Taiwanese billionaire offers to bankroll new citizen army to defend against China

'Citizen warriors' is how Taiwanese billionaire Robert Tsao describes his would-be recruits, ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine reports.

For people in Taiwan, the threat from China is an everyday experience, and watching what has happened to Ukraine at the hands of its larger neighbour is only increasing their concern.

China has the world's largest military, with two million active soldiers, compared with Taiwan's considerably smaller force of 169,000 soldiers.

Overshadowed by China's military might, one of Taiwan's richest men is leading a civilian resistance and is stumping up millions to fund "citizen warriors".

Robert Tsao wants his fellow Taiwanese to be ready to fight like Ukrainians if they have to and as founder and former chairman of chip maker United Microelectronics Corp, he has said he would donate millions to "jumpstart" a programme to train three million reserves - one third of households.

Taiwan, with more than 1.6 million reserves - the biggest in the world - has the upper hand when it comes to reserve forces. China, meanwhile, can only call upon around a third of that number.

New recruits to the Kuma Academy - whose symbol is a bear with a rifle - are taught basic skills, such as how to treat battlefield injuries.

Mr Tsao made his millions from high end microchips - his company one of those that made the small island the 15th largest economy in the world.

Robert Tsao is funding 'citizen warriors' as the threat from China grows. Credit: ITV News

Taiwan remains the world's largest producers of high end microchip, giving it what some call "a silicone shield" as China and the US's economies would collapse without the microchips.

Taiwan is an island off the coast of China which is a self-governing democracy.

However China refuses to recognise the island as independent and claims it as part of its territory.

New recruits being taught how to treat battlefield injuries. Credit: ITV News

Tensions have escalated in the region recently with the Chinese becoming more aggressive and assertive. Their military drills involving ships, jets and missiles, have been getting closer and closer to Taiwan.

There are global fears that Chinese President Xi Jingping could emulate Russian President Vladimir Putin and order an invasion of territory his nation regards as its own.

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