“The strongest line of defense for a resilient democratic society (against a malign influence campaign) is confidence in its institutions; recognition and understanding of decision-making by its government; and citizens who can clearly judge the influence of external forces.”
--Che-chuan Lee (李哲全), chief of the Division of National Security and Decision-Making (國家安全與決策研究所)
CCP agents and infiltration
In July this year, the online state media www.taiwan.cn of the PRC’s Taiwan Affairs Office published a Chinese-language commentary with a headline advocating readers to vote out Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in the January 2020 election. After its publication, 23 online media outlets based in Taiwan re-published the same commentary in verbatim, without editing out a single word. It turned out that 15 of the Taiwanese media outlets were run by a local publisher who participated in a major Shanghai conference in April that targeted new media’s work to promote cross-Strait unification. The Shanghai conference was hosted by the CCP.
That case, and several more, this year so far of the PRC’s influence campaign using media as a tool against Taiwan’s democracy has been well-documented in the public domain, highlighting the urgent need for Taiwan to ratify key legislation overseeing the use of local proxies – particularly in the media space – by CCP-backed sources, writes Che-chuan Lee (李哲全), chief of the Division of National Security and Decision-Making (國家安全與決策研究所) in the August 2019 edition of the Defense Situation Monthly (國防情勢月報).
Lee references the measures taken by the United States and Australia to legally defend against foreign influence in their democracies, as he lays out in his research the differences in the various draft bills on “Chinese agents” (中共代理人) that Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan will be reviewing once the new parliamentary session opens this month.
Lee’s study comes just after another INDSR research piece, published in June, discussed the relative ease of the CCP in implementing information warfare (資訊戰) in Taiwan. China doesn’t have to build from scratch or learn how to conduct an influence campaign in Taiwan, the way Russia had to with the United States, wrote Wu Jun-deh (吳俊德), chief of the Division of Cyber Warfare and Information Security (網路作戰與資訊安全研究所), in the earlier research.
The PRC has already infiltrated various Taiwanese civil organizations, including temples, chambers of commerce, associations, political parties and grassroot leadership communities via its United Front Work Department (“United Front”). China’s information warfare, complemented by the people connections already established by the United Front, is filtered and reviewed by existing agents, to then be re-transmitted through its network, wrote Wu.
“Even though many civil organizations have been infiltrated, the work to ‘mend the fold even after sheep is lost’ must continue and the government still must pay attention … to prevent further infiltration by China,” said Wu. “We can never stop enemies from creating and distributing fake messages, but we can minimize the impact of false messages.”