By Chen Yu-fu and Kayleigh Madjar / Staff reporter, with staff writer
Beijing is ramping up its cognitive warfare by aggregating negative news reports to stoke public discontent toward the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, security officials said on Tuesday.
By cherry-picking negative reports from Taiwanese media, then repackaging them and disseminating its version through new media, Chinese state media hopes to create the impression of widespread public discontent, officials said on condition of anonymity.
For example, China National Radio on Thursday last week aired a report that the Democratic Progressive Party government has been “selective” in its crackdown on misinformation to suppress news unfavorable to itself.
The state-run radio claimed that the government has only focused on clarifying negative stories about its handling of the pandemic, while turning a blind eye to its problems with response to the pandemic and vaccine procurement.
These comments were first broadcast on the new media platform “Watching the Taiwan Strait” (看台海) on WeChat, which is run by the state media company China Media Group, the officials said.
The platform aims to disseminate information across Chinese and foreign social media sites, including WeChat, Sina Weibo, Toutiao, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Similar reports were then published by Chinese and some Taiwanese media outlets, they said.
This reveals how Beijing is using the pandemic to wage cognitive warfare on Taiwan, they added.
State-run media aggregates Taiwanese reports assailing the government’s pandemic policy — such as vaccine procurement, distribution and protection of local vaccine producers — and spins them to create a misleading narrative of public discontent, they said.
It then disseminates these reports on popular sites, with sensational headlines to improve their credibility and virality, they added.
The Chinese Communist Party regards new media as a tool for spreading propaganda, the officials said, adding that all propaganda departments from the central to local level use WeChat, Douyin, Toutiao, Watching the Taiwan Strait and other platforms.
Through traditional and new media, the departments can disseminate large amounts of information that are helpful to daily life and propagandistic, they added.
State-run media also use foreign social media platforms to spread misinformation, such as reports of mass cremations in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), they said, urging Taiwanese to be alert to such false reports.
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