Taiwan is intensifying its preparations for a possible Chinese attack. In the area of satellite communications in particular, the government of the island state is taking its cue from the Ukrainian response to the Russian attack. As part of the preparations, its own Starlink-style satellite Internet is now to be set up.
Preparations for a possible Chinese attack
China’s Communist Party, led by dictator Xi Jinping, considers Taiwan to be part of China’s territory – and repeatedly openly threatens to attack. Thus, military exercises are repeatedly held near Taiwan, and Chinese military ships and aircraft enter Taiwan’s territory. Especially since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the fear of a Chinese attack on Taiwan has grown.
The island state has therefore significantly intensified its preparations for such an eventuality. As part of this, it is now planning to set up its own satellite network, which can be used to ensure communications in an emergency. Taiwan’s space agency, which was recently renamed and is now to be restructured, is leading the effort. The current department for satellites in low Earth orbit is to be outsourced to a company. This is to build – also financed by private investment – a satellite network along the lines of Starlink.
Starlink has proven itself
Starlink has been expanded by the SpaceX company since 2019. In the wake of the war in Ukraine, it has been able to prove its worth: Internet access for the people of Ukraine is ensured via Starlink, as is Internet coverage for the Ukrainian military. This makes it possible to exchange strategic messages and receive information from the government. The speeches of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj can also be transmitted only thanks to the Starlink connection. Russia has not found any means to stop this type of communication.
The biggest problem with Starlink is that the SpaceX company is owned by Elon Musk. The billionaire is not pursuing humanitarian interests with the company, but purely economic ones. This has been demonstrated, for example, by the fact that the price for new customers from Ukraine almost doubled during the war. In addition, there were massive shutdowns of Ukrainian terminals – due to unpaid bills caused by the war. The country’s Internet supply, which is central to both military success against Russia and protection of civilians, is in Musk’s hands.
Taiwan could get around this fundamental problem by developing its own satellite project. However, the success of the endeavor is by no means certain. For example, a functioning satellite Internet requires numerous satellites and a long preparation period. Enormous financial resources are also needed. Meanwhile, the EU is also planning to develop its own Starlink alternative so as not to be dependent on Musk.