A report by the Institute of National Defense and Security Research details how China has expanded its “united front” efforts to annex Taiwan. The report says Beijing is increasingly employing emergent media on Web-based platforms to spread propaganda and influence younger Taiwanese.
China is using metadata and artificial intelligence to analyze the content that younger Taiwanese consume online to target them with a more sympathetic view of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its achievements, and these efforts will only intensify, the report says.
Immediately following World War II, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) demonized the CCP, but there was still a strong identity with China among the populace. Then, for several decades, this was cultivated under the KMT, which viewed the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan as China’s true representative.
Over the past two decades, the antipathy between the CCP and the KMT has declined. Beijing has been using the allure of economic prosperity — promoting further engagement and eventual unification through economic inducements and greater political, financial and business ties — to attract Taiwan’s export-reliant industries.
While Taiwan’s post-democracy generation has become “naturally independence-leaning,” identifying more — or even exclusively — with Taiwan, Beijing has countered by expanding its propaganda efforts into forums and platforms more frequented and readily understood by the younger generation.
While uniquely relevant to all Taiwanese concerned with the nation’s sovereignty, this comprehensive, coordinated “united front” effort could be seen as one small, targeted part of what FBI Director Christopher Wray identified at last year’s Aspen Security Forum as Beijing’s efforts to position China as “the sole dominant superpower, the sole dominant economic power” in the world.
These efforts are what former US undersecretary of defense for intelligence Marcel Lettre, at the same forum, termed as Beijing’s “whole-of-government, whole-of-system, whole-of-state” approach.
Just as the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is aware of the nuanced threat that the CCP poses to Taiwan, the US administration is cognizant of the CCP’s agenda.
The US is increasingly prepared to confront Beijing: its trade dispute, the announcement of a US$2 billion arms sales package to Taiwan, the increased frequency of “freedom of passage” maneuvers in the South China Sea, high-level visits between Taiwanese and US officials, and the banning of Huawei Technologies Co equipment in 5G infrastructure projects.
Tsai’s resistance to China’s bullying and her good relationship with US officials is likely to have a positive effect on her re-election chances. Her poor relationship with Beijing leaves her vulnerable to criticism.
In a recent interview, the KMT’s presidential primary winner, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), cited his potential for reducing cross-strait tensions, if elected president, as a reason that the US might welcome his victory.
Nobody wants a war, but Han might be misjudging the US’ resolve to stand up to the CCP.
The latest sally in Beijing’s “united front” tactics demonstrates the need for Taiwan, too, to take a coordinated response: a whole-of-government, whole-of-system, whole-of-society approach.
Han will have to account for how he intends to approach the more nuanced aspects of the CCP’s “united front” annexation agenda — concentrating solely on the potential economic gains of increased engagement with China would be wholly inadequate.
Increased trade with China would be a good thing for Taiwan, but not while the CCP is still at the helm.
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