He Qinglian has a good commentary in the May 28th Dajiyuan (Epoch Times in Chinese) discussing her just-concluded three week speaking tour in Taiwan. A bit of an ad for her recent excellent book (I’ve been reading it — (full disclosure) she sent me a copy) . Red Infiltration: Global Expansion of Chinese Media Just Published in Taiwan earlier on this blog at He Qinglian’s New Book Red Infiltration: Global Expansion of Chinese Media Just Published in Taiwan
Update: See also the September 2021 National Bureau of Asian Research report: Taiwan’s Response to Disinformation: A Model for Coordination to Counter a Complicated Threat by Shih-Shiuan Kao
The Taiwan government established a team in the executive branch to oversee policies for countering disinformation and coordinate with other agencies. This team promotes a four-facet framework focused on identification, debunking, combat, and punishment. Three main characteristics can be observed from Taiwan’s model to counter disinformation: (1) there is not a partnership between the society and government but instead civil society distances itself from the government, (2) civil society and government nonetheless operate in mutually enabling ways, and (3) the framework created by the team allows for a swift, coordinated response. Apart from these characteristics, Taiwan also faces several challenges, including (1) strong resistance to regulations and transparency from social media platforms, (2) the lack of capacity of relevant agencies (e.g., law enforcement and the judiciary) to deal with disinformation, and (3) the urgent need for methodologies to evaluate the scale, dynamics, and impacts of circulating disinformation and the effectiveness of countermeasures.
- For the enforcement of punishment-based regulations, checks and balances by the judicial branch remain crucial to prevent infringement on freedom of expression.
- To concretely evaluate the effectiveness of fact-checking, more data from platforms should be accessible to researchers and fact-checking groups. Further studies on the populations most susceptible to disinformation should also be conducted.
- Governmental and civil-society fact-checking organizations can reinforce each other while maintaining distance. To this end, the government could emphasize and promote the work of civil society while ensuring data transparency, creating guidelines, and making policy information accessible to the public.
Update: two translated excerpts from Red Infiltration are on the Ketagalan Media website:
I recommend Red Infiltration (not translated yet helas) to anyone who is sinoliterate. The book is well-organized and not a difficult read.
The conclusion to her article really really grabbed me.
“Taiwan’s difficulty in safeguarding its democracy is not less difficult than was building democracy in Taiwan. Nothing is smaller than the democratic system that was built that year. If we look at the world’s four largest Chinese communities, we see Hong Kong with its freedoms and the rule of law but no democracy. Under the erosion of “one country, two systems”, freedom and the rule of law in Hong Kong are now in jeopardy. Singapore has democracy (elections) and the rule of law but no freedom. Mainland China has neither democracy nor rule of law nor freedom. Among all the world’s largest Chinese communities, only Taiwan has it all.
“Taiwan contradicts the argument that “Democracy is not suitable for Chinese people.” This is what I most worry about when I look at Taiwan. I believe that some Chinese people agree with me and along with me hope that the people of Taiwan will cherish their hard-won democratic rights and use their votes to elect leaders who can protect Taiwan’s political security and protect Taiwan’s democratic system. #”
That passage reminded me of a lunch I had a few years ago when I worked in China. I was dining with a Chinese Communist Party member and his friends. During our conversation, I mentioned that China can learn a lot from Taiwan democracy, and really should be looking to Taiwan rather than the United States since it is much easier to learn from a society that has the same Chinese culture and the same language — in order learn about how a democratic society operates. The Party comrade paused, looked around the table, then up at the ceiling as if looking for bugs and then said to me in a low voice “We all know that but we can’t say so!”
He Qinglian: Concerns as Taiwan Faces “Red Infiltration”
On May 25, while I was flying back to the United States from Taipei, the Taiwan Foreign Ministry issued a high-profile statement disclosing that Taiwan’s National Security Council Secretary-General Li Dawei visited White House National Security Advisor John Bolton during his US trip and that the name of the Taiwan’s representative office in the United States had changed from the Coordination Council for North American Affairs (CCNA) to the Taiwan Council for U.S. Affairs (TCUSA). This has important political significance for Taiwan given the pressure it is under from Beijing. Taiwan made this statement not only China sees Taiwan as a Chinese province which has not yet been united with China and has never given up its determination to force unification by military force but even more important, because of Beijing’s “Red Infiltration” of every sector of Taiwan society has put very much on its guard. Under these circumstances, maintaining a closer relationship with the United States has become a safe option for Taiwan.
Red Infiltration has become “the Elephant in the Room” in Taiwan
My new book, 《红色渗透：中国媒体全球扩张的真相》[Red Infiltration: The Truth About the Global Expansion of Chinese Media], was published in Taiwan in March 2019. At the publisher’s invitation, my husband and I went to Taiwan in May. This was my first trip to Taiwan since 2000. I have been there three times in all. My first two trips were short and busy. This time, I decided to stay for longer – 24 days – so that I could share the speaker’s platform with Yu Jie. Invitations poured in and so the itinerary kept changing so we had only five or six days for traveling around Taiwan. We were able to meet a cross section of the most representative people in Taiwan. I gave over ten lectures at National Taiwan University, Zhongzheng University, Sun Yat-Sen University, National Taiwan University of Political Science and many other institutions. I took part many symposiums, gave over ten interviews, and had a good opportunity to meet people in Taiwan. I only had two meetings with readers of my book but the publisher was quite happy about them.
