How strong is Taiwan’s military?

3 June 2024 - 15:00

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With new tensions between China and Taiwan, the island was surrounded and flown over by 38 Chinese planes. There is fear of escalation and many wonder whether the Taiwanese army is strong enough to defend itself.

How strong is Taiwan's military?

Tensions between China and Taiwan are increasing, after yet another demonstration of force by Beijing’s army with its military means: escalation is feared.

As communicated by the Taipei government, in the space of 24 hours up to 6.00 local time (midnight on May 30 in Italy) 38 planes and 7 Chinese warships were detected around the island - effectively surrounding it.

In all, it would have been 28 Chinese jets that would have crossed the median line ending up "in the northern and southwestern air defense recognition zone (Adiz)". On May 23, China announced two days of joint military exercises - between the navy and the air force - a "severe punishment" against the "independence " forces of the island and the inauguration of the new president Lai Ching-te (William Lai)

Yet, what has taken place in the last 24 hours seems to be more similar to an act preparatory to war than to a "simple" military exercise. Yet another show of force was not appreciated by the Taiwanese government which, faced with the surge in military operations, declared that it had "monitored the situation and responded accordingly"

In a historical moment in which international balances seem to be more fragile than ever, with Ukraine potentially receiving the OK from NATO to strike Russia with the weapons of its allies and with Israel continuing unpunished (defended by the United States government) to carry out genocide in Gaza, there are fears that China may decide to invade the island.

And if Russia and China are among the most largest military powers in the world, after the United States, it is natural to ask whether - in the event of war - the government of Taiwan is capable of support such a war effort. To answer this question you can use the ranking developed by Global Firepower on several factors. That’s how strong Taiwan’s military is.

Taiwan, how strong is its army?

The Taiwan Army is among the top 30 military powers in the world. This was established by the final ranking of Global Firepower, which uses over 60 individual factors to determine the PowerIndex (PwrIndx) score of 145 world powers. There are numerous categories examined, from the quantity of military units and financial position to natural resources up to the logistical capabilities and geography of the territory.

According to the ranking, Taiwan would find itself in 24th place with a PwrIndx of 0.3302 - where 0.00 represents "perfection" - losing one position compared to the previous year, allowing itself to be overtaken by the former 25th force in the world, Germany (now 19th). Also ahead of Taiwan are Ukraine (18th), Israel (17th), Iran (14th) and Italy (10th)

China, which has long claimed the island, promising to annex it by 2027, is in 3rd place as the greatest military power (with a score of 0.0706): lower only than Russia (0.0702) and United States (0.0699). At this point it is natural to ask whether Taiwan is able to defend itself from a possible attack by Beijing Let’s look at the data:

  • as regards the workforce, the island of Taiwan has well 12,266,079 people to be able to employ in a war effort against as many as 763,097,137 of the China;
  • for the naval fleet China is in second place in the world for the possession of warships (730) - allowing itself to be overtaken this year by Russia - while Taiwan only has 93 military ships.
  • for the air fleet Taiwan has 750 fighter planes, while China has as many as 3,304 planes (lower only than the United States with 13,209 and Russia’s 4,255).
  • for the land fleet, however, Taiwan has as many as 1,010 tanks against China’s 5,000.

Although the gap between the military forces of the two countries is evident, we cannot ignore the contribution of the United States (in 1st place in the ranking), which has always threatened to intervene in case of attack. In fact, for political and economic reasons, China and the USA are strongly interested in Taiwan, which is why in the event of an invasion it will be necessary to deal with the United States, although at the moment they are busy monitoring multiple fronts: Russia and Israel. In any case, with the invasion of Taiwan, the risk of large-scale escalation would materialize.

Taiwan and China, nuclear arsenal: is there a risk of war?

If it is now clear what the strength of the Taiwanese army is and how much this partly depends on the United States, it must be remembered that the Global Firepower ranking only takes into consideration the conventional weapons, therefore not considering the nuclear arsenal of the various countries.

According to an old Federation of American Scientists estimate from 2023, the number of operational nuclear warheads has increased especially in China and Russia. What we know for sure is that although China’s nuclear arsenal has increased, this remains relatively modest, estimated by analysts at between 350-410 warheads and a hundred intercontinental missiles.

An arsenal that is however expanding due to fears of a possible clash with the United States, which possesses a large arsenal of between 5,244-5,500 nuclear weapons.

However, there are no certainties regarding Taiwan’s nuclear arsenal. According to official data Taiwan is not in possession of atomic weapons, although the island has warned China several times, as it is in possession of missiles, such as Yun Feng which it could contain a nuclear warhead.

If China has always denied the nuclear race, it has never made a secret of its desire to annex Taiwan. Given the fragile geopolitical balance, Beijing could therefore take advantage of the fact that international and US attention is catalyzed on the Russian-Ukrainian front and on Rafah, by waging war against Taiwan. In that case, escalation cannot be ruled out.

Original article published on Italy 2024-05-30 23:22:51. Original title: Quanto รจ forte l’esercito di Taiwan?

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