The ongoing Russia - Ukraine war has prompted a closer look at military strategies, especially in countries facing military aggression by China. Shen Ming-Shih, acting deputy CEO of Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said India must take “early strategic measures” as he warned of “short military strikes” rather than protracted war, becoming the new normal post-Russian experience. Ming-Shih was recently in New Delhi for the Raisina dialogue organised by the ministry of external affairs along with the Observer Research Foundation where he met Indian policymakers and strategists. “China is hoping to mobilize enough troops in wartime to resolve the Taiwan Strait issue once, and does not want to be like Russia, which must mobilize the army twice because of failure,” he said. However, he said if China invaded Taiwan, the next target will be the Sino-Indian border.
What is the current military situation in Taiwan Strait?
Some observers describe that after August last year, the Taiwan Strait has entered a new normal. That means China's deterrent training and exercises against Taiwan have exceeded the scale of the past and has become a new normal situation. China is now adopting a moderate attitude towards Taiwan and returning to a policy of peaceful reunification. However, the number of Chinese aircraft entering the centre line of the Taiwan Strait and the ADIZ is now more than before, and even the appearance of drones has become a normal phenomenon.
During your visit, how successful have you been able to put across to New Delhi the concerns for Indo Pacific region?
I often visit India for the purpose of exchange. It can only help India better understand the status quo of the Indo-Pacific and the Taiwan Strait. I have no power to promote India's assistance in Taiwan's defence when there is a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Apart from India's own policy traditions, scruples about Chinese factor are the main reason. However, India must understand that Taiwan has more than 70 years of experience in facing China's military threats. Coupled with the advancement of semiconductor technology, India's interaction with Taiwan will benefit more than Taiwan's benefits from India. If India realizes that after China invades Taiwan, the next target will be the Sino-Indian border, India may realize that it needs to take early strategic countermeasures against China.
With reports of new US house speaker Kevin McCarthy slated to visit Taiwan, are you preparing for Chinese backlash?
Taiwan has operational plans for various situations, and it is believed that the US Department of Defence will also prepare contingency plans for McCarthy's visit to Taiwan. But, I don't think China will take the opportunity to invade Taiwan, because it will have the opposite effect, making the United States assist Taiwan more, and even become its ally.
How do you analyse the recent concern around Chinese Spy balloon entering US airspace?
I don't think this is caused by China being able to invade the United States, because China is trying to defuse the tension with the United States. Therefore, it may be China's mistake in manipulating the balloon, but it cannot be ruled out that the CCP military deliberately operated it to test the response of the United States, and took the opportunity to provoke the deterioration of the relationship between Xi Jinping and the United States.
In the run-up to the presidential elections in Taiwan next year, what threats does it face?
Taiwan is currently facing many threats. In addition to the new normal of military training and exercises, because of the victory in the local elections last year, Taiwan’s Kuomintang may win the election next year, making China use the united front work more to win the next election as a soft strategy. This may reduce the people's will to resist the enemy and increase suspicion of the United States.
How has Russia-Ukraine war impacted China’s behaviour towards Taiwan?
The Russo-Ukraine war has alerted China to the possibility of ending the Taiwan war in a short period of time. China is also adopting various policies to avoid dependence on Western countries and to avoid damage from international sanctions. On the military front, China is reviewing its policy of general mobilization, hoping to mobilize enough troops in wartime to resolve the Taiwan Strait issue once, and does not want to be like Russia, which must mobilize the army twice because of failure. In terms of tactics, such as the construction of the Starlink system, the tactics of unmanned aircraft, the attack of tactical missiles, the development of long-range rockets, and the stockpile of logistics are all indicators that the Chinese military is changing.
What are the priority areas for collaboration with India?
Taiwan does not prioritize military cooperation projects with India and only hopes to get India's support internationally. But the cooperation projects are as follows: India gives Taiwan the intelligence of China's own fighter jets like SU-30, information about Chinese Navy sailing in the Indian Ocean, defence industry cooperation, think tank exchanges, war games, etc.
Do you think the US will assist Taiwan if China unilaterally decides to change the status quo?
I believe that if China unilaterally changes the status quo, the US government will assist Taiwan, that is very clear. However, the specific method or tactics of how to assist will be adjusted according to the actual situation. For the US, it is clear in strategy, but ambiguous in tactics.
Because of Russia's retreat in Ukraine and the international community's assistance to Ukraine, China must carefully consider the consequences of rash aggression. I believe that even if the Republican Party of the United States is in power, it will continue to aid Taiwan, because this is the consensus of the two parties.
Has US-Taiwan defence and military cooperation increased since last August?
The details cannot be elaborated. The number of training consultants sent by the United States is increasing. Congress and high-level defence officials are visiting the United States intensively. The war games between Taiwan and US is increasing, US Congress is taking steps to assist Taiwan by providing more ammunition and weapon system.
How has Taiwan bolstered its defence capabilities?
It has extended the service period of compulsory service, increased the size of the reserve brigade, increased the intensity of reserve training, strengthened the defence of the central command centre during wars and is practicing the integration of the military and local governments during war disasters, and regularly counting the air defence refuge facilities.