Chapter 2. Security Challenges
/Section 3. Security Challenges of the ROC
Growing uncertainty of global security situations means that Asia Pacific countries as well as the ROC will have to face more complex and severe security environments, with the leading challenge being military threats posed by the PRC. The PRC has yet to abandon military options against the ROC. Its increasing defense budget and rapid improvements to weapon and equipment R&D capabilities have fueled rapid growths in its military strength. Other grave security challenges and situations faced by the ROC include intensifying sovereignty disputes of island and territorial waters in the Asia Pacific region, growing concerns of unconventional security threats, changing demographic structure, attacks by network hackers, and weakening of national defense awareness amongst the country's citizens.
I. Rapid expansion of the Military Strength of the PRC
Combined national strength of the PRC has grown tremendously in recent years, while its defense budget has achieved 2-digit growths for 5 consecutive years. Large, non-transparent defense investments made by the PRC allowed massive expansion of its armaments, leading to growing imbalance of military power between the PRC and the ROC. The PRC has also developed long-range precision weapon systems in order to extend the range of its force projection and strategic attacks, improve its integrated joint operational capacities, and reduce the willingness of other countries from intervening in the regional confrontation. This has posed a serious threat to national security of the ROC. Given that the PRC has not abandoned its threats to initiate operations against Taiwan, the major challenge faced by the ROC is to hasten the transformation of its armed forces and improve joint operational performance to develop a small but superb, strong, and smart defense force formidable enough for defending national sovereignty and interests.
II. Sovereignty Claims over Disputed Islands and Maritime Rights and Interests
Complex regional confrontations due to island sovereignty and maritime rights disputes mainly involve the Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea and islands in the South China Sea. Such disputes have led to standoffs or even direct confrontation between government vessels dispatched from various countries. The PRC has unilaterally established an air defense identification zone in East China Sea and carried out land reclamation as well as construction of naval and air force facilities in the South China Sea, introducing new uncertainties to regional peace and stability.
The ROC Armed Forces shall comply with ROC's overall diplomatic policy and continue to expand practical relationships with friendly states, promote regional security dialogues and exchanges, and refer to the government’s principles of safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, pursuing peace and reciprocity, and promoting joint development to participate in multi-national security issues. The ROC Armed Forces shall continue to strengthen defensive operations of its Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands) and Taiping Island as well as maritime defensive patrols. Military force serves as the support for defending the country's sovereignty over the islands, its maritime rights, and protect navigational freedom through international waters.
III. Defense Resource Constraints
Despite having slowly recovered from the global financial crisis, the global economy is currently hampered by the European debt crisis and the stagnating global economy. These events have also led to sluggish growth of the ROC's overall economy. Additional challenges include decreasing work force and limited increases in government tax income, making it difficult to secure further increases to the defense budget.
The ROC Armed Forces shall allocate and employ defense resources in a more optimal fashion in order to maximize its benefits. To achieve the mutually beneficial goals of self-reliant defense and encouraging the development of national economy, the ROC Armed Forces have been promoting the development of dual-use technologies and allow tried and tested defense technologies to drive improvements of private enterprises and industries accordingly.
IV. Decreasing Proportions of Able-bodied Individuals
Although national birth rates of the ROC have somewhat recuperated in the last 2 years, the size of the young and able-bodied population is still quite low. The number of individuals available for conscription as well as national defense personnel will be less than ideal as a result.
In order to maintain its military power, the ROC Armed Forces are reforming its conscription systems to establish a Volunteer Military System and recruit volunteers with higher quality and who are willing to commit to longer terms of service. Continuous adjustments have been made to the national defense organization, military structure, and size of the armed forces. Force streamlining as well as extensive mobilization and combat readiness systems have been implemented to achieve the concept of having a small standing army with the potential of drawing upon vast reserves during wartime and building an elite national defense force.
V. Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief
Unconventional security threats, such as sudden natural disasters and complex disasters caused, have continued to increase. The severity of the threats posed by these disasters to national security is on par with that of war.
The ROC Armed Forces, tasked with defending national security and protecting public welfare, have listed disaster prevention and relief as one of its core missions. The Armed Forces shall continue to establish units capable of disaster relief during peacetime and combat operations during wartime with quick response, disaster prevention, and contingency control capabilities. Systematic approaches as well as government-organized disaster prevention exercises, force streamlining, material mobilization, resource integration, and disaster hazard control systems have been carried out in order to support rapid deployment of local government in relevant relief operations and reduce national security threats posed by various disasters.
VI. Diverse and Frequent Network Attacks
As information technology (IT) continues to evolve, network vulnerabilities and threats have begun to invade and threaten countries with well-developed network connectivity. Recently, PRC cyber forces have used a variety of measures such as social network engineering, remote infiltration, virus (and malware) infections, theft, and surveillance to conduct a series of cyber invasions of government agency and private enterprise websites with grave consequences. The aim of such attacks is to disrupt the ROC Armed Forces command and control information system operations and delay its ability to respond in a timely manner to various incidents. The PLA may launch attacks against specified targets in the ROC through the Internet in the future with the aim of crippling national infrastructure system operations. Such attacks will pose severe threats to ROC military operational capabilities and national security.
The ROC Armed Forces are working with government networks, integrated information security and protection, and joint response to conduct routine security protection and monitoring of crucial IT systems. During wartime, the armed forces shall employ active network defenses against the enemy in order to continue enhancing information and network protection potential, train network protection professionals, and enhance overall information security robustness and capacities.
VII. Challenges to Threat Awareness
Although cross-Strait political relations seem calm, the PRC has yet to abandon preparations for military operations against Taiwan. The PRC is also conducting a unification war against Taiwan on the three fronts of psychology, public opinion, and law, and is creating an image of peace in order to alleviate hostility amongst the ROC citizens and dissolve national unity.
The MND has also been referring to the All-out Defense Education Act in order to conduct all-out defense education in 4 major categories of school education, on-the-job education for government agencies (institutions), social education, and national defense artifacts protection, awareness, and education. International situations, defense policy, all-out defense, defense mobilization, and defense technologies are established as the core educational subjects. Training courses have been arranged for various organizations such as relevant departments, different levels of governments, all-out defense mobilization systems, schools, and social groups, and course contents have integrated printed materials and a diverse selection of supporting activities in order to enhance training results and improve the sense of urgency and awareness for potential dangers amongst the general public. Various broadcasting channels are employed to integrate all-out defense concepts and knowledge into the lives of fellow citizens in order to achieve the educational goals of complete proliferation and extensiveness. It is hoped that such measures will improve all-out defense consciousness and ensure lasting peace and sustainable development of the country.