editor at STRATEGIC VISION, Center for Security Studies in Taiwan. No. 64, Wan Shou Road, Taipei City 11666, Taiwan, ROC. The editors are responsible for the selection and acceptance of articles; responsibility for opinions expressed and accuracy of facts in articles published rests solely with individual authors. The editors are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts; unaccepted manuscripts will be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Photographs used in this publication are used courtesy of the photographers, or through a creative commons licence. All are attributed appropriately. Any inquiries please contact the Executive Editor directly via email at: dkarale.kas@gmail.com. Or by telephone at: +886 (02) 8237-7228 Online issues and archives can be viewed at our website: www.mcsstw.org. © Copyright 2016 by the Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the MCSS, NDU, or the editors.

From The Editor


he editors and staff of Strategic Vision would like to wish our readers well as the summer season nears its end. The Asia-Pacific continues to undergo important developments. We hope that students and scholars in the academic community have the chance to keep-up with these events. In support of that effort, we offer our latest edition of Strategic Vision. We open this issue with Dr. Ying-Yu Lin who analyzes China’s “Three Warfares” and its impact on Taiwan. Dr. Lin is an assistant professor in the International Affairs and Diplomacy Department at Ming Chuan University in Taipei, Taiwan. Strategic Vision’s own Associate Editor Dean Karalekas looks at major factors in regime stability in North Korea and concludes that drastic change is unlikely. Currently based in Budapest, Hungary, Dean is a doctoral candidate in the International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at National Chengchi University. Next, Shaheli Das examines China’s strategy in the South China Sea and concludes that tensions will remain. Shaheli Das is a Junior Research Fellow at Observer Research Foundation and a Doctoral scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Tobias Burgers of the Otto Suhr Institute of Political Science at the Free University of Berlin looks at how unmanned systems could inadvertently cause conflict in contentious areas such as the South China Sea. Finally, members of Strategic Vision’s editorial board offer their views on Taiwan’s defense priorities as the new Tsai administration undertakes defense transformation. We hope you enjoy this issue, and look forward to bringing you the finest analysis and reporting on the issues of importance to security in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region. Dr. Fu-Kuo Liu Editor Strategic Vision

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Strategic Vision vol. 5, no. 27 (August, 2016)

Winning Without Fighting China’s Three Warfares concept augments traditional levers of national power Ying-yu Lin


hina’s Three Warfares Doctrine has become increasingly relevant over the past decade, with the growing importance of the Internet, and the recognition that the risk of a full-scale war breaking out at the present time is low. Focusing on non-kinetic approaches, the Three Warfares approach refers to psychological operations, media warfare, and legal warfare. In the current environment, it makes sense for China to take advantage of the international media to amplify its message in international disputes, and thereby gain the upper hand. This helps create a stronger position in the

court of international opinion, and solidifies support for China domestically. Winning public support is a priority for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as it is well aware of the power of public sentiment and public movements in China. After sorting out lessons learned from observing US operations in the last two Gulf Wars, China officially adopted the Three Warfares doctrine in 2003 and included it in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Political Work Regulations. It stipulated that units strengthen their studies on the use of force against Taiwan, and integrate resources to support

photo: Deven Leigh Ellis Lt. Joseph Nepomuceno, left, provides a tour to members of the Peoples Liberation Army (Navy) aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold.

Ying-yu Lin is an adjunct assistant professor in the International Affairs and Diplomacy Program at Ming Chuan University in Taipei, Taiwan. He can be reached for comment at singfredrb@gmail.com

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the Three Warfares concept. The core of the strategy lies in building an intangible combat force. In actual practice, public opinion and psychological operations go hand-in-hand, augmented with legal warfare (sometimes referred to as lawfare), to create justifiable situations for the deployment of troops. The Three Warfares doctrine provides a non-kinetic form of fighting, which supports military objectives and seeks to achieve results through integrating resources and launching offensives in the political, ideological, religious, psychological, and legal fields. These operations begin prior to a military attack, continue throughout the kinetic phase of the attack, and remain in force during the occupation afterwards. Through the Three Warfares, China aims to “win big in a small war” and ideally, to win without fighting. This development signifies that the PLA no longer puts emphasis only on military action and that it appreciates the value of non-kinetic operations. The PLA has taken steps to strengthen political work at the national strategic level, seeking to integrate the nation’s various resources to launch all-aspect and multi-faceted offensives. Over the past ten years, the PLA has made great efforts to develop the Three Warfares doctrine from the initial conceptual phase to the current implementation phase, where all kinds of usable tactics are reaching maturity.

tion of domestic and foreign media to create favorable conditions for China to win support from people at home and abroad, and influence the world opinion. Most importantly, public opinion operations are to be used in combination with psychological warfare so as to make the opponents develop self-doubt, incite contradictions and conflicts between them, and, if possible, even recruit defectors from among their ranks. In the past, similar effects had to be achieved through documents, images, radio broadcasts, and rumors disseminated behind enemy lines. With new

“Public-opinion warfare is not only directed against Taiwan; it is also a useful tool to shape the image of China in the international community.”

The Three Warfares concept is very dependent upon propaganda. It employs propaganda vehicles to form a force of public opinion capable of producing psychological effects on enemy soldiers and weakening

information-disseminating tools like television, the Internet, and digital devices, the spread of information and the effectiveness of propaganda operations are swift and stunning. Given that China controls the news organizations operating within its territory, it is comparatively easy for Beijing to launch offensives and shape public opinion to its advantage. It is especially easy to take advantage of the interconnectedness of netizens and use viral incendiary remarks on the Internet to turn public sentiment in China’s favor. In this process, feelings of national identity are combined with propaganda techniques to give the message more of an impact. Public-opinion warfare is not only directed against Taiwan; it is also a useful tool to shape the image of China in the international community. Through the

their fighting spirit. Such operations are to be supplemented with lawfare, which features the constitution of laws and the exploitation of propaganda vehicles to make possible future actions become more justifiable. Public-opinion warfare is a tactic that China has used for a long time. It mainly involves the exploita-

combined use of non-military means and manipulation of public opinion, it is easier to justify the deployment of troops beyond borders, such as the PLA Navy’s escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and the Peace Ark hospital ship’s humanitarian missions abroad. China’s manipulation of public opinion and

Deceptive intentions


creation of corresponding value consciousness have given it the opportunity to speak out for itself on the world stage and claim aspirations to become a “responsible big country.”

