Sun, Jun 09, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: The airwaves of ‘freedom’

Broadcast propaganda, whether using loudspeakers or radio stations, was one of the main psychological warfare tactics used against China between 1949 and 1991; the Golden Bell Awards even had a category specifically for such programs

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

The Beishan Broadcast Wall in Kinmen made daily propaganda announcements toward China.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

JUNE 10 to JUNE 16

With programs such as Taiwan’s Advancements and Every Road Leads to Freedom, the Matsu Broadcasting Station (馬祖廣播電台) commenced its daily broadcasts toward the coast of China’s Fujian Province on June 15, 1959.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, then-political warfare bureau chief Chiang Chien-jen (蔣堅忍) announced the station’s objectives: to provide entertainment to the soldiers stationed on the tiny island off the coast of China and to “broadcast the voice of justice and freedom to sway the hearts of our compatriots on the mainland.”

According to the Chronicle of Lianjiang County (連江縣誌), that year the station broadcast 1,872 hours of propaganda, leading to 53 communist defections.

Although Taiwan had been broadcasting propaganda to China since 1949, the station’s establishment was part of a nationwide effort in 1959 to ramp up its psychological warfare operations. In Matsu, this included upgrading the existing loudspeakers and setting up a facility to send balloons containing propaganda messages.


The 1960s official booklet Radio Psychological Warfare (廣播心戰) details the spirit behind such propaganda broadcasts.

Its introduction reads: “The 700 million people on the mainland are our compatriots, and most of them are potential revolutionary forces who are determined to oppose Mao [Zedong (毛澤東)] and communism. We should show them our concern instead of reprimanding them; comfort them instead of aggravating them; cheer them on instead of bringing them down. We need to repeatedly reassure them that, ‘President Chiang [Kai-shek (蔣介石)] will definitely return and save our suffering compatriots.’”

In May 1954, the Central Broadcasting System’s (中央廣播電台) China division was upgraded to department status, with a psychological warfare team of 80-odd members from various institutions, including a number of former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) soldiers who chose to come to Taiwan after the Korean War.

The department laid out 10 principles, which entailed destroying communism with freedom, dignity and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) founder Sun Yat-sen’s (孫逸仙) Three Principles of the People (三民主義). Long-term themes included “the advancement and growth of Free China,” “traditional Chinese culture and morals,” examining “the crimes of the CCP’s violent rule” and “persuading youth to renounce communism.”

With American support, the broadcasts reached as far as Tibet, with programming in Mandarin, Cantonese, Hoklo, Hakka, Shanghainese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Uighur and Russian.

The booklet states that “despite the strict postal censorship by the CCP, our listeners in China are willing to risk their lives to send us mail.” Most of the mail in 1967 came from coastal areas in China’s Guangdong and Fujian provinces, sent by young intellectuals and CCP officials.

“Eighty percent of the letters consist of reports on anti-communist activity. They want to establish contact and receive our support, and most importantly they want us to provide them with missions… The rest are accusations of CCP violence, various intel and requests for aid.”

While the CCP was commonly referred to as “communist bandits” in Taiwan, the broadcasts used neutral or friendly terms instead, leading some domestic listeners to accuse the government of trying to be chummy with the enemy.

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