An official with Taiwan's Defense Ministry shows a new backpack designed for the use of infantry regiments. Photo: Taipei Times

Taiwan’s media have revealed that about 13,700 meters of nylon fabric to be used for military backpacks for the Taiwanese army were almost shipped to mainland China, but for a last-minute intervention by the island’s Defense Ministry.

The ministry contracted the supplier, whose name was not disclosed, who initially planned to ship the cloth from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to a garment factory in southern China’s Guangdong province for further processing.

The Armament Bureau’s Manufacturing Center under Taiwan’s Defense Ministry outsourced the manufacturing of up to 36,000 military backpacks and other camouflage suits to the company and reportedly transferred the special-purpose nylon fabric to the supplier last week.

But the bureau panicked when it realized that the supplier was arranging to ship the military-grade thermoplastic material to Guangdong for further processing, even though the contract had stipulated that all backpacks must be made on the island.

The camouflage backpack. Photo: Handout

The Defense Ministry and the Kaohsiung Customs Administration then managed to identify the container carrying the fabric as it was about to leave for China.

In an unofficial comment, the ministry told the Taipei Times that even though the fabric was not considered “classified,” the consequences could have been bad if the fabric had landed in China.

The new backpacks are designed to carry a load of 50 kilograms or more and to hold a soldier’s battle gear – including a helmet, clothes, water jug, ammunition and shoes.

The island’s semi-official Central News Agency cited an unnamed source in the Defense Ministry as saying that the fabric could have been intercepted and confiscated by Guangdong Customs or adulterated with inferior materials by the subcontractor there.

But some observers ridiculed the ministry’s caution, saying it was a case of “anything made in China could not be trusted,” even something as “low-tech” as backpacks.