Inspired by Ukraine, Taiwanese civilians study urban warfare and prepare for a possible Chinese invasion: WATCH

Concern about China simmered in Taiwan long before the Russian invasion. China far surpasses Taiwan militarily, with more than a million troops on the ground compared to Taiwan’s 88,000.

A civilian holding a replica Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle during an urban warfare workshop in Linko District, New Taipei City. AFP

New Taipei City: Dressed in military camouflage with an assault rifle in hand, “Prof” Yeh peers behind a vehicle in a parking lot outside Taipei, scanning his surroundings and waiting for a signal to move forward.

Yeh actually works in marketing and his gun is a replica – but he’s spending the weekend attending an urban warfare workshop to prepare for what he sees as the very real threat of a Chinese invasion.

“The Russian-Ukrainian war is a big reason why I came to this workshop,” Yeh, 47, whose call sign during training is “Prof,” told AFP during a meeting. break between sessions.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine in late February, he embodied the darkest fears of many Taiwanese.

The self-governing democracy lives under constant threat from authoritarian China, which considers the island part of its territory and has pledged to take it one day.

But the war in Ukraine also inspired Yeh.

The resilience of Ukrainian forces gave him hope that with the right tactics, Taiwan might also have a chance to hold its own against its much more powerful neighbor.

He’s not alone – organizers of the urban combat course say their students have nearly quadrupled since February. Firearms and first aid courses also saw an increase in enrolment.

– ‘Feeling of crisis’ –

Concern about China simmered in Taiwan long before the Russian invasion.

Max Chiang, CEO of the company running the workshops, said there had been “a heightened sense of crisis” among Taiwanese since 2020, when Chinese warplanes began making regular incursions into the area. aerial identification of the island.

Around 380 sorties were recorded that year, a number that more than doubled in 2021 and is on track to do so again this year, according to an AFP database.

China vastly surpasses Taiwan militarily, with more than a million ground troops to Taiwan’s 88,000, 6,300 tanks to 800 and 1,600 fighter jets to 400, according to the US Department of Defense.

But Ukraine has provided a practical plan to reduce this disparity.

It clearly demonstrated how difficult and costly the struggle for control of cities can be for attacking forces – and most of Taiwan’s 23 million people live in urban areas.

As Yeh and his 15 teammates run in staggered column formation across the parking lot, leaning behind dilapidated buildings and vehicles to simulate attacks on enemy positions, they attempt to practice some of the lessons learned in the devastated cities of ‘Ukraine.

“The best defense is offense,” Yeh stresses, as instructors in bright reflective vests stand nearby to take notes.

“To put it bluntly, annihilate the enemy and halt any enemy advance.”

– ‘The resolution of the people’ –

In a warehouse next to the parking lot, 34-year-old Ruth Lam learns to shoot a handgun for the first time.

Lam, who works at an emergency vehicle lighting maker, said most of his European customers told him there would be no war in Ukraine.

“But it happened,” she said.

She hopes knowing how to handle a firearm could protect her and her family in the event of war, and plans to continue shooting practice with friends.

“Get your umbrella ready before it rains,” she says. “We don’t know when things are going to happen.”

In a survey conducted in May, 61.4% of respondents said they were ready to take up arms in the event of an invasion.

“The will of the Ukrainian people to fight against the aggressors has strengthened the resolve of Taiwanese to protect their homeland,” Chen Kuan-ting, CEO of Taiwanese think tank NextGen Foundation, told AFP.

Lin Ping-yu, a former paratrooper who came to urban warfare “to hone his combat skills,” agrees.

“It is only when the citizens of a country have the strong will and the determination to protect their land that they can convince the international community to come and help them,” says the 38-year-old.

Yeh thinks it’s a question of when, not if, they’ll be called upon to put their new skills into practice.

Citing the example of Hong Kong, where Beijing has struggled to consolidate its grip in recent years, he simply says, “Taiwan is next.”

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