The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) single greatest psychological warfare coup has been to instill in many Taiwanese citizens the following three convictions: First, that they are safe from war and can rest soundly at night knowing China will almost certainly never violate their territory. Second, if a Chinese attack did come, Taiwanese independence leaders were probably responsible. Third, Taiwan’s military would be hopelessly outgunned in a war, and it would all be over in a matter of days.
These beliefs are false. In fact, all the available evidence suggests just the opposite. Taiwan is entering into a different and more dangerous future. China’s military is building up to invade, and the CCP might be insane enough to actually break the peace. If so, that stain will be on Chinese authorities, not on Taiwanese officials trying to keep their country free — while somehow getting the world to acknowledge the objective reality of Taiwan’s existence as a legitimate nation state.
Also, contrary to CCP propaganda, you should know that Taiwan’s defeat is anything but certain. The truth is that Taiwanese military power could be sufficient to put up a winning fight. With American assistance and sufficient grit, Taiwan could hold out for as long as it took to defeat the invader.
Yet favorable odds, by themselves, mean little. If enough Taiwanese people perceive the CCP’s lies to be true, they will act accordingly. They will let their guard down. They will be lulled into a state of complacency. They will take peace for granted. They will refuse to take their military and/or civic duties seriously. They will think appeasing China makes sense. They will resent seeing their homeland bullied by Beijing, but feel powerless. What’s the point of trying to win if you know you are only going to lose anyway? What’s the point of fighting for what you believe in when it’s a lost cause?
The main reason Mao Zedong (毛澤東) won the Chinese Civil War was that his side dominated the narrative. He lied. Of course, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and the Nationalists lied too. But Mao and the CCP were far more effective. The lies they told crumbled morale and caused entire divisions to defect. They convinced influential Americans to help the CCP cause by ceasing all support to the United States’ erstwhile ally. Their lies nearly brought down the Republic of China. Had that happened, Taiwan would never have become the shining democracy it is today.
The CCP continues to lie. Only now its propaganda machine is far more powerful than anything Mao could have ever envisioned. China has worked hard and invested massive sums into its global networks of power and influence. As a result, it’s become increasingly difficult to find a major media outlet, movie studio, university, research lab, think tank, or government body anywhere that doesn’t have links to the CCP. Of course, most of them have no clue who they’re dealing with. They think their counterparts are just normal Chinese people. China’s not really a communist country anymore anyways, so why not do business and take their money?
The fact that the greatest mass murderer in human history, Mao Zedong, is on every single Renminbi note should wake folks up. But it doesn’t seem to. Why is that? Maybe it’s because their propaganda is so smooth and convincing. The CCP can put ideas in your head like no other organization on earth.
Chinese propaganda can exploit thoughts and emotions in a way that is terrifying to consider. What makes it so convincing and pernicious is that the victim doesn’t realize they are being manipulated. They don’t know the story behind the story and don’t think to ask. You’d be amazed at what you can turn up with research. But who has the time!
By the way, if you want to know who supports my research, go to the Project 2049 Institute homepage, look at our list of grant contributors, and read our annual reports. Don’t just assume you can trust me because this paper was kind enough to print my words.
The point is that it is healthy to question your assumptions and check your facts. In an age of rampant disinformation, it’s important that you don’t trust, and do verify. Our democracies suffer when we fail to do that.
What if war is coming? What if war comes? What then? It’s long past time our nations sober up and stand together on safer ground. Taiwan needs to affirm and reaffirm its will to defend itself. The US needs to affirm and reaffirm its will to honor its commitments to Taiwan’s survival as a beacon of democracy. Our ability to fight and win is not certain. But our defeat is already sealed if we surrender to Beijing’s lies.
The future is coming and it’s likely to be less kind to us than the present and the past. We can either choose to struggle and shape tomorrow as best we can, or to wait complacently and hope Xi Jinping (習近平) and his advisors don’t wake up one day and decide to roll the iron dice.
The choices we make may decide more than just our own fates. They may bless or curse those of generations that follow us. There are hard decisions coming. They will be informed by beliefs and assumptions shaped at least in part by hostile forces. So what do you think is true? And have you fact checked that?
Ian Easton is a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute and author of The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia (中共攻台大解密).
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