China launched 1.4 billion cyberattacks against Taiwan from September 2019 to August 2020, a new report by a Japanese government-funded think tank said.
The attacks largely aimed to spread disinformation in Taiwan, with its authors assessing China’s cognitive warfare against Taiwan to be a “great threat,” the Japanese Ministry of Defense-affiliated Defense Research Institute said on Friday.
The institute has published its China Security Report annually since 2011. This year’s report focused largely on cognitive warfare.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has been undertaking large-scale reforms since 2015, including the establishment of regional command centers for its land, sea and air forces, and increasing direct participation in military affairs by party members, the report said.
They also included setting up an army intelligence-gathering wing that engages in cyber and cognitive warfare, it said.
The new division disseminates propaganda and disinformation through traditional and social media platforms. It focuses heavily on promoting Taiwan’s unification with China, which it does prior to elections in Taiwan by assisting the campaigns of pro-China candidates, the report said.
The cyberattacks were intended to destroy or steal data from Taiwan’s political, economic and military institutions, and to sow panic among Taiwanese during China’s navy and air force exercises around the nation, it said.
China has also created fake news stories purported to be from Taiwan, in attempts to damage Taiwan’s international reputation, it said.
For example, in April 2020, China disseminated a false news story in which WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accused Taiwan of racial discrimination, and then tried to make it appear that Taiwan itself had created the story, it said.
China also uses its media outlets to produce propaganda aimed at lowering morale and causing fear among Taiwanese, it said.
For example, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a Chinese state-run tabloid published a report that said the US’ failure to commit troops to Ukraine’s defense should be seen as evidence that it would also not commit troops to defend Taiwan.
The report also provided examples of former Taiwanese politicians and military officials being employed by China for espionage.
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