Gaining advantage For the PLA, psychological warfare is a form of combat in the struggle against the enemy. Besides being capable of psychologically defeating the enemy and boosting self-confidence, psychological warfare has been employed more frequently due to technological developments in recent years. Psychological warfare is utilized in areas ranging from political, economic, cultural, social, and diplomatic fields. With human decision-making as the ultimate target, psychological warfare seeks to stimulate and affect the public, or individual leaders, through multiple means. It is a special form of combat aimed at winning at minimum costs or winning without fighting at all. It seeks to create a psychological state favorable to the self, but unfavorable to the enemy. Offensively, psychological warfare can sometimes succeed in shattering

the enemy’s will on its own. More often, it is used in combination with kinetic attacks to magnify the psychological impact of war. In the information age, social media has created new opportunities for psychological warfare to be employed more creatively and reach a wider target audience. One example of this is the action of marking a country’s contested boundary in official documents such as passports. This controversial technique guarantees that the media will spread the story and highlight the issue to an international audience. Hacking and cyber operations can also be employed to spread rumors and disinformation in the target society. Thanks to the global media, psychological warfare has taken a central place in China’s efforts to achieve its international goals. Lawfare is focused on the use of domestic and international law to achieve greater strategic and military objectives. Creating domestic laws allows China to use law enforcement agencies to handle disputes. This creates the double advantage of not adding fire to an already tense situation, and asserting China’s territorial claims via law enforcement agencies like the

photo: Jeremiah Johnson A US Army soldier distributes newspapers in Mosul, Iraq. Psychological operations can also seek to build cooperation with local inhabitants.

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photo: Miguel Lara III A US Air Force B-2 Bomber taxis on the flight line at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. Such displays of force can have a powerful deterrent effect.

maritime police rather than the military. The establishment of Sanshia City, a prefectural-level city which administers several island groups in the South China Sea, as part of Hainan Province is a concrete result of the aforementioned strategy. It subjects the South China Sea to the direct jurisdiction of Sanshia city, and this provides a legal basis for actions in the region. The same model can also be applied to the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea: Although China does not have the capability to fully enforce the legal claims mentioned above, it is necessary to take the initiative. Despite the fact that other countries might not necessarily accept China’s claims, Beijing is waiting for the time to come when its national power grows strong enough to enforce the rules which it currently espouses. By that time, other countries will have fewer response options since China will be even more powerful. China’s recent land reclamation in the South China Sea is meant to build a forward base for the future deployment of military assets, stretch the PLA’s radius of operations, and beef up rapid reaction capabilities. All these actions, ranging from the establishment of Sanshia city, the Declaration on the Conduct

of Parties in the South China Sea, to the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, are likely to pave the way for China to establish an ADIZ in the region. China might not officially declare an ADIZ in the South China Sea, but it expects to gain control of the air and the sea in the region by building infrastruc-

“One of the major reasons for the delay in recognizing the value of the Three Warfares is that US analysts and policymakers do not really understand China.” ture on the islands or reefs under its control and then strengthening the electronic surveillance equipment deployed there. So in the study on lawfare, the AntiSecession Law is already an outdated issue. Current legal operations feature more flexible applications. The Pentagon’s 2014 report on China’s three warfares was one of the first Western studies to deeply investigate these developing approaches to warfare. PLA specialist Mike Pillsbury, a consultant in the study, has said that as China first made the Three Warfares doctrine known to the world in 2003, the


US military could not fully comprehend the significance of the concept because it looked very similar to the CCP’s propaganda materials. It was not until 2010 that the US began to realize that China’s international actions could be interpreted based on the Three Warfares concept.

Sharing knowledge One of the major reasons for the delay in recognizing the value of the Three Warfares is that US analysts and policymakers do not really understand China. For example, Washington had only limited knowledge of the PLA’s then General Political Department (GPD), which issued the Three Warfares doctrine, since it does not have any similar organ. This resulted in an incomplete understanding of GPD’s functions. The US military had published a psychological warfare manual on doctrine in early 2000, but it was used mainly as a combat means to weaken the enemy’s fighting will, still remaining in practice as an “auxiliary measure in a conventional war” (like

the dissemination of propaganda leaflets prior to an airstrike, and radio jamming attacks). With their limited knowledge of PLA thinking, it is likely that US analysts were viewing PLA developments through the lens of their own experience. With such a mindset at play, the ability to appreciate and understand developments in Chinese psychological warfare was crippled from the very beginning. In order to remedy this situation, the United States and Taiwan must deepen cooperation and academic exchange in the area of PLA Studies. Taiwan-based PLA expert Lin Chong-pin has suggested that Taiwan could become a global knowledge and research hub for PLA Studies. Sharing a common language and cultural background, Taiwan scholars have a natural advantage in understanding their counterparts across the strait. Additionally, given that the PLA is the main threat to Taiwan, the island’s military officers Taiwan naturally specialize and focus on the PLA. Given these considerations, Taiwan is in a perfect position to help its allies better understand China, and to become a leading global center for PLA studies. n

photo: John Pearl The crew of the USS Stethem fire an Mk 45 5-inch lightweight gun at a surface target during a multinational naval exercise in the South China Sea.

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Strategic Vision vol. 5, no. 27 (August, 2016)

Stable Foundations North Korean nuclear test illustrates consolidation of Kim Jong Un’s position Dean Karalekas


n the early morning hours of 9 September, 2016, residents of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as well as Chinese border towns, were shaken by what felt like an earthquake. In fact, subsequent news reports revealed that the magnitude 5.3 temblor was caused by a nuclear test conducted at the DPRK’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site. The event drew the usual condemnation from Western and regional governments, and highlighted the international community’s failure to stem the North Korean uranium enrichment program. Subsequent media reports quoted analysts estimat-

ing that, based on this fifth and (at 10 kilotons) most powerful test detonation, the DPRK regime may be capable of producing six nuclear bombs per year. Not only does this incident reflect the failure of the Western-led sanctions regime imposed on the North, as well as of the an-again, off-again six-party talks, and exhortations to Beijing to rein in its client state, it speaks to the success with which the DPRK’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un has consolidated power. This stands in stark contrast to initial predictions that the young and untested leader would be unable to keep a firm grip on power.

photo: Abode of Chaos Kim Jong Un, whose portrait is depicted above, has managed to consolidate his power over the regime, defying pundits who have predicted his downfall.

