Civil-Military Relations in Taiwan

Cover of Civil-Military Relations in Taiwan

Identity and Transformation

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Synopsis

Table of contents

(16 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-ix
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Abstract

This offers an introduction to the ROC army with a focus on its influential role in post-revolution society, the retreat to Taiwan, and its transformation over the decades. Originally called the National Revolutionary Army at its inception in 1925 in China, it was renamed the Republic of China Armed Forces in 1947. Since 1949, the force’s primary goal was the ROC government’s objective of retaking the mainland (China) from the Communists. As a result of its history, the military has long been regarded by most Hokkien-speaking Taiwanese (those whose ancestors moved to the island from the 17th century, as opposed to the so-called Mainlanders who arrived from mainland China in following the 1949 KMT defeat at the hands of the Communists) as being the “KMT army.” The extent to which this perception persists is very much of interest when determining the civil–military relationship in Taiwan. Thus, conditions exist for low popular regard for the military, especially as regards a military career. There exists a situation in which Taiwan society has moved forward, both economically as well as politically, from dictatorship, through democratization, and into a truly open and free society dedicated to fairness and equality, and yet the security situation remains unchanged, with the threat of invasion remaining ever-present. As a result, the military tasked with confronting this threat has remained one of the largest social organs on the island resistant to change.

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Abstract

This first chapter provides a background on the theoretical framework employed in this research. The postmodern military model (PMMM), promulgated by Moskos, Williams, and Segal, posits that militaries faced with a shift from the threat perception of enemy invasion or nuclear attack to primarily nontraditional threats such as terrorism and ethnic violence undergo changes to their force structure, personnel requirements, and their relationship to the wider society. The model was originally developed as a means of examining the changes taking place in the US military by establishing a framework for military transformation, from the mass standing army dedicated to warfighting that was marked by a different ethos than the civilian society which it was charged with protecting, to a more multipurpose force marked by the professional soldier, more civilian interpenetration, and responding to a very different threat profile. Many militaries have undergone such a shift, primarily those of the western European and North American nations, as they and their associated societies transitioned into the postmodern era. The questions of interest in the current book are how Taiwan’s military scores according to this theoretical framework. Moskos is one of the world’s foremost military sociologists and his theories have been essential in our understanding of civil–military relations, and so it is important for planners and policymakers in Taiwan to take such scholarship into account as they see their society evolving toward postmodernism and attempt to push their military to follow.

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Abstract

To understand Taiwan society, it is important to develop an appreciation for the competing forces in the identity question. This is often boiled down to Chinese vs Taiwanese, but it goes much deeper than that, with implications for political identification and aspirations for the future of the island nation. Most previous studies look at ethnicity and ethnic identification within the context of a multicultural, multiethnic society such as the United States or Canada. The dynamic is extremely different in a largely homogeneous society (despite self-identification as either Mainlander or Taiwanese, both are, in strict racial terms, considered Han Chinese) such as that in Taiwan, and indeed most East Asian countries. Perspective matters as well: While the Taiwanese identity is growing according to recent polling data, both the Chinese in China and those who identify as Chinese in Taiwan tend to view the Taiwanese (Hokkien speakers) themselves as just another group of Han Chinese people. The migration of Chinese people to Taiwan did not begin until the 17th century, when the Dutch colonialists attracted (and in some cases, kidnapped) Chinese farmers from Fujian and Guangzhou provinces to work the plantations they had established. Thus, the Taiwanese people today are the descendants of these and subsequent waves of immigration during the Qing dynasty, along with a high degree of intermarriage with the indigenous population. These differing paradigms of self-identification have a tremendous importance in perception of the ROC military, the threat it faces, and the role it ought to play in society.

