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Taiwan's military problem a question of basic economics

President Ma Ying-jeou pointed out yesterday that it would be impractical for Taiwan to compare the number of its servicemen with that of its “possible enemies.”

The only threat to this island is of course the People's Liberation Army, the largest military force in the entire world.

According to the president, the percentage of servicemen in Taiwan compared to the island's population will stand at roughly 0.9 percent by the end of this year, i.e. 215,000.

On one side is an island of 2.3 million people, and on the other a land mass of 1.35 billion people. The impracticality of the former trying to maintain a military of comparable size with the latter should be self-evident.

When the Nationalist Government came to Taiwan, the size of its military was roughly one-tenth of the island's population. While the island can of course make an attempt at establishing a military with the same servicemen-to-population ratio, the amount of revenue spent on such an endeavor would be “considerable” to say the very least. Take the number of military personnel that the island has now and multiply that number by 10 — that's 10 times the number of people that need to be fed, clothed, housed, equipped, paid salaries and ultimately given pensions.

The only way to sustain a military of that size would be either to raise taxes “considerably” or completely restructure government spending.

If one believes that the government is not doing enough to protect the environment, take care of the disadvantaged, provide children with a better education, etc., one can forget about all of it if Taiwan were to decide to try and balance the amount of its servicemen with that of mainland China.

Even if one were prepared to go to extremes, the PLA could always decide to ante up. There are, as was mentioned before, only 1.35 billion people across the strait.

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