Dean Karalekas is a doctoral candidate in the International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University. He can be reached for comment at dkaralekas@hotmail.com


The complex and unstable nature of North Korean politics, as well as its opacity to the outside world, often raises questions of regime stability. This article examines North Korean leadership and challenges predictions of an internal power grab, predicated on whether having a young and unpracticed leader at the helm would lead the regime to experience turbulence and instability and implode from within, thus giving rise to attempts to seize power by various factions within the ruling elite in Pyongyang. Indeed, there have been many arguments for why conditions in Pyongyang might have led to instability and power grabs from among the higher echelons of the ruling elite after Kim Jong Un was granted power. While many of these may have seemed convincing at first blush, the nature of power politics in Pyongyang militates against such an outcome. First and foremost of these was the younger Kim’s age and relative inexperience with affairs of state. When Kim’s grandfather and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, died in 1994, he was succeeded by a son that had benefited from an estimated two decades of grooming and experience leading various state organs, including much of the military structure, as well as those bodies responsible for propaganda operations in the media and the arts. In contrast, Kim Jong Un was revealed to the world as heir apparent approximately a year prior to his ascension, and had enjoyed no known political or administrative experience.

Potential challengers For there to be the risk of a power grab, there have to be individuals who could conceivably stand in opposition to Kim Jong Un. There are very few personalities that fit that description that are still alive today in the North. There are powerful individuals, to be sure: former Prime Minister Choe Yong Rim; Kim Young Nam, since 1998 the President of the Presidium of

photo: Kremlin Kim Jong Il, in a photograph taken in Russia on August 24, 2011.

the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea; Kim Jong Il’s sister Kim Kyong Hui; and purged former Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho. None, however, had the independent clout to successfully draw support and loyalty away from Kim Jong Un and from his father’s desires for the future of the nation. The one candidate that appeared to have enough power to accomplish this, should he have chosen that path, was Jang Song Taek, Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law and influential member of the Politburo. After Kim Jong Il suffered a stroke in 2008 and appeared to be hastily making plans for a leadership succession, the once-purged and later rehabilitated Jang rose to prominence in a manner that led analysts to conclude that he would serve as a regent of sorts to the younger Kim. Speculation was rife that Jang, and to some degree his wife, Kim Kyong Hui— both of whom quickly received high-profile positions within the party and military—would become the true power behind the throne. Before long there arose several signs, however, that pointed to the possibility of political infighting and a distancing of Jang

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from the inner circle. One was his position relatively low on the roster of Kim Jong Il’s funeral committee. Another was an apparent rift with O Kuk Ryol, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission. Prior to the power transition, O’s fortunes were likewise on the wane, with no position in the Party Central Committee’s Political Bureau or the Central Military Commission, and there were reports in 2011 of purges among a cadre of officers loyal to O. This happened despite seven decades of loyalty to the Kim family. Still, O was apparently chosen by Kim Jong Il to help guide Kim Jong Un after the transition, and South Korean analysts believe O could rally support in the event that there were discontent with the performance of The Marshall. It was considered important for the stability of the nation that both O and Jang remained committed to the budding re-

gime of the younger Kim, and yet there evolved rift between the two men, with not a few analysts predicting that Jang sought to follow the historical prec-

“It remains unlikely that the North Korean state will descend into power struggle and chaos, at least not in the immediate future.”

edent set by the 15th century Choson king Sejo, who was Grand Prince to his nephew, King Danjong, but who usurped the throne from the young and inexperienced monarch. Until the surprising news of Jang’s gruesome death, this remained a possibility: Jang was reported to have

photo: Dean Karalekas After his death in December, 2011, Kim Jong Il was immortalized with a colossus in his image, right, placed alongside that of his father Kim Il Sung.


photo: Dean Karalekas In the monument to the founding of the Workers’ Party, the hammer, sickle and calligraphy brush symbolize the workers, farmers and intellectuals.

been very charismatic, with strong ties to the upper echelons of power in North Korea: Moreover, he was rumored to have been favored by China as Kim Jong Il’s successor, and was believed to have personally enjoyed the limelight, having been purged in 2003 for hosting social gatherings as elaborate as the Dear Leader’s own: an act of hubris in Pyongyang society. However, such rifts are a far cry from visible fractures in the regime, and the consolidation of Kim Jong Un’s power has proceeded in a stable fashion. Thus, despite strong arguments for why the younger Kim might have a more difficult time consolidating support than his father did, it remains unlikely that

The decision-making procedure in Pyongyang combines a manner of consensus-forming among various interest groups within and among the party, the military, and the organs of the state, with various factions espousing sometimes contradictory opinions on such issues as security, the economy, and foreign relations. This was true in the days of founder Kim Il Sung, as well as Kim Jong Il, and neither man could rule by fiat without gaining the cooperation of, or at least consulting, such agencies as the military and the party’s Central Committee. Moreover, the collective decision-making that takes place is not without disagreements on courses of

the North Korean state will descend into power struggle and chaos, at least not in the immediate future. A fact that is underappreciated in most conceptions, imperfect though our information is, about the inner workings of the DPRK is that it is not a one-man show, and the presence of so many power holders is the rule, rather than the exception.

action, as is the case in any governance structure; however it is rare that they cause such friction as to create fissures within the regime. For one thing, such fissures would be a sign of exploitable weakness to the many outside forces that are perceived to be constantly probing for such divisions in the hopes of fomenting regime change. Since the current col-

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lection of power holders in Pyongyang are acutely aware that their chances of surviving any form of coup d’état would be minimal, it is in their best interests to maintain cohesion and support the Kim regime fully and completely. It is therefore no surprise that, despite the predictions of certain Western-based prognosticators, the younger Kim obtained the support of these power holders. For one thing, the influential military and intelligence apparatus appears to be fully backing the young leader, especially given recent hostile actions perpetrated and threatened at the South. Moreover, even early on, state-run media began referring to Kim Jong Un with the monikers usually reserved for his father, including “supreme leader of the armed forces,” “the pre-eminent Leader of the party, the state, and the military,” and his most famous title, “Dear Leader.” Even Kim Jong Il’s carefully-worded obituary referred to his heir as “outstanding leader of the party, the military, and the people.” This is strong evidence that the Kim Jong Un faction consolidated support for his assumption of absolute control over the party, military, and state. Before his demise, the canny Kim Jong Il had been working to lay the foundations for this by gradually restoring the party’s primacy over the military, which had grown increasingly—and dangerously—influential over the years through the creeping expansion of the Sŏn’gun, or “military-first” policy. Evidence for his success in this maneuvering could be gleaned from the relative ranking of the individuals on Kim Jong Il’s funeral committee, with the most prestigious positions filled by members of the party. Kim Jong Un was followed by the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Yong Nam. The standing committee of the party’s Central Committee politburo topped the list and was followed in turn by members of the politburo itself, its candidate members, and those in the Central Committee—all of whom preceded the members

of the military, with the exception of those serving officers who attended the lineup in their capacity as high-ranking party members. Despite his being tapped for the role of mentor to the younger Kim, Jang Song Taek was listed 19th.