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Abstract

The China threat is the first and most obvious answer when it comes to the question of threat perception in Taiwan, but the issue encompasses much more. The ruling elite for years considered the subject population a threat, for example, and even the nature and severity of the China threat varies greatly depending on an individual’s identification. How do those who identify as Taiwanese see the consequences of an attack from China? There is a very different threat perception among the Taiwanese population, who view annexation by China in much the same way as their Mainlander counterparts would see annexation by Japan, for example. Persons self-identifying as Taiwanese do not view themselves as being culturally the same as the people across the Taiwan Strait, having grown apart from them (in a cultural sense) over the past 120 years that they have been separated. Moreover, after Taiwan’s long history of being colonized by one alien power after another – from the Dutch and Spanish, to Koxinga, and then the Manchu dynasty; by the Japanese; and finally by the KMT (for being colonized is how many Taiwanese perceive the ROC period) – finally the inhabitants of the island have the opportunity to chart their own future, and enjoy a newfound sovereignty and identity separate from that of any colonizing power: thus the prospect of being colonized by China is anathema, and therefore a much greater existential threat for them than for Mainlanders.

Abstract

Force Structure is an important aspect of the PMMM and helps define the nature of civil–military relations. It is in the realm of conscription that the dimension of force structure finds particular relevance in the Taiwan context. Moreover, while there have been military restructuring projects and programs that have made detailed changes one way or the other, the big picture remains: Taiwan’s is a conscript-based military. Therefore, it is this aspect of force structure wherein the importance of public perception lies, and the results of this research show that attitudes toward military conscription are impacted significantly by self-identification, with the vast majority wanting the ROC government to keep conscription, rather than moving forward with the All-Volunteer Force transformation. In terms of the attitudes toward conscientious objection, results show that the younger a respondent is, the more they support conscientious objection. Moreover, the more supportive a respondent is to women serving in the military, the more they support conscientious objection. Taken together, this would seem to indicate that citizens, especially young people, regard the matter of military service as a choice that should be made by the individual in question – either male or female. Given the fact of conscription, persons with a valid reason for conscientiously objecting should not be forced to serve, or punished if they refuse to do so. Thus it seems that people recognize a need for conscription, whether as a means to promote good citizenship habits among young men, or because of the China threat, but that opting out of such a system should be accommodated.

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Abstract

The vast majority of respondents see the role of the military as one of defense. The role of defending against attack from China is larger in all groups, although interestingly, those with parents from the mainland tend to think the army’s role is to defend “against another country,” and not necessarily to defend against China. The difference between identifying the name of the enemy and not doing so is of little practical difference, but an inability to articulate the name of the enemy is at odds with the military’s role to unambiguously defend the nation against exterior threats. Moreover, the close ties that have developed in recent years between the KMT and the CCP, coupled with the preponderance of old-guard thinking within the military, threaten to muddy the waters and cause the general population to see the military as an anachronistic, out-of-touch institution that is not in tune with the realities of the threat facing Taiwan. This would have detrimental effects on recruitment, retention, and morale within the military, and with its place in society. Given the history of animosity between the ROC military’s traditional role and the trend toward localization, it is little wonder that the survey results show that people are concerned about confusion in national identity, especially as regarding how it impacts the military. There appears to be an across-the-board consensus that the main problem facing today’s ROC military is confusion about national identity, with 38.1 percent of respondents choosing this option to best represent their belief about where the problem lies.

Abstract

The dominant military professional undergoes a shift in order to exercise the most effective leadership in a new threat environment. Moskos et al. identified how the focus of the dominant military professional changed from the modern period from one of a combat leader proficient in the art of war and in exercising effective leadership under combat conditions, to a more managerial role in the late modern military, and thence to a skill set heavy on diplomacy and scholarship in the postmodern era. Most examinations of civilian employees in the military are focused on civilian (i.e., ministerial) control, but the issue goes much deeper, and includes among other things the need to hire technologists and technicians for today’s modern electronic weapons systems, laborers to free up conscripts for training, and civilian contractors at all levels. Until Taiwan’s democratization, the degree of civilian employment in the armed forces was negligible. Those that did operate in conjunction with serving members were very much divided along the same lines as officers and men; with two types of civilian contractors: officer-type and soldier-type. Thus, the pattern of civilian employees in the ROC military appears to be concentrated at the high end and the low end – the high end being the planning and decision-making within the defense organization, and at the low end with clerks and other soldier-type employees. The ROC military’s limited budget makes service members a more viable option, keeping the penetration of civilian employees into the operational side of military operations down to a minor component.