During discussions of my my book I found that although “Red Infiltration” analyzes the Chinese Communist Party’s global propaganda efforts and only Chapter Five “The Chinese Government’s Red Infiltration of the Chinese Government of the Taiwan Media” addresses Taiwan and my work was based on documents and materials published in Taiwan over the past twenty year, I was amazed at the strong reaction and deep resonance the book found in Taiwan. Whether it was in discussions after my talk or during panel discussions, have caused me to be deeply shocked and resonate. Whether it is the dialogue after the speech or the discussion, people from all walks of life in Taiwan basically agree with my analysis of the Chinese Communist Party’s red infiltration of Taiwan:
- Politically, a group of pro-communist people within the Kuomintang Party acts as the Communist Party’s agents in Taiwan. These people are found in all walks of life in Taiwan. People in Taiwan know their names. During Ma Ying-jeou’s presidency, Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party became very close. During this time, the signing of the cross-straits integration service agreement with the mainland showed that some people serving China’s political agenda had done their work.
- Economically, most Taiwanese businessmen who invested in the mainland have maintained good relations with the Chinese Communist Party to protect their own interests. A small number of Taiwanese businessmen dare not show their true attitudes even if they do not like the Chinese Communist Party. This makes it easy for mainland China to achieve its goal of “using business people to constrain government officials” and let Taiwanese businessmen exercise their influence on Taiwan’s political circles.
- Culture: infiltration of Taiwan’s media industry and universities. Red Infiltration includes a detailed analysis and description of the infiltration of the Taiwan media industry. In academia and publishing, permission to visit the mainland is used to exert control over academia and the publishing industry. If you are friendly to the mainland, academics can visit the mainland every year and be received by relevant units and help finding needed research materials. The publishing industry can maintain cultural exchanges with the mainland and export books to the mainland. The mainland is a big market so this is is a powerful incentive.
- The Chinese Communist Party is infiltrating Taiwan from top to bottom, from the palace temple culture down to the grassroots level. Most observers focus on political and economic affairs, so this is not very well known. I looked into it and found that an expose was written about this in 2017. In 2016, more than 100 small district heads [lizhang] from Taipei City went to Shanghai. The six-day and five-night trip cost them only NT$15,000 [USD 500]. In Shanghai, the Shanghai Taiwan Affairs Office hosted them. They were photographed under the banner “The Unification of China is Our Responsibility”. In 2017, some netizens broke the news that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army was sharing a draft proposal for a Chinese Taipei Village Chiefs Federation and called on the Taiwanese small district [li] and village chiefs join it. Taiwan’s China Broadcasting Network examined this document, which addresses environmental protection culture and care for the elderly. Many people in Taiwan are suspicious of this and wonder if this is an effort by the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office to extend united front work to the grassroots level in Taiwan. The initiator of the preparatory meeting is Qin Ronghui, the president of the Taipei City Small District Chiefs’ Friendship Association. Taiwan’s village head and city small district chiefs are elected officials and so the Taiwan government cannot interfere. Taiwan people do worry however . However, Taiwanese are generally worried that during the 2018 and 2020 elections these local small district and village chiefs will canvass for candidates backed by the Chinese.
This is all very obvious so how did they ever become the neglected “elephant in the room”? The reason is very simple. The fight between the two major political parties in Taiwan has been going on for a long time. If someone brings them up, people will think that it is because they belong to the Green Camp [Democratic Progressive Party DPP]. Both Taiwanese scholars and think tanks have brought these issues up too but they are immediately labeled and the other camp generally refuses to believe them. Moderates also see this is just an argument between the political parties. I rarely go to Taiwan, and I have no connection with the two parties in Taiwan. However, I have published four books in Taiwan, which have had some influence. For people on Taiwan, an objective observation by an outsider is seen a being about the reality of Taiwan and is more readily accepted.
Taiwan’s Biggest Worry
Although the relationship between Taiwan and China is a relationship between Taiwan and the mainland, it is actually a triangular relationship between Taiwan and the United States. Talking with people from all walks of life in Taiwan, everyone said that the Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party is close ideologically to the Democratic Party and accepts who most of its positions but the Republican Party in the US is more willing to help protect Taiwan’s security. People also realized that the Sino-US trade war has heated up and the relationship between the United States and China has deteriorated. This is a good time for Taiwan business people to return home. Taiwan has lost its status as one of the “Four Little Dragons”; its economy has been weak for for two decades. Taiwanese generally attribute this to Taiwan’s investment in the mainland and the hollowing out of Taiwan’s economy.
