Sun. May 29th, 2022

Volodymyr Zelensky’s role in leading Ukraine’s resistance against the Russian invasion has inspired Taiwan to adjust its own defense plans against a potential attack from China.

The charismatic Ukrainian president’s video messages to his people from the streets of Kyiv and virtual addresses to foreign governments have helped blunt Russia’s assault, and Taiwan needs its president to emulate him if China invades, senior government officials told the Financial Times.

“Propaganda and political warfare are crucially important in today’s war. Zelensky is showing his people that he is not running and not hiding, ”said one official, who did not want to be named. “That means it is necessary to have our president do the same, showing herself out there instead of being hidden away.”

A second official said Taiwan’s presidential administration and the military were reviewing defense plans to incorporate that strategy.

Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and threatens to take it by force if Taipei resists submitting to its control indefinitely.

According to papers written by Chinese military scholars, an attack on Taiwan would begin with seizing and possibly killing the country’s political and military leaders, including the president. The People’s Liberation Army has built a life-size replica of Taiwan’s presidential palace in Inner Mongolia to drill for such an operation.

Taipei has not made its defense plans public, but Taiwan’s special forces regularly practice countering a “decapitation” strike. According to expertscivilian and military leaders would be taken to underground command and control facilities if an attack was imminent.

“That kind of arrangement is not what is needed. You can see from Ukraine that the leader needs to be out there to boost morale and rally support from abroad, ”the first official said.

“If we do this, it requires a lot of preparation and logistics. Probably those video messages need to be pre-recorded so you can prevent the enemy tracking the president’s location. ”

Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s president, is a soft-spoken technocrat and the art of galvanizing crowds does not come naturally to her. She has carefully avoided moves that Beijing could construe as provocative. However, her determination to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty has won her immense public support.

The latest strategy is being formulated as Taiwan’s public, which has long avoided talking about the possibility of a Chinese attack, has taken a keen interest in the war in Ukraine.

Analysts have argued that concern had created an opportunity to push through unpopular measures to strengthen the country’s defenses. Chiu Kuo-cheng, defense minister, told lawmakers last week that the government was considering extending compulsory military service beyond four months.

Officials of the ruling Democratic Progressive party said Russia’s attack initially scared the Taiwanese, but Ukrainians’ resistance and their ability to deny Russia quick success have emboldened the public, particularly the DPP’s supporters.

In a poll conducted by the DPP last week and obtained by the FT, a majority of respondents said their confidence in Taiwan’s ability to withstand a Chinese attack had risen, reversing sentiment measured two weeks earlier.

The poll also showed that more than 65 per cent of respondents were willing to defend the country if China attacked, a three percentage point increase from last October. Those who said they would not fight dropped four percentage points, to a quarter.

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