As part of its “united front” tactics, China has been grooming young Taiwanese to become Internet celebrities or Internet program hosts, a source said on condition of anonymity.
Over the past year, about 1,000 Taiwanese living in China have participated in training programs and competitions for show hosts held in several cities, including Xiamen, Wenzhou and Hangzhou, the source said on Saturday.
“Beijing is taking advantage of the openness of the Internet to spread propaganda about acceptance of China, and about ‘national security,’” the source said, adding that Taiwan’s national security officials are racing to fix the problem.
Chinese infiltration of social media in Taiwan gained momentum in 2019, when it purchased several Taiwanese Facebook pages, and over the past two years it has been employing Taiwanese Internet celebrities to help spread propaganda, the source said.
One show host competition held in Xiamen in December last year — sponsored by the city and China’s Fujian Provincial Government — was part of a five-month program that started in August, and involved training courses and a summer camp, the source said.
A separate training program was held in Wenzhou in December by the city’s Chinese government-run Taiwanese entrepreneurship and employment center, they said.
The government of Zhejiang Province, where Wenzhou is located, has said that it would offer training to 1,200 young Taiwanese, including “at least 30 to host e-commerce” platforms, the source said.
The Hangzhou Taiwan Compatriots-Invested Enterprises Association last year started a three-year show host training program for 1,000 young Taiwanese, they said.
“Beijing has been trying to lure young Taiwanese to China for years now. Since the [COVID-19] pandemic put a halt to that, it has been expanding its Internet influence campaign,” the source said.
China’s motivation to train Internet celebrities and show hosts probably emerged after it ran into legal trouble trying to hire Taiwanese Internet celebrities, they said.
“Basically, Beijing believes that by employing young Taiwanese to spread its propaganda, other Taiwanese will listen,” the source added.
The Anti-infiltration Act (反滲透法), which was passed last year, has a very limited scope, and does not give authorities power to counter Chinese infiltration through the use of sensitive technology or Taiwanese media, the source said.
“Beijing knows the Internet is open, and Taiwan has no clear laws to counter Chinese infiltration through the Internet,” the source said. “Perhaps this is an area that could be regulated by a [proposed] ministry of digital development.”
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