Core values By returning to core values and adopting a partyfirst policy with Choi Yong Hae in control, as well as by placing Ri Young Ho in control of the military, the elder Kim laid the foundations for his son’s consolidation of power and averted any temptation by an overly powerful military complex—as well as by Jang Song Taek personally—to oppose the succession. In this manner, Kim ensured that Jang, perhaps the third most powerful man in North Korea after the two Kims, would support Kim Jong Un after he was named successor. In conclusion, expectations that Pyongyang’s power elite would contest the ascension of Kim Jong Un in some way proved to be chimerical, giving way rather to a coalescing in a show of support and loyalty to the regime, at least thus far. In terms of foreign and domestic policy, there has been little major departure from the policies enacted by the elder Kim—indeed, these policies and tactics have been pushed to the very limit—as part of this consolidation process naturally entailed Kim Jong Un proving his loyalty to his father and demonstrating the continuity of his legacy. As the recent nuclear test amply demonstrates, not only is the leadership position of Kim Jong Un secure, but his power and stature continue to grow. For policymakers in Washington and other Western capitals, this may prove to be a mixed blessing: the all-important directive to maintain the status quo in East Asia remains intact; yet the DPRK regime shows no signs of softening its stance toward the respect it seeks from the outside world, or the brinksmanship it habitually uses to get that respect. n

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Strategic Vision vol. 5, no. 27 (August, 2016)

Uncertain Trajectory Divergence between PRC words and actions create uncertainty in South China Sea Shaheli Das

photo: Jay Chu Senior military leaders from Australia, India, the United States and Japan meet during the 2016 Chiefs of Defense Conference in the Philippines.


he recent award by the tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regarding the South China Sea has riveted the attention and speculation of maritime and security analysts across the globe. The dispute was not as much about territory as it was about China’s historical rights within the nine dashed line, China’s illegal activities within Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), impairment of the maritime ecology, and most importantly determination of the status of features. The judgment holds considerable geopolitical significance for a number of reasons. First, the Philippines’ victory at the tribunal has broken new ground for

other Southeast Asian nations to challenge China’s claims in the region. Second, the ongoing power transition is a reality in international relations today. It is widely recognized as a fact that the present status quo will gradually evolve to accommodate China as a major power. Thus, the award of judgment is a litmus test of whether China will operate within the post-Cold War liberal world order, or stand against it. Third, in view of the fact that the South China Sea is a politically sensitive zone, it is the first time an international court has endeavored to settle the contested claims of parties to such a dispute. Fourth, the judgment is symbolic for the manner in which the UN Tribunal has steered clear of politics and applied

Shaheli Das is a Junior Research Fellow at Observer Research Foundation and a Doctoral scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She can be reached for comment at shaheli02@gmail.com

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law to facts in order to reach a legal determination. Over time, the South China Sea dispute has been amplified into a multifaceted conundrum: first, it is a territorial dispute between China and the other claimant states; second, it is a challenge to the United Nations Law of the Sea; third, there is an aspect of geopolitical competition between the various parties to the dispute; and fourth, there is a US desire to maintain global pre-eminence by ensuring protection of its own interests, as well as the interest of its allies in the region. It must be borne in mind that the de facto emergence of China as a chief strategic actor in the South China Sea owes its origin to a number of factors. First, the withdrawal of the United States from Subic Bay Naval base in the Philippines in November 1991. Second, the downsizing of Moscow’s naval presence in Cam Ranh Bay. Third, Japan’s faltering strategic interests in the South China Sea. Fourth, the geographical distance of the Indian navy to stage a definite challenge to China in the Pacific Ocean. The belief that the region is home to substantial deposits of non-renewable resources has obscured

the scope of peaceful resolution of territorial disputes. With a steep rise of global demand for energy resources, key consumers such as China endeavor to diversify their sources of energy. The area allegedly contains 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 11 billion barrels of untapped oil, as well as being home to important fishing grounds. Furthermore, a 2015 Department of Defense report stated that US$5.3 trillion worth of goods transits through the South China Sea every year, accounting for 30 percent of global maritime trade.

Legal ruling In the recent arbitration at The Hague, the Philippines fought a decisive courtroom battle with China, mindful of its obligation under Article 279 of the UNCLOS to seek a peaceful and durable resolution to the sea dispute. The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), under Article 288 was well empowered to accept the case. In its submission before the UN Tribunal, the Philippines sought an award on three basic points: (a) it asked the court to declare the extent of rights

photo: Rene Mensen At the Hague, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled an award on the conflicting claims in the South China Sea pursuant to The Philippines’ submission.


photo: Christopher Giannetti US Marine Cpl. Ryan Dills communicates with other amphibious assault vehicles while conducting operations during operation Rim of the Pacific 2016.

and obligation of the parties to the dispute with regard to the waters, seabed, and maritime features in the South China Sea and questioned the validity of Chinese claims based on the “nine dash line,” (b) under Article 121 of UNCLOS, the Philippines entreated the court to determine the status of features, and (c) it sought clarification on whether the Philippines enjoys rights both within and beyond its continental shelf and exclusive economic zone that are established in the convention. The tribunal award converged at conclusions on five different points. First, it invalidated the legal basis for China to claim the historical rights to resources in the region falling within the nine-dashed line. Second, it termed the disputed features as “rocks” that could not “sustain economic life or human habitation of its own.” This consequently meant that these features would generate 12 nautical miles of territorial sea instead of a 200 nautical mile EEZ—greatly reducing China’s maritime entitlements. Third, the Tribunal held Chinese law enforcement vessels guilty

of unlawfully generating a risk of collision when they physically challenged vessels from the Philippines. Fourth, the Tribunal held China guilty of aggravating the dispute between the disputant parties. Fifth, in view of China’s recent large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands at seven features in the Spratly Islands, the Tribunal charged China of causing serious damage to the coral reef complexes as well as the endangered species that are located there. Since 2013, when the Philippines initiated the arbitration, China has maintained and continuously reaffirmed its solemn position of neither accepting nor recognizing the award. In order to pronounce its stance on the judgment the Chinese government published two official statements and a White Paper. The fact that China had initially rejected the claims put forth by the Philippines and decided not to participate in the arbitration proceedings was well within its legal entitlement. However, its claim that the tribunal did not have any jurisdiction over the claims made by Philippines is legally inaccurate, and has backfired

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for China. Article 288(4) of UNCLOS—that China had willfully ratified in June 1996—clearly states that “in the event of a dispute as to whether a court or a tribunal has jurisdiction, the matter shall be settled by decision of the court or jurisdiction.” Beijing has vociferously trashed the PCA ruling, describing it as a “piece of waste paper.” On 14 July, 2016, State Councilor Yang Jiechi articulated that “Sovereignty is the bottom line for China,” and “the award can neither change historical facts nor deny China’s claims of rights and interests in the South China Sea. Still less can it waver China’s resolve and determination to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.”

