- Many people in Taiwan, which faces the threat of a Chinese invasion, have been seeking out training since the war in Ukraine began.
- Hundreds are participating in civil defense training offered by a national security think tank each month, among other training.
- The training teaches people emergency, not military, response.
The war in Ukraine has been a wake up call for many people in Taiwan who say Russia's invasion of Ukraine reminded them of the potential danger they face from neighboring China, which has not renounced the use of force as an option for achieving its unification goals.
Forward Alliance, a Taiwan-based national security and defense think tank, had planned to offer a civil defense training program — which teaches people emergency response during a attack or natural disaster — beginning in August.
But, after Russian invaded Ukraine, the organization decided to begin offering classes immediately and soon had a waiting list of over 1,000 people. They now host around 15 sessions per month with as many as 500 participants.
"I think the Russian war had a deep effect on Taiwanese people," Pei Zhen, a young woman who participated in the Forward Alliance training, told Axios. She said that before the war in Ukraine, people thought that if the Chinese invaded, they would "have to surrender," but now the people of Taiwan have realized they can learn to defend themselves just like the people of Ukraine.
The classes are taught by first responders — such as medics and firefighters — who instruct participants in basic first aid, on how to properly dress a wound or how to rescue a person trapped under debris; however, the classes do not offer military training, as some groups in Ukraine did before the Russians invaded in late February.
"It's not inspiration per se, but what happened in Ukraine kind of gave us an alert that we probably need to learn about what to do in an emergency," one person told Al Jazeera after a civil defense workshop with Forward Alliance.
Forward Alliance's founder, Enoch Wu, was a soldier in Taiwan's special forces and the Taipei chair of the Democratic Progressive Party. Wu told The Guardian that Taiwan needs people trained in civil defense because "it's the person next to you that's going to matter most" in an emergency.
"Our goal needs to be that every morning when the Beijing leadership wakes up from their China dream, they realize that today is not the day to take military action in Taiwan," Wu told Australian public broadcasting.
In an interview with the New York Times, Wu said despite offering 15 to 20 classes per month, demand for the training is so high that classes fill within hours of registration opening.
"The lesson every Taiwanese is learning from what we are seeing in Ukraine is that we have to defend ourselves, no one else will fight for our democracy like we can," Kolas Yotaka, spokeswoman for Taiwan's presidential office, told Breaking Defense. In addition to private endeavors, Taiwan has conducted several large civilian defense exercises, some this summer.
Foreign policy experts say Beijing is also closely watching how Russia's war in Ukraine plays out to determine how it might approach Taiwan.
CIA director William Burns said China has likely been "unsettled" by the poor performance of Russian troops and the "strategic failure" of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. That said, he added that the chances of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be "higher" in the latter part of the 2020s.
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