Now an opportunity has arrived but it is hard to see whether Taiwan will seize it. The 2020 election is just around the corner. Everything will be on hold until the new president takes office. At present, the two possible candidates for the DPP are Tsai Ing-wen and Lai Ching-te. The two possible candidates for the Kuomintang are Han Kuo-yu, Guo Taiming, and Ko Wen-je . The opinion polls of these people are constantly rising and falling. I have also asked a lot of Taiwanese people. American polls, which have traditionally been regarded as model polls, were not accurate in 2016. Has polling in Taiwan also been affected by party disputes? The answer is that some parties are competing for influence, but they have not seen the big mistakes of the US 2016 election. They generally draw conclusions based on a number of polls.
Having talked with dozens of people from all walks of life in Taiwan, although they all know that the results the 2020 elections in the United States and in Taiwan will affect Taiwan’s fate, no one can say what the results of the 2020 elections will be. Still, we can make some comments.
First, Taiwan voters know that their votes are important. If people want to be elected, they will need to [do grassroots politicking/canvassing] — “grab votes”. If you are not from Taiwan, it is hard to understand what “grab votes” means. Regarding Guo Taiming, many people in Taiwan have noted his strong, even overbearing character. Someone who demands a great deal of respect may well not be able to stand “grabbing votes”. An employee of Guo Taiming’s company was typical. He said he would never vote for Guo Taiming. He is a successful entrepreneur but that does not mean that he would make a good president.
Second, voters see the issues of Taiwan’s local elections and presidential elections differently. In 2018, Taiwan’s largest political party was indeed “Punish the DPP.” Both blue and green voters were dissatisfied in the third year of Tsai Ing-wen’s administration. Among them, the most ridiculous was the “eighteen beats” reform for that affected the interests of military personnel, public servants and teachers. The “weekly mandatory day off and one leave day” policy made both labor and employers unhappy. On other issues as well, such as green energy policy and legalization of gay marriage, the DPP lost the support of much of its base (lower and middle class people) in Green Camp. The Taiwanese I spoke with thought that this was unfavorable to Cai and was beneficial to Lai Qingde. However, the a local intellectual was the most optimistic. Voters views on unification or independence will be the most important factor in the presidential election.
Everyone believes that what happens in the coming months will depend on many things – the candidates, events in China or the United States. For instance, the Sun Flower Movement in 2013 came without warning.
Everyone admits that Beijing will definitely interfere in the 2020 Taiwan general election, but cannot predict just how it will intervene (without causing resentment in Taiwan) Taiwanese people generally have an impression: General Secretary Xi Jinping of the Chinese Communist Party is very strong, but he speaks off the cuff and often changes his mind. He mentioned Taiwan in his January speech (warning that unification with Taiwan is unstoppable and proposing a “one country, two systems” Taiwan plan, adding that he will not promise not to use force). Domestically Xi first pushed for the reform of state-owned enterprises than backed off. In the Sino-US trade war, Xi suddenly flipped over the negotiating table after over a year of arduous talks etc. Understanding the temperament of this elusive leader of the temperament who abolished “term limits.” No matter who is elected as the president, Taiwan will have to get along with him for more than one term. has to get along with him for more than one term. “That will be very tough.”
When asked if the Chinese Communist Party will, because relations with the United States are tense, choose to focus on a different contradiction and attack Taiwan? My answer is no. The reason is: Tibet, Xinjiang and other frontiers are not peaceful. Sino-US relations are tense and China’s own military reforms are far from complete. There are also many contradictions within the ruling group. Infiltration is the more likely threat to Taiwan. For the Chinese Communist Party, “spending money to buy Taiwan is better than fighting Taiwan”. This is an effective tactic. The people of Taiwan have become “frogs in warm water.” The pain of Hong Kong is not the pain of Taiwan. As regards to Taiwan, the Chinese Communist Party has long indoctrinated 1.4 billion Chinese that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.” has long been the settled view of most Chinese.
Taiwan’s difficulty in safeguarding its democracy is not less difficult than was building democracy in Taiwan. Nothing is smaller than the democratic system that was built that year. If we look at the world’s four largest Chinese communities, we see Hong Kong with its freedoms and the rule of law but no democracy. Under the erosion of “one country, two systems”, freedom and the rule of law in Hong Kong are now in jeopardy. Singapore has democracy (elections) and the rule of law but no freedom. Mainland China has neither democracy nor rule of law nor freedom. Among all the world’s largest Chinese communities, only Taiwan has it all.
Taiwan contradicts the argument that “Democracy is not suitable for Chinese people.” This is what I most worry about when I look at Taiwan. I believe that some Chinese people agree with me and along with me hope that the people of Taiwan will cherish their hard-won democratic rights and use their votes to elect leaders who can protect Taiwan’s political security and protect Taiwan’s democratic system. #
Chinese original text at http://www.epochtimes.com/gb/19/5/28/n11285579.htm