The Taiwanese Military
The Republic of China (ROC or Taiwan) enters the new millennium as an economic powerhouse and one of the world's fledgling democracies. In fact, Taiwan is now described officially by the U. S. Department of State as a “multiparty democracy. ” In March 2000 the island elected a new president—the first opposition candidate to win the office of the presidency in the history of the ROC. It is clear that momentous changes have come to Taiwan. Dramatic transformations in Taiwan's armed forces have accompanied these changes.
Officials in Taipei take a broad view of the island's security goals. According to Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND), the “ultimate national objective” of the government is “to attain the ideal of the Three People's Principles, or in other words, to attain the ideal of freedom, democracy, and equal wealth for the people of the [Chinese] nation. ” 1 The MND emphasizes that “these ultimate objectives will never be changed. ” 2 However, the means employed to obtain these goals have changed significantly.
After suffering a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of the Chinese Communists, the ROC government retreated to Taiwan in 1949. During the early 1950s, the people were told that the island would serve as a staging area to retake mainland China. Kao Chinglien, an eighty-nine-year-old veteran, lamented that “at that time we thought we could go back immediately. ” 3
The growing power of the PRC eventually led Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to conclude that the means of returning would have to be “70 percent political. ” However, he never abandoned his dream of “national recovery and national reconstruction. ” 4 Chiang's successor,