Mon, Apr 22, 2019 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: China seeking win with information warfare: professor

Puma Shen, an assistant professor in National Taipei University’s Graduate School of Criminology, in an interview with “Liberty Times” (sister newspaper of the “Taipei Times”) reporter Chen Yu-fu said that the government should consider an anti-infiltration bill to counter China’s information warfare

Puma Shen, an assistant professor in National Taipei University’s Graduate School of Criminology, speaks during an interview in Taipei on April 9.

Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): You and your research team have found that China has used cybertactics similar to those of Russia against Taiwan. How far has the information war against Taiwan gone?

Puma Shen (沈伯洋): Information warfare has as its goal victory without military resistance. It is a component of hybrid and unrestricted warfare. The “united front” strategy paves the way for expansion or promoting unification with China at a time of peace.

Russia and China each have their own models. The two countries might be learning from each other. Russia has used this type of power to intrude into the Baltic states and Ukraine. China has also engaged in “united front” infiltration work against the US, Canada and Australia.

Wanting to influence voters through information warfare has happened before. Recently, many Facebook pages in Taiwan have been acquired. It looks like there is a demand for acquiring fan pages. It could also be that overseas Taiwanese businesspeople are paying public relations and marketing companies to acquire the pages to sell to China.

China has infiltrated US think tanks and purchased local Chinese-language newspapers.

These are real cases and some constitute information warfare.

These methods might be used in Taiwan, but just as Confucius Institutes are not used in Taiwan, the method might not be exactly the same.

Taiwan’s temple system, as well as the ranks of village and borough wardens, have clearly been infiltrated by baishoutao [白手套, literally “white gloves,” or middlemen employed as fronts for illegal behavior] and specific political groups or parties.

China has matured its information warfare. Since the 1990s, it has been discussing information warfare. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has stolen Taiwanese data, including household registrations, driver’s licenses, and information on neighborhoods and boroughs.

There is no real military need for this data. China’s “Internet” can provide personal data to the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee and allow other “united front” units to get a grasp on the lifestyle preferences of Taiwanese and engage in political marketing. Right now, false information constantly appears in Taiwan and has already reached a serious level.

LT: What is the mode of China’s information warfare against Taiwan? Taiwanese seem to be unaware. What signs are there?

Chen: The first step to proving information warfare is to understand the other side’s organizational structure and to observe whether large amounts of personal data have been collected as a starting point for the warfare.

The second is to establish a warfare model.

In relation to the manipulation of elections in Taiwan, this would include markets, rumors in neighborhoods and boroughs, the use of content farms and cooperation among traditional media. Recently, content farms have been hit first, followed by traditional media outlets, which is different how the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have operated in the past.

Information warfare and “united front” tactics must be paired with a trust mechanism. It is useless to simply produce zhangbeitu [長輩圖, literally “senior images,” or inspirational quotes superimposed on images whose circulation is said to be most common among elderly people]. They must be released through fan pages and Line chats groups that people trust for them to be effective.

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