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Taiwan a textbook case of China's 'sharp power' approach: scholar

2018/11/21 22:41:57

Taipei, Nov. 21 (CNA) Taiwan is a textbook case of China's use of "sharp power" to manipulate or undermine a democracy and project its influence abroad, a situation that did not sound alarm bells until recently, political scientist Wu Rwei-ren (吳叡人) said Wednesday.

China's recent efforts to influence Taiwan's upcoming local government elections have finally alerted people to the inroads China's sharp power have made into Taiwan society, Wu said at a forum.

The panoply of information operations launched by China's cyber army against candidates during the election campaign is "the biggest crisis facing Taiwan's democracy," said Wu, an associate research fellow at the Academia Sinica.

"Sharp power" is defined as efforts by authoritarian influences to pierce, penetrate, or perforate the political and information environments in targeted countries, according to the United States National Endowment Foundation in a 2017 report.

Citing the report, Wu said that authoritarian sharp power efforts are typically difficult to detect because they prey on the openness of a democratic system and benefit from a time lag before the target country realizes there is a problem.

In the case of Taiwan, Wu said, Taiwan has long been more heavily impacted by China's sharp power than other targeted countries, partly because China has proxy forces in Taiwan.

Furthermore, Taiwan is vulnerable to that kind of attack because of its fragile and challenging diplomatic position in the world and its heavy economic dependence on China, he said.

This makes Taiwan a textbook case of how sharp power forces can exploit the vulnerabilities of an open democracy to serve their own purposes, Wu added.

The forum, hosted by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, also heard presentations by Hong Kong democracy activists Joseph Cheng, Nathan Law and Leung Kwok-hung on China's projection of sharp power in Hong Kong.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)
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