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Abstract

The traditional military experience is one in which the military provides the soldier with all the good things in life, including a role for spouses. Increasingly, however, as militaries modernize, they become more occupational and less institutional, and these traditional patterns break down. In the immediate post-war period, the issue of spouses and families was one that was strictly institutionally controlled, at least in the lives of rank-and-file soldiers. Soldiers were forbidden to marry in the late 1940s and early 1950s, with the reason cited for this being the national effort to retake the mainland. Presumably, it was feared that the psychological effect of “settling down” in Taiwan would dampen the soldiers’ zeal to leave the island in order to recapture the Chinese homeland from the Communists. It was much easier in this era for officers to marry, and in fact, marriages followed the pattern described by Moskos et al. of an institutional arrangement, with spouses playing an integral role to the military life. Starting in the 1950s, the National Women’s League – an organization made up mostly of officers’ wives – contributed to the overall military effort and the upkeep of morale by running charity drives, sewing uniforms, caring for injured servicemen, and providing classes. The group’s centrality to the military experience declined in the mid-1970s, but it continues its work even today, albeit in a less influential form.

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Abstract

This chapter will include a look at the feminist perspective on female participation in combat roles, at the traditional role of women in Chinese culture, as well as an examination of how that role has changed with Taiwan’s modernization with respect to gender equality in Taiwan society, the women’s movement in Taiwan, and the forces that led to the growth of women in the workforce and in the ROC military. It is perhaps not surprising that militaries do not lead the wider society in participation by women, but rather follow. Taiwan is no exception, although for such a traditional society, the advancements made by women in Taiwan have been rapid and impressive. Unlike in the West, women in Taiwan did not join the workforce until relatively recently. In traditional Chinese societies, women are considered − at least on the surface − as housebound, second-class citizens whose value lies in obedience first to fathers, then husbands, and finally sons. From the 1950s to the early 1990s, there was a separate corps for female volunteers, and the role played by women was mostly restricted to nursing and working in the political warfare department. With Taiwan’s democratization, came the opening of a few military occupations to women, including logistics, combat support, and air-tower control. Until just a few years ago, women still faced barriers to attending Command and Staff Colleges and National Defense University’s War College, which are prerequisites for promotion, although those barriers were removed allowing women to gain admittance to these institutes of higher learning alongside their male colleagues.

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Abstract

Homosexual activity in the military has long been dealt with harshly in the military by superiors and peers, yet officially at least, homosexuals seem to be largely ignored in the ROC army, almost as much are they are genuinely accepted by Taiwan society. Thus this dimension can be assessed as being in the realm of the postmodern military. Taiwan is a traditional Confucian-influenced society, and yet it recently became the first Asian nation to recognize same-sex marriage. The military, moreover, is a very conservative, risk-averse institution within society, and the way in which homosexuals are treated is illustrative of civil–military relations. The issue of homosexuals serving in the ROC military has not received the frank discussion that it deserves, neither in the academic literature nor in wider society. The vast majority (58.5 percent) of respondents in the current research expressed a preference for what essentially amounts to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as had been practiced in the United States military until the turn of the century. An impressive 30.8 percent expressed the belief that homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly, while just 10.7 percent said they believed that homosexuals should be kicked out of the military. Overall, these results confirm what has already been observed and paint Taiwan as a nation that is remarkably tolerant of homosexuality – especially in comparison with its East Asian neighbors. By connecting with the media, popular culture, and postmodernism, gay/lesbian/queer movements on the island have succeeded in presenting their community as avant-garde, trendy, and most progressive on the cultural front.

