Taiwan cracking down on Baidu iQiyi, Tencent Video

Taiwan to tighten ban on Baidu iQiyi, Tencent Video to prevent propaganda, national security threat

Screenshot of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative propaganda video.

Screenshot of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative propaganda video.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan is looking to tighten the ban on Baidu's iQiyi and Tencent's planned streaming service in the country due to their use as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda platforms and potential security issues, reported Nikkei Asian Review.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) spokesperson Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) told Nikkei Asian Review on Thursday (March 28) that Taiwan is preparing to block Baidu's iQiyi online video platform and Tencent's planned streaming service later this year.

Chiu told the newspaper that Taiwan is concerned about the way the CCP may be using these platforms to manipulate Taiwan's coming elections in 2020: "We are concerned that streaming media services that have close ties with Beijing could have cultural and political influences in Taiwan... and even affect Taiwan's elections."

Chiu expressed concerns that the platforms could be used as conduits to disseminate pro-China propaganda: "If Tencent's streaming video service is trying to enter the Taiwanese market, it's very likely that it's a part of Beijing's propaganda campaign."

Ultimately, Taiwan fears that by promoting the agenda of the CCP and the PLA, the streaming platforms could pose a threat to the country's security, "What if it implements messages linked to the Communist Party or its army? We should treat this seriously and carefully at a national security level," said Chiu.

Although Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has not approved of any Chinese video streaming platforms to enter its domestic market, and it blocked iQiyi in 2016, it has been successfully operating through the local agent OTT Entertainment. Despite, being blocked, it is still one of the most popular video streaming platforms in Taiwan with 2 million active daily users, according to Nikkei.

Via its Taiwanese agent, Baidu's platform has been able to beat approved competitors, because it offers popular Chinese and South Korean dramas that are not available on English-language platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. It also offers use of its platform at a lower price, at only NT$227 per month for two devices, compared to NT$270 for Netflix.

Tencent Video now is looking to follow Baidu's model of bypassing Taiwanese regulators by going through a local agent and offering content at a cheaper price than Western rivals.

Taiwan's government is looking into sealing the loophole created by local Taiwanese agents. As for OTT Entertainment, Taiwan's Investment Commission is investigating any potential Chinese investment in the company.

Emile Chang (張銘斌), acting executive secretary of Taiwan's Investment Commission, told Nikkei "If we find any Chinese investments in OTT Entertainment, we will demand the company withdraw the investment and leave Taiwan immediately." OTT Entertainment was founded by iQiyi's Taiwan regional head Young Ming in 2015, though it told Nikkei that it is a "Taiwanese company that pays taxes and complies with government regulations."

Chang said that if the commission can shut down iQiyi's shell company, the government hopes to be able to "prevent Tencent from exploiting the same loophole."