Lingering questions The question that remains to be answered is whether the verdict contributed to resolving the South China Sea dispute or whether it sparked an even more contentious atmosphere in the region. The People’s Daily recently published an editorial calling for a resolution of the dispute through a dual-track approach. Such an approach adheres to harping onto the mechanism of consultations and negotiations between the respective parties to the dispute based on international law and historical facts on one hand, and a joint program of promotion of peace and stability in the region by China and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the other hand. Although China claims to want a peaceful resolution of the dispute through negotiation, its activities do not demonstrate that deeds would meet words. China’s claim to indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea definitely questions the overlapping claims of the other parties to the dispute. The Declaration of Conduct (DOC) may be deemed ineffective in the light of sustained standoffs between China and the other claimants in the South China Sea. This has left the other parties to the dispute—

the Philippines in this case—with little option but to take legal recourse. It is natural that disputes may exist between neighbors, but the mechanism of the resolution of the dispute is significant. China does not seek to internationalize the issue. Instead it calls for bilateral negotiations by which it could assert its position on its politically, economically, and militarily weaker neighbors. In view of the various assertions by the award there is likely to be an escalation of military activity in the South China Sea. Several factors will influence the Chinese leadership in its response to the tribunal’s judgment, including the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) scheduled for the fall of 2017, the response of the United States, and the loss of credibility of the CCP before the Chinese people who exhibit a high degree of nationalism over the issue. Although China is expected to take a fairly accommodative approach to resolving the issue, it cannot be ruled out that an aggrieved Beijing will pursue an escalation of tensions. The White Paper, despite its descriptive title China Adheres To The Position Of Settling Through Negotiation The Relevant Disputes Between China And Philippines In The South China Sea, nevertheless claims that “China is the first to have discovered, named, explored and exploited the

“Over time, China’s stance on the South China Sea dispute has shifted from one of opposing the tribunal’s jurisdiction to an attitude of coercion.” relevant waters, and the first to have continuously, peacefully and effectively exercised sovereignty and jurisdiction over the area. Thus, China maintains that it has established sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the relevant rights and interests in the South China Sea.” Having damaged its own case by making a submis-


sion of its Position Paper stating that it was carrying out “civilian activities,” China has now learned that under Article 298 of the UNCLOS, the court cannot make a ruling on military activities taking place within an EEZ or on maritime delimitation issues. This clearly implies that sustained military activities would be carried out by the Chinese in the region without being penalized. China has already utilized its own warplane, an H-6K long-range nuclear-capable bomber, as well as other new aircraft including surveillance aircraft, fighters, and tankers to patrol the reefs and islands in the South China Sea. Shen Jinke, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has stated the objective to “firmly defend national sovereignty, security and maritime interests, safeguard regional peace and stability, and cope with various threats and challenges,” adding that combat air patrols would be a “regular” practice in the future. It is likely that, in order to project a more forceful response to the PCA ruling, China may draw lines in the sand, in and around the Spratly Islands, or seek to establish an Air Defense Identification Zone

(ADIZ) in the South China Sea similar to the one it established unilaterally in the East China Sea in 2013. Over time, China’s stance on the South China Sea dispute has shifted from one of opposing the tribunal’s jurisdiction to an attitude of coercion. Unlike the dual-track approach that China proposes now, it has for several decades adhered to the double standard of escalating its military activities in the South China Sea on the one hand, while actively participating in regional diplomatic and scholarly forums to explore alternative solutions to the dispute on the other. The judgment has come at a critical time when China’s reputation as a responsible stakeholder in the international community, and President Xi Jinping’s competence as a leader of one of the strongest emerging nations of the world, are at stake. China’s escalated military activities in the region must be viewed as a bargaining chip to increase its leverage in bilateral negotiations with other claimant countries. One can expect a compromise between armed assertiveness and a mechanism of consultation as China’s strategy for the South China Sea disputes evolves in the forthcoming period. n

photo: Gregory A. Hardon II Thirsty F-22 Raptors prepare to tank-up from a KC-135R Stratotanker during operation Rim of the Pacific 2016.

b  19

Strategic Vision vol. 5, no. 27 (August, 2016)

Dangerous Developments Unmanned systems increase the risk of unintended conflict in the South China Sea Tobias Burgers


ver the last few years, and in recent months in particular, the South China Sea has been heating up and its waters are getting stormier. Recent tensions are the result of regional actors being increasingly assertive in pressing their claims: The People’s Republic of China (PRC), The Republic of China (ROC), Vietnam, Brunei, and the Philippines all have overlapping claims over parts of the South China Sea. China in particular has aggressively pursued a strategy in which it seeks to expand its influence. A wide range of actions—mostly by China—has greatly complicated the situation in the region. These actions range from placing oil rigs in other nations’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), building new islands on coral reefs, using grounded boats as military outposts, increasing militarization of the existing islands, frequent clashes between coast guard patrols and so called Freedom of Navigation (FON) aerial and maritime operations by the United States and Australia have all added to the South China Sea morass. These have actions have not only increased political tensions in the region, but have made it a test case for how well the rest of East Asia will deal with the rise of China and its desire to reshape the geopolitical system of the region. Although tensions have increased rapidly in the region, conflict still seems politically controllable.

So far, no lethal incidents have occurred, and the weapons and munitions of choice in the conflict, for the moment, remain water cannons, and not bullets. Furthermore, many of the confrontations have involved paramilitary or even civilian actors, such as fishing vessels, rather than military units: a strategy that is less likely to lead to escalation.

