When Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, announced the extension of military conscription in December 2022, she called it an “incomparably difficult decision”. Taiwan’s young were previously subject to only four months of conscription. Starting from 2024, they will serve a year each, with improved training. “No one wants war,” she said. “But peace will not fall from the sky.” Taiwan must prepare for war, she added, to prevent it.
Ms Tsai’s decision should not have been so difficult. That it was reflects a troubling reality: Taiwan has not made up its mind how or even whether to defend itself. It is at once the “most dangerous place in the world” yet numb to China’s threat. Only since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has serious debate about a possible Chinese invasion become normal. That is in part because China’s Communist Party is engaged in an information war designed to sow confusion. It also reflects Taiwan’s tortuous history and politics.