Taiwan says it is learning from Ukraine how a smaller country can stand up to invasion

Taiwan is looking at Ukraine’s resistance under Russian invasion and learning how it can prepare for a possible attack by China, the island’s vice-president said in London on Thursday.

Hsiao Bi-khim was speaking at an event hosted by Chatham House, reported The i news.

“We are learning from Ukraine’s defence, where smaller combat forces have proven nimble and adaptable,” Ms Bi-khim said, stating that Taiwan is seeing parallels with Ukraine’s fight back against a larger neighbour.

Chinese president Xi Jinping has instructed his country’s military to “be ready by 2027” to invade Taiwan, according to US intelligence. China views the democratically-governed Taiwan as a breakaway province and maintains the position that it will not renounce force to bring Taiwan under its control.

The 70-year-old autocrat has previously vowed to ensure Taiwan is “reunited” with the mainland during his time in power, and has also said the matter of the island’s future “cannot be passed on from generation to generation”.

“As long as the People’s Republic of China has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan, and as long as they continue to exercise force, we have no choice but to step up our defences accordingly,” Ms Bi-khim said, in remarks that risk angering Beijing.

The Taiwanese vice president, hinting at preparation towards a possible invasion, said that Taipei must “reform and decentralise our military command structure”.

“And we understand that’s not only relevant for our military, we are working to enhance our whole society’s resilience, incorporating civil defence in our homeland,” she said.

Taiwan is actively taking steps to bolster its readiness against a Chinese attack, Ms Bi-khim said. These steps include doubling up Taiwan’s defence budget and taking a leaf out of Ukraine’s combat against invading Russian forces.

“We have extended the mandatory military service and training period from four months to a year,” she said. Taiwan has prioritised its new arms acquisitions and management systems that are cost effective, nimble and survivable, the vice-president said.

Faced with Russian onslaught of aerial attacks from hypersonic, ballistic, cruise missiles and drones, Ukraine has amped up its own domestic production on aerial and reconnaissance drones to fight back.

It has helped the war-hit nation sustain the frontline troops in the weeks western aid has slowed down. From being a minimal ammunition importer in 2019, Ukraine in 2023 became the number one global arms importer.

In a similar fashion, Taiwan is also investing in their own domestic defence industry and working on establishing a mechanism to introduce new and emerging technologies, the vice president added.

She said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reminded Taiwan that it cannot take its peace for granted. The official cited “backsliding of basic human rights and civil rights in Hong Kong” as a wake-up call for Taipei.

Last month, Taiwan’s outgoing foreign minister Joseph Wu had warned that defeat of Ukraine can inspire China’s expansionism ambitions.

“If Ukraine is defeated in the end, I think China is going to get inspired and they might take even more ambitious steps in expanding their power in the Indo-Pacific and it will be disastrous for the international community,” he said.

He cautioned that “nobody should be... thinking that they are immune from authoritarian influence”.

In late May, Beijing deployed warplanes and naval vessels in a mock invasion of the island to demonstrate its anger towards the new president in Taipei.

The Chinese military openly said its two-day war games are designed to “test the [armed forces’] ability to jointly seize power... and occupy key areas” around Taiwan and the island chains it controls.

The escalation of China’s military activity around Taiwan is being watched with growing alarm from around the world, with neighbouring powers in the Asia-Pacific urging the two to maintain peace and stability.