Taiwan has been scared of a possible Chinese invasion for around 70 years now and the likelihood of this happening only increases every year due to growing Chinese influence. However unlike Switzerland which is in a similar position (small country surrounded by powerful neighbors), Taiwan is completely averse to the idea of domestic gun ownership and has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world. But wouldn’t putting a rifle in every Taiwanese home act as a powerful deterrent against invasions?

This would of course increase domestic crime and murder rates, but superficially it seems like avoiding Chinese invasion would be more important.


As a Taiwanese I think I can answer with personal experience.

It is not apparent to the people living in Taiwan that gun-ownership would lead to stronger national defense. In fact, I do not think there is compelling evidence that suggest this is the case. If we want to have stronger military capability to defend ourselves then we would increase spending on, well, the military.

Civilian gun-ownership is something we view with fear and anxiety, as you mentioned it increases the likelihood of people being injured in violent crime. And frankly, the Untied States has set a pretty terrible precedence which confirms that fear.

Another reason is that we tend to have relatively high social trust. People generally expect others not to harm each other when they go out. You can head out in the middle of night in flip-flops, buy something in 7/11, and go home without fear of being mugged or robbed, whether it's the cities or countryside.

Also, I think our past with authoritarianism made us suspicious of weaponries. We understand that when a person is handed a powerful weapon, it opens up the possibility to abuse and misuse.

To my knowledge, the only instance in which gun-ownership is legally sanctioned is when indigenous people use it for hunting purposes. Even then, the gun-owner still needs a license and be subjected to strict regulation.

Overall this question feels very out of the blue to me. This is not an ongoing debate in Taiwan politics.


But wouldn’t putting a rifle in every Taiwanese home act as a powerful deterrent against invasions?

This might be the case if rifle-wielding civilians are actually threatening. They aren't, for two reasons:

  1. Military-grade rifles are much more powerful than ordinary rifles.
  2. Civilians are bad at war.

#1 shouldn't be surprising, e.g. one of the rifles an invading Chinese army might have is the QBZ-19, capable of firing 750 (!) rounds per minute. #2 shouldn't be surprising either, since war takes training that civilians don't have. In fact historically, militias have been unable to hold ground against regular forces. Here's an example from the American Civil war. The Union army lost 13 killed, 79 wounded, and 2 missing; the Confederate militia lost 51 dead, 472 wounded, and about 600 captured.

Given that it's no deterrent to invasion, there's no reason to risk the increase in domestic crime and murder rates.

  • 2
    The Swiss allow their reservists to keep their service weapons at home. Israel does the same. I suspect the OP might have intended to ask why that's not done in Taiwan (as they name dropped Israel and Switzerland in comments), but it isn't terribly clear what they meant. Taiwan did have a history of guerilla fighting against the Japanese, but not terribly successfully. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Fizz
    Oct 8 at 6:57
  • 2
    Civilians just defeated the United States military in Afghanistan.
    – Ryan_L
    Oct 8 at 15:58
  • 2
    "Military-grade rifles are much more powerful than ordinary rifles." - This claim is extremely dubious and often times completely wrong, depending on what is meant by "powerful." Civilian hunting rifles often use more powerful cartridges than military ones.
    – Joe
    Oct 13 at 16:30
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation about the Afghanistan conflict has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Oct 30 at 9:13

A Swiss type solution would indeed seem to be a possible approach, especially if coupled with large scale conscription and training. Without it, the idea is rather pointless.

In 1981, all conscripts began serving two years. Ten years later, the conscription period was reduced to twenty-two months, and alternative military service became an option. Between 2004 and 2007, two months were cut from mandatory military service each year, until a total of one year remained in 2008. Service time for men born after 1994 was cut to four months in 2013. The last group of mandatory conscripts were discharged in December 2018.

But implementing a Swiss defense force looks a lot more like the original 2nd Amendment's intent (my bolding) than the current mess the US engages in with regards to granting civilians near-unrestricted access to guns of dubious military efficacy, but great criminal potential:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

At another level, this may not work out as well as planned. It's hard to see the CCP/PLA taking such a home defense force seriously and being dissuaded from invasion beforehand. On the other hand, it is not hard, I think the Uyghurs would agree, to see the CCP/PLA overreacting and killing numerous civilians once they did invade and got some soldiers killed.

European nations probably have more reason to be cautious about the Swiss and Switzerland's rather unique geography plays a role in that as well.

Comparing to Vietnam/Afghanistan resistance

This is easy to claim, but the devil's in the details and they don't match up that well. Here's a stab at a comparison.

Note that "Occupiers", for lack of a better term, were the Americans in Vietnam and Afghanistan, and would be the Mainland Chinese in Taiwan.

Criteria Taiwan Afghanistan Vietnam
critical for occupier probably no no
occupier/resistance ethnic/religious
limited religious
supply chain for occupier 100km 10000km+ 10000km+
land supply chain for resistance _ Pakistan North Vietnam
safe harbor for resistance _ Pakistan North Vietnam/Cambodia
militarized resistance no yes (Taliban) yes (NVA)
occupier government Totalitarian Democracy Democracy
local occupation government Totalitarian flawed "democracy" dictatorship
terrain flat in populated areas mountains jungle
occupier respect for Geneva conventions/civilians likely limited (ask Uyghurs) abuses look bad to voters abuses look bad to voters

From these it would seem massively easier for China to "stay the distance" in Taiwan than it was for the US.

  • This assumes that the ROC goes head to head with West Taiwan all alone. They likely would not. Their resupply is the ocean, which would fast become an inhospitable place for The Peoples' Navy. An armed populace, even a small decentralized militia, would take a toll on PLA conscripts
    – acpilot
    Oct 15 at 5:29

It's hard to say why something isn't happening but some possible reasons include:

  • Not a good, successful history of armed resistance against invaders, e.g. against Japan.

  • The KMT regime was mostly a dictatorship. It killed thousads of its own citizens, especially early on. Taiwan only really democratized relatively recently, with martial law only cancelled in 1987. (Military) dictatorships tend not to favor an armed population.

  • Once you have population not used to a gun culture it's hard to ignite one. The only groups that seems to have had/kept one in Taiwan were some aboriginals (excuse me if it's the wrong term in this context).


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