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Beijing using 'Taiwanese spy' propaganda to foment anti-Taiwan attitudes in China

The campaign to marginalize Taiwan took a more threatening tone in Chinese media over the weekend

China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman An Fengshan

China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman An Fengshan (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – This weekend in China, there has been a coordinated effort among media outlets and the government to raise the specter of Taiwanese spies and their informants infiltrating Chinese society.

On Friday, China’s CCTV announced a special two-part series based on a recent crackdown of so-called “Taiwanese spies,” in what appears to be an effort to condition the Chinese public to view Taiwan as threat to China’s national security.

Various media outlets on social media platforms, as well as several Chinese universities appealed to Chinese citizens to watch the programs to know what to look out for and avoid being targeted.

According to Chinese media, over 100 espionage cases involving Taiwan have been prosecuted this year, with a recent initiative by authorities titled the “Thunderbolt 2018 Crackdown” leading to the arrest of several spies and agents.

The CCTV program on “Taiwanese spies” claims that a significant network of spies have been operating among university campuses recruiting students and others through romantic relationships, bribery and “erotic enticement.”

The show featured stories of hapless Chinese exchange students who became entrapped during their time in Taiwan by wily Taiwanese spies working for various intelligence agencies.

The Chinese state-backed propaganda blog the Global times claims that Taiwanese spies are likely to target Chinese students in Taiwan who study political science, economics or national-defense related majors.

The reports also claim that Chinese students are being targeted through online chat applications, campus forums, and various university recruitment drives. The CCTV broadcast called these attempts by so-called Taiwanese spies “vile.”

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) released a statement on Saturday, Sept. 15 in response to the first of the two-part broadcast stating that the stories have been fabricated, and that Beijing is using students as political pawns to diminish student interest in Taiwanese university programs.

The MAC statement noted that the effect of the anti-Taiwan propaganda would only create more suspicion and distrust between both sides, further harming already tense cross-strait relations.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office on Sunday released a statement in response to the CCTV broadcast calling on Taiwan’s government to cease their destructive spying operations to avoid further damaging cross-strait relations, reports Apple Daily.

Realistically, Chinese students studying at top universities throughout the world have come under scrutiny for an increased concern over espionage and IP theft. The CCTV broadcast in many respects appears to be a distorted projection of some recent cases of Chinese spies operating in Taiwan.

This bit of anti-Taiwan propaganda promoted as it was across the Chinese intranet should alarm Taiwan, since it is likely a calculated step in Beijing’s campaign to condition the Chinese population to the idea that Taiwan's government and pro-independence activists pose a threat to China’s national security. Such an assertion could certainly be used as a justification for military action in the future.