Ominous trends There are, however, a number of current developments which could lead to even greater tensions in the region, and shatter the fragile peace. First, the nations involved have not only increased their paramilitary assets, but are currently investing heavily in their military capabilities, with China and Vietnam leading the way in buying or building new naval systems. China has already deployed aircraft carrier Liaoning and is in the process of building a second. At the same time, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) continues to advanced new ships such as destroyers and corvettes. In response, Vietnam has likewise began focusing on strengthening its naval forces and has ordered six Russian Kilo-class submarines. It has recently begun to seek limited military cooperation with the United States, and is considering the purchase of US military hardware. The Philippines, meanwhile, is

Tobias Burgers is doctoral candidate at the Otto-Suhr-institute, Free University Berlin, where he researches the rise and increasing use of cyber and robotic systems in security affairs. He can be reached for comment at burgers@zedat.fu-berlin.de


photo: Leslie Pratt An MQ-1 armed Predator UAV operates over Afghanistan. Although increasingly common, the use of such systems has often created much controversy.

seeking to update its own forces with the help of the United States and Japan, and has acquired a number of old US coast guard cutters. Taiwan, too, has been on a buying and development spree: It has developed new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capabilities and is actively exploring ways to develop a new fleet of diesel submarines. In addition to expanding their military capabilities, regional actors have begun to increase their military presence in the region. China has been very visible, deploying surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles on some of its newly expanded islands. The United States has conducted several FONOPS (freedom of navigation operations) with US Navy vessels and aircraft. Even Japan has dispatched a submarine to assist the Philippines in patrols of the region, and Australia patrols the seas with P-3 Orion patrol aircraft. These developments indicate that deployment of military assets is becoming the norm. Add to this mix the increasingly assertive behavior of regional coast guards, as well as China’s paramilitary fishing fleet, and it becomes obvious that the peaceful future of the South China Sea is being called into question.

This does not mean that World War III is around the corner, but at the very least the coming months and years may witness the security situation in the region deteriorating further, possibly to a boiling point. As much as tensions are rising, and will rise further in the near future, it seems that the situation will be somewhat controllable and that a war between regional actors is still only a slim possibility. However, the arrival of a new array of military systems has the potential to radically change this calculus, and turn the South China Sea into a battleground. It promises to be a novel battleground, and one that could change the paradigm of military conflict, as it would primarily involve unmanned systems rather than human combatants.

New dynamics This dystopian, robotic vision of conflict might seem like a page torn out of science fiction, but a quiet revolution—the digital and robotic revolution in military affairs (DRRMA)—has over the past few years unfolded largely under the radar of the mainstream

Dangerous Developments  b  21

media and therefore unacknowledged by an oblivious public. UAVs are already common among militaries worldwide and the first generation of surface and subsurface unmanned vessels are becoming operational. Such systems could be advantageous in the South China Sea. They can remain at sea or in the air for extended periods, can patrol vast areas of the sea, and are far cheaper to procure and operate than manned systems. This makes them ideal for nations with a more limited defense budgets, such as Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines. Indeed, a brief examination of the unmanned capabilities of all the possible actors involved illustrates that many of these countries already have, to varying degrees, fielded UAVs. The United States is leading the DRRMA, and has a wide array of systems that it could use in the area, ranging from UAVs, UACVs (the armed variant of a UAV) to UUVs (unmanned underwater vehicles) and in the near future large USVs (unmanned surface vehicles). Furthermore, the Pentagon is developing the next generation of UAVs, such as the X-47B. This next

generation of unmanned vehicles focuses on stealth, as nearly all of these vehicles will, and may be armed. China likewise has an extended range of unmanned capabilities, and is slowly closing the “unmanned development gap” with the United States. Beijing possess a range of drones—both unarmed and armed—including the CH-4, which analysts describe as a copy of the US MQ-9 Reaper, made from stolen design information obtained via Chinese cyber attacks on Reaper manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. The CH-5, an armed drone similar to the CH-4, has also been identified. Additionally, a number of armed, stealthy systems are in development, such as the Dark Sword. Of further note, China recently became the first nation to deploy unmanned systems in the South China Sea. Recent satellite images show that it deployed an BZK-005 long range reconnaissance drone on Woody Island. Regional actors such as Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and Australia all have unmanned capabilities as well, albeit on a smaller scale than either China or the United States.

photo: Preston McDonald A Marine student fast-ropes out of a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter during a training exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.


The imminent arrival and deployment of unmanned systems in the South China Sea could have serious consequences for the escalation of tensions in the region. When unencumbered by the presence of human operators, nations might seek to pursue a riskier strategy, as the possible fallout of such actions could be viewed as lower. After all, a lost drone would be nothing more than the loss of hardware, as opposed to human lives. This in turn raises new problems as Rules of Engagement (ROEs) will need to be developed for unmanned systems operating in contested areas. With no direct communication possible, actors on the ground would have a much more limited set of responses, which basically comes down to deciding whether to destroy the adversary’s systems, or allowing the incursions. Either option would be perceived by at least one side as an escalation, and would most likely be met with a similar response. As such, it then becomes very easy to see how such a situation could

snowball out of control. If regional actors are not cautious, the use of unmanned systems could become the stepping stone to greater escalation. Moreover, these risks pale in comparison to what subsequent generations of unmanned systems might portend, as platforms become much more autonomous and software-driven. This is particularly true

“If regional actors are not cautious, the use of unmanned systems could become a stepping stone to greater escalation.” in systems designed around a swarming strategy. This tactic has already been applied in the South China Sea, by the Chinese “civilian” fishing fleet, and has already caused deliberate clashes to result. Robotic systems would be even more suitable for swarming strategies, and would function perfectly as a tool to subdue enemy vessels. The problem then becomes

photo: Amanda Chavez Crew members from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset load rockets into a magazine on an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter.

Dangerous Developments  b  23

photo: Kamaile Chan Pacific Rim Junior Enlisted Leadership Forum (JELF) participants exchange ideas during a group activity at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

how to respond appropriately to such an attack. A fleet of smaller USVs surrounding a naval ship would undoubtedly look like a threat to the sailors aboard the ship under attack.

