The Republic of China Armed Forces also known as the ROC Armed Forces or Taiwan Armed Forces, encompass the Army, Navy (including the Marine Corps), Air Force and Military Police Force. It is a military establishment, which accounted for 16.8% of the central budget in the fiscal year of 2003. Since 2002, the military comes under the full civilian control of the Ministry of National Defense and oversight by the Legislative Yuan. It was the National Revolutionary Army before being renamed as the Republic of China Armed Forces in 1947 due to the implementation of the Constitution of the Republic of China (ROC).
Until the 1970s, the military’s primary mission was to retake mainland China from the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC) through the Project National Glory. The military’s current foremost mission is the defense of the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu, and other Taiwanese islands against a possible military invasion by the People’s Liberation Army of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which is seen as the predominant threat to the Republic of China (ROC) in the ongoing dispute over the political status of Taiwan.
The Republic of China Armed Forces is the National Defense Force of Taiwan. It is known as “Guojun 國軍”, which means “national army”. When the ROC was based in mainland China, its army was the National Revolutionary Army before 1928 which was often known as the “Chinese Nationalist Army” or “KMT Army”. The nationalization of the armed forces in 1947 basically detached the Kuomintang’s control on the armed forces, and it became a national defense forces. Due to the civilian control of the military and the constitution, it was later renamed the Republic of China Armed Forces. Today, the Republic of China Armed Forces is also informally called Taiwan Armed Forces following a relocation of the ROC government to Taiwan after 1949 and to prevent being confused with the People’s Republic of China.
Doctrine and exercises
The primary goal of the ROC Armed Forces is to provide a credible deterrent against hostile action by establishing effective counterstrike and defense capabilities. Should hostilities occur, current ROC military doctrine centers upon the principle of “offshore engagement” where the primary goal of the armed forces in any conflict with the PRC would be to keep as much of the fighting away from Taiwan proper for as long as possible to minimize damage to infrastructure and civilian casualties. The military has also begun to take the threat of a sudden “decapitation attack” by the PRC seriously. Consequently, these developments have seen a growing emphasis on the role of the Navy and Air Force (where the Army had traditionally dominated); as well as the development of rapid reaction forces and quick mobilization of local reserve forces.
Annually, the ROC Military conducts full exercises called Han Kuang Exercise which may sometimes include all branches of the military to participate in one or two specific exercises, they show the Taiwanese media the various weapons they have acquired and give special performances from the army, navy and air force. Han Kuang Exercises are held throughout Taiwan mainly at the main expected invasion areas. In 2007 there was an army exercise simulating a counterattack against PLA forces who have captured Taichung Port. An air force exercise simulating that air bases throughout Taiwan have been destroyed and are forced to use a major highway as an airstrip. ROCN (navy) exercise where an invasion force is heading toward Taiwan, destroyers, frigates and attack boats are called to fire missiles and attack dummy targets.
A series of computer simulations conducted by the ROC Ministry of National Defense in 2004 predicted that, in the event of a full-scale invasion by the PRC, Taipei would take at most three weeks to fall. It also showed that the ROC Air Force would be eliminated by about the fifth day. However, the simulation results indicate that the PRC would lose about two-thirds of all its military forces in the process. The results of the simulation are hotly debated since they came at a time when the Legislative Yuan was debating one of the largest arms procurement packages in recent years.
The ROC Armed Forces number approximately 300,000, and reserves reportedly total 3,870,000. Conscription remains universal for qualified males reaching age 18. Force streamlining programs under way since 1997 are combining redundant institutions and steadily reducing the military to 270,000 personnel by 2012. However, even then there would be compulsory basic training for all males reaching 18. As the size of the force decreases, the ROC intends to gradually expand the number of volunteer soldiers with the eventual goal of forming an all volunteer career force.
The ROC Armed Forces’ officer corps is generally viewed as being competent, displaying a high degree of professionalism. However, as a whole, the culture in the officer corps tends to be very cautious and conservative. The military also faces difficulties in the recruitment and retention of junior officers and NCOs due to competition with the private sector. There are, however, plans to make it a volunteer armed forces.
Because of the historical legacy having once controlled mainland China, the army has traditionally been the most important of the ROC’s military forces, although this has declined in recent years with the realization that the traditional army’s role in defending against a PRC invasion is limited. As a result, recent force modernization programs have resulted in the reorganization of the Army into smaller units as a quick deployment mobile troops. For the same reason, more emphasis is being placed on the development of the Navy and Air Force, in order to fend off attacks in the Taiwan Strait, away from Taiwan proper.