It's Time to Buy

David Hartung for TIME.

Taiwanese naval crewmen work in the engine room of the Hai-pao, a 1946 submarine

The Hai-Pao, one of Taiwan's top-of-the-line battle submarines, is cramped, underpowered and, by today's standards of warfare, about as lethal as a wind-up bathtub toy. When Taiwanese Captain Chi Ming-ling dares to take the World War II vintage sub down to its maximum depth—which is a piddling 180 m—the hull groans ominously and the antique brass valves sometimes burst, flooding the cabin with seawater. "We prefer not to dive so much," Chi says, a sorry admission for a sub captain. "Truthfully, this submarine belongs in a museum."

It is, in a way: Taiwan loves showing off the Hai-pao as Exhibit A in...

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