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Abstract

Perhaps the most important aspect of civil–military relations, with implication for all other dimensions of this relationship, is how the public perceives the military and its role. This research uncovered some interesting patterns in this relationship, an understanding of which is crucial to solving the problems faced by the ROC military today. Results of this research illuminate an ambivalence in attitudes toward the military. As Moskos has amply demonstrated, militaries can be a part of society, or separate from the society they serve. During the 38 years of martial law, the military essentially controlled public perception through outright control of the island’s media. Today, with the post-democratization emergence of a free press, the military is constantly being excoriated by the media. It is important to determine the degree to which the general population believes this harsh coverage is justified, or do people think that the military does not deserve to be treated so shabbily by the media. Results of this research indicate that the more strongly one identifies as Taiwanese, the less likely he is to view the media as being unfair to the military in its coverage. Perception of the media’s coverage of the military is therefore impacted significantly by self-identification, as confirmed by these results: with those self-identifying as Taiwanese believing that the media harshness is warranted in covering the military. This is not an unexpected result, given that, as mentioned above, the military is widely seen as having been the KMT army, and antithetical to the push for independence, or at least localization.

Summary of Findings

Pages 151-159
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Abstract

This study is aimed at assessing the ROC military using the PMMM according to the perceptions of the citizens of Taiwan. The patterns that can be detected in Taiwan’s military show that it paradoxically spans three distinct stages: the modern, late modern, and postmodern. Taiwan’s is a modern military in terms of perceived threat, force structure, major mission definition, and civilian employees. It can be regarded as more of a late-modern model in the dimensions of dominant military professional, public attitude, and women’s role. Lastly, it achieves a postmodern designation as regards the role of spouses, homosexuals, conscientious objection, and media relations. In all, this paints a picture of a fractured military culture: one between two worlds. This should not be surprising: to many in Taiwan, Taiwan itself is a fractured culture, seeking to define its identity, and find its place in the world, and in history. In the dimensions in which Taiwan rates as a modern military, we can see this is driven by external factors. The geopolitical scenario in which the nation finds itself, that is, under threat of invasion by a numerically and technologically superior foe, is very much a pre-Cold War scenario. It exhibits a late-modern model in the dimensions of public attitude and women’s role, and a postmodern model when it comes to the role of spouses, homosexuals, conscientious objection, and media relations – all factors that are related primarily to how the military interacts with the society it protects. Thus, we have a bifurcated profile. The ROC military must, as it does, focus on a modern-era threat perception, just as it must, as it does, focus on a postmodern-era approach to women and homosexuals in the military.

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Abstract

The volume concludes by offering a number of policy recommendations that would help to improve morale in the ROC armed forces and make it a social institution that garners more respect from the public. While most such studies focus on strategic recommendations and weapons purchases, what is provided here is essentially about creating a new military ethic, one that makes the military more relevant to today’s society while meeting its purpose of defending against external attack. The ethic and character of the ROC military is very much focused on the ideals expounded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen and the Three Principles of the People. While these are laudable ethical underpinnings for an organization with its roots in China, they are anachronistic in today’s Taiwan, and do not represent the values of modern young people. While there is very little agreement among the nation’s ethnic groups and political philosophies, there is one thing that unites Taiwan people of all stripes, be they Hoklo or Hakka, Mainlander or Taiwanese, and indigenous person or modern urbanite: the land. It is the land of Taiwan that represents home and hearth, and thus the focus of any cultural shift within the organization that is the ROC military should be one that focuses on the military’s purpose of defending this land. All other policy recommendations described in this chapter stem from this paradigm, whether it be how to handle conscription and training, or the establishment of youth programs and ethnic indigenous regiments.

References

Pages 181-193
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Index

Pages 195-201
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Cover of Civil-Military Relations in Taiwan
DOI
10.1108/9781787564794
Publication date
2018-09-07
Author
ISBN
978-1-78756-482-4
eISBN
978-1-78756-479-4