Taiwanese citizens are being told not to be alarmed by a report in the Wall Street Journal about low troop morale.
On Tuesday, Taiwan’s Defense Minister dismissed a devastating Wall Street Journal study that revealed low morale among the island’s numerous reservists, many of whom are expected to take up guns in the event of a conflict with China.
Chiu Kuo-cheng, speaking to reporters in Taipei, expressed “great trust” in the island’s forces. “Don’t be alarmed by a report in a foreign media outlet—not it’s required. “We need to believe in ourselves,” he stated.
According to an April submission by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, almost 90% of the quota for its 188,000-strong volunteer army, which presently numbers 169,200, has been filled. They make up the country’s budgeted 215,000-man armed forces, together with students, fresh recruits, and civilian personnel.
Last October, defense officials predicted that if war broke out today across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, could assemble 445,000 troops. There were 185,000 active service members and 260,000 reservists in that number.
Taiwan, on the other hand, has a reserve force of over 2 million people who have been conscripted and put through various levels of training over the years.
A hard shift to an all-volunteer military has recently resulted in new recruits receiving only four months of basic training.
Interviews with new and old conscripts who felt the reserve force wasn’t technically ready to support the island’s front-line troops in a fierce battle with China were featured in the Journal’s report, which was published Monday.
Poor preparation and low morale among the about 80,000 Taiwanese conscripted each year and the over 2.2 million reservists are among the most pressing problems, according to the report.
One solider said he swept leaves and pulled weeds during his four-month training. According to the paper, others described how they purposefully gained weight in order to fail the army’s recruitment threshold.
The young conscripts of Taiwan were dubbed “strawberry soldiers.” It comes from the term “strawberry generation,” a pejorative epithet for Generation Z Taiwanese who are seen as privileged and unmotivated to work.
Taiwan’s professional force, according to retired US Marine Col. Grant Newsham, is well-trained, but its reserve structure is a “shambles,” he said. Newsham, who has studied Taiwan’s armed forces and worked with the Japan Self-Defense Forces, believes that training with American troops would assist the island’s warriors.
“I’m not sure what the basis for the evaluation was, however. This is a condensed version of the information.