Miscalculation and mayhem For the time being, it seems likely that many of the actors in the region will continue to deploy manned vessels, such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, as they simply do not have the military, technological, or financial capabilities to develop counter-measures to such unmanned, swarming actions. The potential mix of manned military vessels and vast swarms of unmanned vehicles carries the danger of miscalculation and mayhem, thus increasing the risk of violent response and escalation. As such, it becomes clear that the robotic, unmanned military buildup and the corresponding tactics employed in their use could possibly turn the SCS from a currently manageable situation into a much more opaque and conflict-ripe

environment. The central question is whether or not unmanned military capabilities will contribute to more aggressive actions in the South China Sea. Clearly, the nature of unmanned systems could make it easier for regional actors to engage in escalatory actions. History has shown that conflicts can arise from misunderstandings and misperceived actions. Furthermore, it is possible that a rogue commander purposefully uses unmanned systems for provocative purposes. As such, and in order to avoid both scenarios, the region’s security actors should ensure that a framework is developed through which actors can manage the employment of unmanned systems in the South China Sea. An incident that escalates into a conflict would have negative consequences for all countries in the region, and even for the rest of the world, given that such a huge volume of world trade traverses through the area. Thus, it is necessary to create a common set of rules and regulations regarding the use of unmanned systems. n

24  b 

Strategic Vision vol. 5, no. 27 (August, 2016)

New Challenges

Editorial board members weigh in on Taiwan’s defense transformation Editorial Staff


s the new administration of President Tsai Ing-wen completes its transition to power, there are a number of pressing issues on the agenda that demand the attention of the new leader of the Republic of China (ROC), none more important than defense and security. President Tsai has made defense reform a priority for her administration and has already taken steps to improve Taiwan’s defense. In support of this effort, members of Strategic Vision’s editorial board offer their perspectives on the most pressing defense and secu-

rity needs facing the Tsai government. Retired ROC Army General Richard Hu suggests that Taiwan’s armed forces must emphasize values such as professionalism, honor, management and avoidance of group-think. Next, Colonel Lipin Tien argues that Taiwan’s military must develop its Rules of Engagement (ROE) in order to better align itself with international norms. Finally Dean Karalekas offers some ideas on how to change the ethic of the ROC military to one that better reflects the values of Taiwan today.

photo: ROC Presidential Office President Tsai meets with members of the 239th Military Police battalion in Taipei City. Tsai has put a high priority on engagement with the military.

Defensive Focus  b  25

photo: Bryce Hadley The USS Coronado launches the first over-the-horizon missile using a Harpoon Block 1C missile during operation Rim of the Pacific 2016.

Richard Hu When President Tsai Ing-wen visited an army base and dined with the personnel of an infantry brigade in Yilan County just two weeks after taking office on May 20, 2016, she told the assembled servicemen that “just painting and mowing the lawn (in anticipation of an inspection) will not make the military better.” A good combat force needs a good system, high efficiency, and good morale, she stressed. In reality, she was partly right to remind the military that it was unnecessary to paint and mow the lawn just because of her inspection. A good combat force, however, requires more than what was discussed in Tsai’s speech. Only a month after she talked about these trifles, a much more severe incident occurred. This time, a Navy vessel mistakenly fired an anti-ship missile from its base in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan, killing the captain of a fishing boat and injuring three crew members. This fresh scandal shocked many people nation-wide and raised

grave concerns regarding the aftermath crisis management handled by the Tsai administration. Many have voiced their concerns and called for immediate reform of the military. The minister of national defense has been asked by the president to submit a review report on reforming the military in early September. Based on media reports on the incident, and my longtime military experience, I believe at least four innovative mechanisms will be vital for enhancing the quality and strength of the ROC military.

Mechanisms 1. Add “professionalism” to the already existing military mottos (which currently include: duty, honor, and country). Educate and train the military to internalize and live by these values. 2. Re-value and emphasize the importance of the cadet honor code at military academies and National Defense University. Educate future leaders of charac-


ter committed to the values of duty, honor, country, and professionalism. The cadet honor code states “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” 3. Improve both managerial and administrative norms and skills such as when, or when not to, follow standards of procedure (SOP) and always use a checklist. The essence of accountability and empowerment of leaders running an organization of any size should be clear. 4. Transform organizational culture by improving group interactive mechanisms such as assigning devil’s advocates to avoid “groupthink” or unintended consequences.

Lipin Tien The Geneva Conventions of 1949 is the codification of customary international humanitarian law (IHL) or law of armed conflict (LOAC). Conventions mandate jus in bello, which is the law that governs the way

in which warfare is conducted. The ROC signed the conventions but thus far has never taken the opportunity ratify them. Signing conventions does not create a binding legal obligations, but it does demonstrate the state’s intention to examine the treaty domestically and consider ratifying it. While signing does not commit a state to ratification, it does oblige the state to refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose. The ROC is therefore bound by the Conventions and should have incorporated the text of the conventions or IHL principles into the domestic legal system, or, at least, the field manuals or operational law handbooks for members of the ROC military. According to Article 82 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, legal advisers should be made available to advise military commanders at the appropriate level on the application of international humanitarian law. However, the ROC has failed to issue any military manual on operational law or IHL, and its legal corps officers are not required to partici-

photo: ROC Presidential Office ROC Army special operations amphibious members conduct a demonstration of infiltration tactics as President Tsai Ing-wen looks on.

Defensive Focus  b  27

pate in the maintenance, development, implementation and training of rules of engagement (ROE).

Law and Warfare Since Mainland China took over ROC’s membership as lawful representative of China to the United Nations in 1971, the ROC has never had any chance to attend any multi-state military operations or humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/ DR) operations. Besides, there has not been any real “war” in the Taiwan Strait since 1958, though it has been always in photo: Roby Giovine a state of tension. Therefore, issues reA CH-47D Chinook helicopter takes part in a training mission over South Carolina. garding IHL, LOAC or ROE have never been a major concern for the ROC. These might be the factors that attribute to ROC’s failure to pay sufDean Karalekas ficient attention to developing its ROE which depict the circumstances and restrictions under which its I am in complete agreement with General Hu on the armed forces will fire the first strike, or continue a need to focus on issues of professionalism, honor, combat engagement with other forces encountered. and morale as the new administration seeks to imROE constitute an essential command-and-conplement military reform. For too long, military and trol tool which help to ensure that military operagovernment policymakers have assumed that their tions are conducted in accordance with the rules of problems could be solved with the purchase of new law, and ensure that national policies and interests weapons systems or by shifting force deployments. are reflected in commanders’ actions in operations But the ROC military is beset by problems with much and that parameters are provided within which asdeeper roots. signed missions are accomplished. From a strategic As Taiwan society has evolved over the past sevperspective, ROE are an indispensable and essential eral decades away from dictatorship and toward a element of modern conflicts as political factors necmature democracy, with an influential civil society, essarily shape the use of force. Armed conflicts can respect for human rights, and representative of a occur at any time. Compared to what the US military, post-modern society that values gender-equality, lifeand even the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), have style choices, and the tenets of classical liberalism, achieved in the development, maintenance and trainthe military—as an integral institution within that ing of ROE, the ROC should pay serious attention society—has fallen behind. to its development of ROE to fulfill its obligation as Recent polls show that while the people of Taiwan a signatory of the conventions and establish its inrecognize the threat of annexation by China and teroperability with military alliances when needed. hence the need for a strong defense, they are also


