HomeCorruptionChinese Operative Infiltrated a Taiwanese Newsroom, Promoted Propaganda

Chinese Operative Infiltrated a Taiwanese Newsroom, Promoted Propaganda

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Taiwanese authorities have uncovered that a Chinese state-backed journalist infiltrated a Taiwanese news outlet, manipulating content to promote Chinese propaganda. This incident has raised alarm bells about the extent of Chinese influence operations in Taiwan.

The Covert Operation

The scandal began when China’s Taiwan Affairs Office approached several Taiwanese broadcasters with proposals to launch political talk shows. To entice them, they offered preferential commercial treatment in the Chinese market. One broadcaster accepted, setting the stage for the covert operation. Zhao Bo, a reporter for China’s state news agency Xinhua, took on the role of content editor for the show, ensuring that scripts and guest discussions aligned with Chinese propaganda.

Zhao’s influence was subtle but profound. She managed scripts and held private conversations with guests, emphasizing points favorable to China. The program prominently featured discussions on former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s policies and his trip to China, casting them in a positive light.

Discovery and Aftermath

When Taiwanese authorities got wind of Zhao’s activities, she fled back to China. Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) is now investigating the incident. Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chiu Chui-cheng confirmed that a multi-agency investigation is underway to probe deeper into this infiltration.

The incident highlights the pervasive reach of Chinese influence in Taiwan’s media landscape. Rosalia Wu, head of the Democratic Progressive Party caucus in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, emphasized the severity of the situation, stating that such manipulations are illegal and a direct affront to Taiwan’s media integrity.

Financial Enticements and Influence

Scott Harold, a political scientist at RAND, noted that Chinese financial incentives have historically swayed Taiwanese media. The media industry in Taiwan, particularly print media, faces significant financial challenges, making them vulnerable to Chinese advertising dollars. These financial enticements are a strategic tool for China to exert influence.

Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Puma Shen suggested that Zhao’s actions are likely not isolated incidents. He pointed out that China often uses middlemen to carry out influence operations, making them harder to detect and thwart.

China’s Denial and Taiwan’s Response

China has dismissed the allegations as “fake news,” claiming the broadcaster acted independently. However, Taiwanese lawmakers are not convinced. Ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Wang Ting-yu has called for banning Xinhua journalists from Taiwan, citing the risk of recurrent influence operations.

This incident is not the first of its kind. In 2019, the media conglomerate Want Want China Times faced similar accusations of seeking approval from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office for their stories. The NCC has previously fined Want Want for allegedly inaccurate or biased coverage.

Broader Implications

The revelation comes at a time of heightened tension between China and Taiwan. Recently, China threatened the death penalty for “diehard” Taiwan independence separatists, underscoring its aggressive stance towards Taiwan’s sovereignty. This move is seen as part of China’s broader strategy to coerce and intimidate Taiwan into considering unification.

China’s tactics extend beyond military threats to include economic integration plans, like the recent proposal to integrate Taiwan with Fujian province. These efforts aim to soften Taiwan’s stance on independence by highlighting potential economic and social benefits of closer ties with China.

The infiltration of a Taiwanese news program by a Chinese journalist underscores the lengths to which China will go to exert influence over Taiwan. This incident has prompted a rigorous investigation and calls for stricter regulations to prevent future occurrences.

ACZ Editor: Obviously China has a full court press against Taiwan – if one incident is uncovered, it is likely that 10 actions are still in operation. But how many of these infiltrations are occurring in the U.S. and around the world? China’s propaganda machine is a multi-billion dollar operation.

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