Taiwanese media 'assisting' China's influence campaign: U.S. analyst - Focus Taiwan

Taiwanese media 'assisting' China's influence campaign: U.S. analyst

Michael Mazza (left, sitting) and Mark Stokes (right).
Michael Mazza (left, sitting) and Mark Stokes (right).

Taipei, Dec. 10 (CNA) Some media in Taiwan could be "assisting" China's misinformation and disinformation campaign that aims to influence Taiwan's presidential election, a visiting United States security analyst suggested during a forum on Tuesday.

"What is particularly unique to Taiwan is that the traditional media here has a tendency to amplify viral posts," said Michael Mazza, a Asia-Pacific security issue specialist, at a forum titled "Chinese Communist Party's Influence Campaign" held at the Institute of National Defense and Security Research (INDSR).

"There are large number of T.V. stations, radio stations, newspapers here in Taiwan. That's led to a race to be first, and sometimes viral posts being reported in traditional media before being verified," Mazza said.

Another unique challenge in Taiwan is media ownership, as some individuals and companies with extensive business interest in China own media outlets in Taiwan, and that leads to conflict of interests, he further said.

Other old school methods used by China to influence Taiwan include paying people to attend rallies, offering good odds on preferred candidates through underground gambling rings to affect voting patterns, and building ties with local civil political leaders, Mazza said, based on his own research.

However, Mazza added that although China's influence campaign may sway some voters, it is difficult to assess its impact on Taiwan's electoral outcomes, as there are many other factors to be considered, such as the Taiwan-U.S. relationship, the economy and the qualities of rival candidates.

On the other hand, Mark Stokes, Executive Director of the Project 2049 Institute, proposed during the same forum that the Chinese Communist Party's influence operations in the U.S. is aimed at pushing the "one China principle," which Stokes described as false.

"The reality is that Taiwan, under its current Republic of China Constitution, exists as an independent sovereign state," Stokes said. However, he noted, that the U.S. manages relations between Taipei and Beijing from a policy perspective which is a different issue.

In the question and answer portion, Mazza predicted a negative outlook for cross-strait relations in the medium to long term, regardless of which political party wins Taiwan's 2020 presidential and legislative elections. That is because current trends in China and Taiwan make a stable relationship difficult, he said.

On Taiwan's loss of formal allies due to China, Mazza said it is not that important, as long as Taiwan maintains good relations with globally influential players such as the European Union, Japan, Australia and the U.S.

For Stokes, the more Taiwan's diplomatic allies defect to China, the more important it is for the U.S. to fill that gap and do more to move toward a more normal and constructive relationship with Taiwan.

(By Emerson Lim)


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