The biggest surprise in the campaign for this month’s elections is Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), whose momentum has surged rapidly through his use of the Internet.
This surge is not the result of campaign tricks, fake news or manipulative polling — rather, it is a national security issue showing that Taiwanese public opinion is completely manipulated by the Chinese cyberarmy.
This is a “quasi-state of war” that the government must face head-on.
Chinese interference in Taiwanese elections has been ongoing since the nation’s first direct presidential election in 1996. In the past, Beijing’s rough methods, test-firing guided missiles and issuing armed and verbal threats irritated Taiwanese and prevented China from reaching its goals.
Following a series of failures, its methods have improved, and with the help of the Internet, election campaigns are now a cyberwar against an invisible enemy, and Taiwan is feeling the force and harm caused by the Chinese cyberarmy’s infiltration.
Not long ago, US President Donald Trump told the UN Security Council that China has been trying to influence the US midterm elections, and that the law enforcement agencies are combat-ready in the face of Chinese and Russia-led election intervention.
If this is how China acts in the US, it is not going to let Taiwan off.
Late last month, SET News reported that two media outlets and one online opinion polling company in Taiwan have been backed by Chinese funding to release poll results unfavorable to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) during the campaign.
Mirror Media magazine also reported that intelligence information from a diplomatic ally said that “foreign forces” have launched “information warfare” in an attempt to promote a pro-China slate in the 2020 presidential election, and that the Nov. 24 elections were their first drill.
Through IP addresses around the world, these “foreign forces” are reportedly engaging in cyberwarfare to divide Taiwanese society, and weaken Taiwan politically, militarily and psychologically.
This is just like the 2016 “Russiagate,” when Russia interfered in the US presidential election.
China’s use of the Internet as a propaganda warfare tool has been systematized. Some information supporting or opposing specific Taiwanese candidates is directly sent from China or another country, while other information is “exported” from Taiwan and later “re-imported.”
Beijing first controls the channels and then spreads false information through social media such as Facebook and Line to affect people’s judgement, and their faith in and insistence on democracy.
This strategic attack by the Chinese cyberarmy seriously misleads the public, and so the elections might not reflect the free will of the Taiwanese accurately since public opinion has been distorted and democracy exists in name only.
To hit back at the Chinese cybertroops, the government should begin by telling the public exactly how serious the Chinese infiltration is to obtain strong support in overcoming this national crisis.
Next, it should promptly amend the National Security Act (國家安全法) and draw up an “anti-united front work and infiltration” act to severely punish traitors, while firing back at China’s tactics and infiltration, including the cybertroops, to ensure that Taiwan’s democracy continues to work smoothly.
Finally, we should set up a “cybercommand” similar to that of the US, a dedicated unit with professional capabilities to safeguard national security.
Lau Yi-te is chairman of the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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