distrustful of the ROC military. Much of this has to do with the military’s poor relationship with the media, but it also speaks to a larger issue: as a conservative, change-averse institution, the ROC military has never fully shed its image as the KMT military—the military of the “party,” rather than of the nation. It should therefore not be surprising that the state of military-society relations in Taiwan is in trauma. How can this state of affairs be mended? For the military to truly represent the values and mores of the society which it protects, a change of ethic is required. This is no small task, especially in a society like Taiwan in which there is a clear schism among the population on the very question of national identity. However, because a task is difficult, does not mean it should not be embarked upon.

Focus on the Land To sidestep the thorny issue of identity, ideological focus must be placed on the land, rather than on the heritage from China; the mantle of Heaven; the Three

Principles of the People; or other such anachronistic concepts with no real purchase in today’s Taiwan. The land, however, is the one unifying concept among the nations’ ethnic groups and political philosophies, be they Hoklo or Hakka, Mainlander or Taiwanese, Aboriginal or modern urbanite. The land, referring to the land of Taiwan, represents home and hearth, and thus the focus of any cultural shift within the organization that is the ROC military should be one that focuses on the military’s purpose of defending this land.

Conscription Plans to transition the ROC military to an All Volunteer Force should be abandoned. The situation in Taiwan does not parallel even distantly the conditions in the United States when that country underwent its own AVF transition. Not only is there insufficient budget to make a military career competitive with what a young graduate can make in the civilian sector—meaning that manpower goals will

photo: ROC MOD ROC soldiers help clear debris after the devastation left in the wake of typhoon Meranti. Such assistance helps give the military a positive image.

Defensive Focus  b  29

never be met—but ending conscription would shift the military experience away from the majority of society, making the military a much less vital institution in Taiwan—it would place the armed forces on the fringes of society, and outside of the everyday experience of Taiwan’s people. The opposite is needed. Moreover, conscription (of a sort that is not easy to avoid) would force young men from all corners of Taiwan society to live, work, and train together. Rich and poor, Hakka and Mainlander: the one unifying thread is their being of Taiwan. And just as the Singapore mandatory service has been credited with creating and maintaining a cohesive identity in that ethnically diverse city-state, conscription in Taiwan could likewise be leveraged to alleviate, in some small way, some of the schisms that continue to split society.

Training Any effort to define the identity of an institution begins with education and training. The values espoused in military training courses must be those that are in line with the values of Taiwan’s society today, not 30 years ago. It must be made clear to the soldiers serving in uniform that they are the primary line of defense protect the values that they themselves hold to be of importance: democracy, liberty, the freedom to choose one’s own path, just as the people of a nation must be free to choose a path for their nation. Moreover, in terms of practical training, conscripts must feel that there is value in the work they are doing while in uniform. A common complaint among conscripts is that they spend their days performing menial tasks such as sweeping and yard work that have nothing to do with defending the nation. The training must be enjoyable, but it must be tasking, both physically and mentally. These concepts are not mutually exclusive: indeed, the only way to develop a sense of camaraderie among soldiers (which is the first step to developing positive morale) is to

provide the opportunity for shared achievement. All too often, however, conscripts are parked in makework jobs as they wait out their time until they can leave the military. Too often, soldiers are regarded by their managers as a cheap source of labor, rather than fighting men and women. This is not the way to create the opportunity for accomplishment, camaraderie, and pride.

Aboriginal regiments For countless generations, the aboriginal groups of Taiwan have had to contend with various colonizers who sought to assimilate them and force them to give up their customs, traditions and lifestyles in order to adopt an identity of the majority. This represents a lost opportunity to the Taiwan military, which should instead authorize the formation and training of aboriginal regiments which would not only benefit from training in modern military tactics, but employ the traditional skills of aboriginal heritage, such as hunting, tracking, and living off the land. This comes back to the previous notes on refocusing the ethic of the military to one that focuses on the land, and there are arguably no groups in Taiwan who know the land better than the nation’s aboriginal

“By addressing the root causes of the ROC military’s poor relationship with the society it protects, this is an opportunity to create not just a military in which the people of Taiwan can have faith in the event of an attack, but an institution of society in which they can be proud.” groups. While such regiments would greatly benefit the military in general, as those skills are shared and as the public comes to view the military as an organization that respects the diversity of peoples in


Taiwan: but they would also benefit the aboriginal groups themselves, many of whose traditions and skills are in danger of disappearing for lack of effort to pass them on. The creation of aboriginal units and regiments would go a long way toward demonstrating value in those traditional skills, and helping the peoples themselves to rebuild their links with their heritage. It should be noted that such regiments are not unprecedented, with Cherokee and Choctaw battalions in the United States, and such famously storied units as the Gurkhas making up regiments in the British Army. In Taiwan, aboriginal soldiers led by aboriginal officers could be organized according to Tribal lines, or across them. Highly trained and accomplished NCOs of such units could furthermore be tasked to teach skills such as tracking, primitive hunting, wil-

derness survival, and escape-and-evasion techniques to regular army platoons as well. This would not only serve as a transmission of invaluable skills and knowledge, but help foster a greater understanding and respect for the nation’s aborigines among the Han Chinese majority, and contribute greatly to the ROC military shedding its lingering image as the Party military. The new administration of President Tsai has a daunting task ahead of it in the stated goal of reforming the military, yet is perhaps best to perceive this as an opportunity: by addressing the root causes of the ROC military’s poor relationship with the society it protects, and by bringing the institution into the fold of other social groups, this is an opportunity to create not just a military in which the people of Taiwan can have faith in the event of an attack, but an institution of society in which they can be proud. n

photo: ROC MOD Participants pose at a public event at Sun Moon Lake to celebrate Military Day. Public outreach is an important factor in repairing the military’s image.


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Strategic Vision, Issue 27  

Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

Strategic Vision, Issue 27  

Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

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