Panelists Answer the Question, ‘Is Taiwan Ready for War?’

A bald man at a podium addresses an audience while four people sit in chairs to his right.
Schar School Associate Professor Michael Hunzeker, right, introduces the ‘Is Taiwan Ready for War?’ panel. Photo by Buzz McClain/Schar School of Policy and Government

China’s recent aggressive actions toward Taiwan have raised questions as to the readiness of the island nation to defend itself with its existing military. A capacity audience attended a special afternoon panel discussion on Tuesday, October 11, addressing that existential threat hosted by the Schar School of Policy and Government’s Center for Security Policy Studies at Mason Square. The title was simply “Is Taiwan Ready for War?” 

Schar School Associate Professor Michael Hunzeker moderated the discussion. Panelists included former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development Elbridge Colby; Taiwan-based journalist and research fellow at the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation Paul Huang; Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) James Huang, a Taiwan-based defense commentator and former officer in the Republic of China (Taiwan) Army; and Senior Fellow, Codirector of the East Asia Program, and Director of the China Program at the Stimson Center Yun Sun.

  • At the moment, Taiwan has “zero deployment, [zero] use of drones for any army artillery, [zero] armor, and [zero] mechanized infantry units. It has serious logistic shortcomings and poor readiness,” said Paul Huang. In the last five years, some 16,000 volunteers have left the military, he added.
  • Budget cuts also harm the defense capabilities. James Huang noted that the Taiwanese military was always small and hardly mighty, but has gone “from bad to worse. We have to rob Peter to pay Paul for almost everything.”
  • Why Taiwan needs to be ready to defend itself against Chinese control is important to the U.S., Colby noted. “If Taiwan is left to itself, it is gone,” he said, adding, “The best way to draw American aid is for Taiwan to be ready to fight hard and effectively.”