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When Nancy Pelosi landed in Taipei on August 3, digital signs at various 7-Elevens across the island appeared with messages reading “Warmonger Pelosi, get out of Taiwan!” On the screen at the train station in the southern port city of Kaohsiung and on the monitors at the government office in Nantou, a county to the northeast, more messages calling Pelosi an “old hag” also crept in.
With the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives on a whirlwind visit to Taiwanthe website of the Presidential Office of the island collapsed due to a cyber attack. Other government office portals were also down. The National Taiwan University link was blocked with a phrase that appeared as soon as the website loaded: “There is only one China in this world.”
The team of hackers integrated into the Ministry of Digital Affairs of Taiwan managed, in a few minutes, to regain control of the servers and disconnect the messages against Pelosi. They have not been able to verify the source of the attacks because the IP address from which they were executed was not linked to any recognizable network, but they were clear that it was an attack. orchestrated piracy campaign from China.
Fourth Strait Crisis
“Cyber attacks and a disinformation campaign targeting the democratic island of Taiwan highlight Beijing’s use of hybrid warfare in the wake of Pelosi’s visit,” said Gen. Chen Yu-lin, deputy director of the Office. Politics and War of the Taiwan Ministry of Defense, convinced that the Chinese hackers sought to “create an atmosphere that suggests that China may be invading Taiwan, with the intention of attack the public image of the government and disturb civil and military morale”.
After Pelosi’s departure, along with the Chinese army surrounded the island with simulated invasionin the social networks other types of maneuvers were developed that follow the script of the “cognitive warfare” that Taipei has been denouncing for years. There was another battlefield, that of disinformationboth in the Western networks that prevail in Taiwan, and in the applications in Mandarin that are used within the censored Chinese cyberspace.
On Weibo, the Chinese brother of Twitter, the warnings did not stop that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was preparing an imminent attack. Others said directly that Chinese soldiers had seized some of the outlying islands controlled by Taiwan. Or that a missile had hit Taoyuan Airport in Taipei.
Some information from Chinese portals even released that the army could shoot down the plane in which Pelosi landed in Taipei. A rumor even spread in China that Taiwan’s National Palace Museum had sent its treasures to overseas custody because PLA soldiers were about to invade the island.
The Taiwanese have also not been spared disinformation from their own channels. A quote attributed to the Chinese state broadcaster ‘CCTV’ saying that Beijing was expelling Taiwanese citizens from the country was widely shared. Or that many residents ran to hide in bomb shelters because Chinese fighter planes were already over the island. Or that the United States was sending troops from the east. All fake.
Taiwan, unlike the Chinese regime, which has never hidden its pretensions of “reunification”, by force if necessary, is a healthy young democracy. But it has also been years under an effective government and media propaganda that plays on the fear of attack from the neighbor above, causing ever greater friction between the Taiwanese and the Chinese, to which must be added an exaggerated idealization of the United States as an ally, when Washington seems, at times, to use Taiwan as a pawn in the new Cold War with China. the asian giant
Taiwanese General Chen insists that Peking’s “cognitive operation” has skyrocketed these days. As an example he cites “more than 272 controversial reports in circulation that attempt to disturb the morale of Taiwanese.” The FactCheck Center, a Taipei-based fact checker, has said it had detected a 30 to 40 increase in false reports online since Pelosi’s visit.
“From other occasions, the biggest difference is that it seems to be spreading from English Twitter. There is also a lot of false information on Weibo, some of which has reached the social media platforms used in Taiwan, including LINE and Facebook,” he explains. Chen Hui-min, editor of the organization, who points out that many of the accounts in Mandarin that had spent months sharing false news about the war in Ukraine spread by Russia, had now focused on doing the same about the crisis between China and Taiwan .
Last March, the Chinese military published a manual on “information warfare,” saying it should take a central role over conventional military force. “Information age warfare relies primarily on information to subdue an enemy,” the report argued. Shortly after its publication, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen gave a press conference to denounce that China had launched against Taiwan using “cognitive warfare tactics”, whose objective was to create “a divided and unhappy country” that is an easier target for invasion.
“China shines that light partially through Taiwan’s thriving content industry. Two of Taiwan’s four major media outlets had substantial financial ties to the mainland. Although all political campaigns used content farms in the most recent elections 2020, those who are in favor of China distributed much more digital material than those who support Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), “says an analysis published this week in the magazine ‘Foreign Policy’. “China’s disinformation campaigns to downplay or erase Russia’s invasion and war crimes in Ukraine leak to Taiwan through these media,” he continues.
There are many investigations by Taiwanese institutes that detail the direct interference of Beijing’s propaganda in the island that it considers a separatist province. Another issue is whether that cognitive warfare is working. In January 2020, the PPD of President Tsai, pro-independence court, wins the elections after playing the card of fear of China well throughout the election campaign. Tsai, with him 57.7% of the votesrose more than one point compared to the first elections he won in 2016.
“I will be the defender of Taiwan’s liberal values against the increasingly authoritarian shadow cast by Beijing under President Xi Jinping,” Tsai said after her victory. She is unanimous in her opinion that independence sentiments in Taiwan are growing every year. For this reason, a peaceful reunification as prioritized in Beijing seems unlikely, which on Tuesday continued its military maneuvers around the island for the sixth consecutive day.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism