China Steps Up Psywar vs Taiwanese Who Don't Want Beijing Control
As US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan on August 2, 2022, rumors and false stories flew around the Chinese language online sphere. Claims that PLA Su-35 fighters had crossed into Taiwanese airspace were promptly dismissed by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, A. A. Bastian reported for Foreign Policy.
Photo Insert: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during the former's controversial visit
Meanwhile, online assaults targeted Taiwanese websites. The moves were the first shots in what will be an intensified campaign of information warfare—in an already long-running war. On April 16, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen described the information assault against Taiwan as “cognitive warfare tactics.”
For Taiwanese, that’s a long-running concern.
Although the threat of invasion is a potent fear, Beijing has long sought to subvert Taiwanese democracy and persuade the island to willingly—or semi-willingly—choose unification with the mainland. If that isn’t possible, China wants a divided and unhappy Taiwan that’s an easier target for invasion.
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) official publication from March 17 outlines its priority for information warfare, describing it as taking a central role over conventional military strength. It postulates that warfare is evolving away from mechanized battle to information assaults, stating “information age warfare depends mainly on information to subdue an enemy.”
The PLA white paper describes the tactic in general terms as depriving the enemy of information superiority while strengthening its own information capabilities by building an information-based combat system.
The paper does not identify a specific enemy, but Taiwan is a perpetual target.
The paper asserts that as a system, information warfare is meant to fight an enemy with superior mechanized military power, likely alluding to the United States and its Western allies.
The only problem with this information war is that more than 80 percent of the Taiwanese surveyed do not consider themselves Chinese and cannot unify with a country they do not recognize as their motherland.
The figure is staggering, considering that just 10 years before, more than 60 percent of the Taiwanese regarded themselves as Chinese.
One reason for the refusal to be called Chinese is that the majority Han Chinese actually migrated to Taiwan only in the late 1890s, when China, which was supposed to administer the island in the latter half of that century, ceded Taiwan to Japan through the Treaty of Shimoneseki in 1895 after Japan defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War.
China never administered Taiwan even as it was supposed to have sovereignty over the since the mid-1600s. The modern Chinese state established in 1911 did not include Taiwan.