Sun, Oct 28, 2018 - Page 3 News List

China restarts propaganda: academics

REPORTERS WOOED:Professor Shih Cheng-feng said that media manipulation was crucial to Beijing, but intimidation tactics could backfire in elections next month

By Chung Li-hua and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A female honor guard of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army marches past the entrance to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 7.

Photo: China News Service via CNA

Academics yesterday said that China has renewed its propaganda campaign against Taiwan after China’s Taiwan Affairs Office invited Internet-based Taiwanese journalists to attend military demonstrations by a unit of the Beijing Military Region on Sunday last week.

A media exchange program from Oct. 18 to Nov. 12 was to showcase the accomplishments of Chinese reforms, with Taiwanese and Chinese Web-based news outlets invited, Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said prior to the event.

However, Chinese media reported that it was the first time members of the Taiwanese media were invited to a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) demonstration.

The PLA took photographs of its troops alongside Taiwanese reporters, while the commander of the unnamed Chinese battalion, identified as Liang Huaikun (梁懷琨), made a speech about the unit’s history, Chinese media reports said.

The journalists were feted with military music and invited to watch demonstrations of marksmanship, climbing and hand-to-hand combat, Taiwanese Internet-based media outlets reported.

The troops were part of the PLA’s Red Fourth Company tasked with performing demonstrations for foreign press and dignitaries, the reports said.

As no PLA statement was reported by Taiwanese media, no definitive conclusion could be drawn about China’s intentions, said Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩), a retired navy officer who captained fast-attack craft Hsin Chiang and was an instructor at the Republic of China Naval Academy.

However, PLA doctrine emphasizes waging war in the realms of public opinion, psychology and law, and it is highly probable that the event was a psychological warfare operation, Lu said.

Beijing has been pursuing a relentless campaign to intimidate the nation, with the news media being a prime target, said Chen Shih-min (陳世民), an associate professor of political science at National Taiwan University.

“Inviting Taiwanese media to the exercise was a show of force intended to create an image of invulnerability around the Chinese military and induce defeatism in Taiwan,” Chen said.

National Dong Hwa University professor Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) said the use of propaganda was crucial in the Chinese Communist Party’s rise to power and the media event was the latest in a long line of similar operations.

The timing of Beijing’s saber-rattling was unwise, Shih said, adding that attempts to intimidate the nation so close to the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections could result in blowback from voters against China.

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