China is trying to convince Taiwanese that an authoritarian system is preferable to democracy, the Information Operations Research Group (IORG) said at a conference yesterday.
China has been employing Taiwanese sympathetic to its “united front” tactics to help spread disinformation about democracy and Taiwanese society through social media, television programs, YouTube and by other means, the group said at the conference to promote public awareness of China’s cognitive warfare campaign.
In the group’s latest report, it highlighted eight disinformation discussions that its researchers listed under three main topics: flu viruses in the US are deadlier than COVID-19; US troop movements caused the spread of COVID-19; and US flu viruses were strains of COVID-19, IORG codirector Yu Chih-hao (游知澔) said.
The eight discussions developed separately, but they were revised and combined into a single discussion by Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅), Yu said.
“Zhao Lijian combined these discussions into one and made them an official statement of the Chinese government through a tweet sent out in March,” Yu said.
On Feb. 21, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported on the annual flu season in the US, he said.
The newspaper article was distorted by a Taiwanese YouTuber, who said it was evidence that COVID-19 originated in the US.
The YouTuber’s comments and Zhao’s tweet were endorsed by Taiwanese scientist Pan Hwai-tzong (潘懷宗) in an Eastern Broadcasting Co program on Feb. 27, which is how the false information about the disease spread in Taiwan, Yu said.
The discussion was also spread through several pro-China Facebook accounts that cited reports from China’s state-run Global Times, he said, adding that in March the Taiwan FactCheck Center confirmed that the information cited by Pan was false.
However, despite being flagged as false, Pan’s comments continued to be shared via Facebook, the Line messaging app and YouTube through May, Yu said.
Zhao’s tweet also continued to be shared by Taiwanese, including media personality and politician Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康), who told a television program that flu viruses in the US were more serious than COVID-19, Yu said.
YouTube channels such as 108 Broadcasting Studio also spread disinformation aimed at affecting public confidence in the government, and the host of the channel has had contact with China Central Television and members of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the Chinese State Council, he said.
China’s disinformation and cognitive warfare campaign is aimed at convincing people that authoritarianism is better than democracy, National Chengchi University assistant professor Huang Jaw-nian (黃兆年) said.
“It is a competition between China and the West,” Huang said.
“China seeks hegemony — it wants to gain approval through ideological and cultural dominance,” he said, adding that Beijing hopes to change the world’s perception of it through the flow of people and money.
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