- A young soldier’s suicide reveals the disastrous logistics of an undersupplied army.
As China builds up military forces across the Taiwan strait and vows to take back the island through “any means” necessary, the United States and others hope for a Taiwan that can stand on its own feet against Chinese aggression. But in reality, not only is the Taiwanese military facing a serious shortage of soldiers and an entirely dysfunctional reserve system, as my previous reporting for Foreign Policy revealed, half of its tanks may not be able to run—and even fewer have functional weapons. These failures are costing lives even before China fires a single shot. As Taiwanese politicians showcase flashy U.S. weapons bought with taxpayers’ money, the logistics inside the military remain so abysmal that a young army officer killed himself after being pressured to buy repair parts out of his own pocket.
Huang Zhi-jie was a 30-year-old lieutenant in the Taiwanese army. Initially serving in the airborne troops as an enlisted soldier, Huang was so committed that he requested officer training—normally considered more work for little reward—and was later commissioned as a lieutenant in charge of a maintenance depot of the 269th Mechanized Infantry Brigade. Huang was supposed to be the model soldier of which Taiwan desperately wanted more: a young, college-educated volunteer who chose to serve the country out of his own volition, at a time when the military was still facing difficult transition from conscription to an all-volunteer military.