Taiwan needs to demonstrate an increased commitment to their own defense. Protest marches, while inspiring, do not constitute a solid defense. Deterrence of China will happen from a Taiwanese populous dedicated in word and finance to their own defense.
The Israeli model is perhaps the best in terms of dedication of the population to defense. The Republic of China already institutes a draft, but little has changed in 40 years in terms of attitudes. My father, who duly served the Republic, was once dressed down by superiors when he questioned the laxity in training of the reserve forces. Not surprisingly, his fellow draftees were none too happy with him, either.
In a way, the problem has to do with Chinese civilization and culture itself. Where once Confucius set the standard for the ideal man in terms of both literary and martial arts (??), over the years, thanks to centralization and bureaucratification, the literary arts have surpassed the martial arts as the measure of a man. Moreover, the martial arts, seen by various succeeding dynasties as threats, were stamped out, most notably by the Qing Dynasty (to get rid of Ming loyalists) and the People's Republic (to root out "superstition"), and then regulated to become nothing more than another acrobatic art. Most importantly, a life of discipline, whether in the literary or martial arts, is often seen as ascetic, and as such, monastic, and not at all conducive to the ageless commandment of filial piety (?) to advance the status of the family and leave many offspring to continue the race to the top.
When a vocation is not seen as one of honor, its attraction will drop, and its ability to recruit will suffer similarly. Contrast this with the Western notion of a warrior class, which survives best in the Anglosphere in hunting culture, and in America's shooting ranges. This is not to be confused with European culture in general, where the Second World War much dampened the calling of the warrior caste. However, in the outbacks of Australia, in the Canadian Rockies, in the American Midwest, and some would say even in the British sport of fox hunting, the hunting culture survives. Coupled with the honors that these cultures (except perhaps for post-Modern Canada) bestow upon their soldiers, this provides a source of men willing to fight, and able to handle weapons.
As Taiwan has no military culture (indeed, those who choose to be career enlisted men are held in very low regard; and the officer class is usually no more than yet another outlet for political ambitions), nor the human resources to provide a broad pool of soldiers (which China has in abundance), her lack of military preparation is hardly unexpected. As discussed earlier in "Military Capabilities", current trends suggest that a window of opportunity will open up some time within the next few years in which Chinese military readiness will far outstrip that of Taiwan, and the United States will be most preocuppied by events in the Middle East.
Some critics of President Chen have suggested that he relies too much on the American security guarantee. Unfortunately, this is not unlike the view that some Western Europeans came to toward the end of the Cold War. That Taiwan and China represent different modernizations of the same stock culture makes many Taiwanese less anxious about being forcibly absorbed by China than, say, the French might have been anxious about being made the Gallic Soviet.
Supporters retort that the Pan-Blue party has been blocking funds earmarked for the Ministry of National Defense, using their majority in the Legislative Yuan. Unfortunately, this sort of bickering is not at all unusual of ethnic Chinese politics.
Taiwan should not make plans based on the American security guarantee, for the fundamental reason that Taiwan and the United States are not one and the same, and thus will always have some different national interests. Some Greens, cognizant of this, have advocated that Taiwan be annexed as the 51st American State. However, that is simply not a realistic scenario. While the United States enjoys influence over much of the world, it is not interested in territorial expansion.
The leaders of Taiwan must put aside party squabbles and act now to shore up the military. Arms deals with the United States should be acted upon, and a thorough revolution in military affairs must be undertaken. China has been watching the American military since the successful repulsion of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991, and has been making headway in making the People's Liberation Army more efficient. Formosan reliance on dated technology and the American security guarantee will not only cast the tempting illusion of security, but also deny the island's economy an outlet for investments.
For now, China takes Taiwan seriously because of the United States. China plays by the old rules of power, that demonstrable power brings respect. Formosa must be able to stand up to Chinese sabre-rattling in a way that shows the mainlanders that the Taiwanese are able and willing to fight for themselves. Powerful friends help, but self-reliance is important as well. Aggressive diplomatic campaigns, both to expand recognition of the Republic, and to engage the People's Republic, must also be undertaken, but in the end, it's the big stick that will provide the support.
(Hat-tip: Bill Roggio)
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds and Naruwan Formosa]