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Taiwan-US relations cause China to dial up propaganda

Recent visits to Taiwan by US officials have led Beijing to lash out through propaganda, military posturing

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Taiwan and U.S. flags (Reuters photo)

Taiwan and U.S. flags (Reuters photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As Taiwan and the U.S. drift closer, China has stepped up its propaganda online and through state media.

The propaganda, along with several military exercises over the past few months, including the test-firing of ballistic missiles and frequent buzzing of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), is meant to warn the U.S. that China would not back away from a military confrontation, according to The New York Times. While the chances of actual war breaking out remain small, recent military actions in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea increase the likelihood that an intended or accidental clash could occur.

Many of these moves came in response to recent Taiwan trips by two U.S. officials. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar visited in August, and Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach came in September.

One Chinese video released by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force after the U.S. visits showed a simulated airstrike on the American territory of Guam, with clips taken from the movies “The Rock,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “Transformers.” Chinese tabloid the Global Times warned that Washington was “playing with fire” by supporting Taiwan and threatened that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would be “wiped out” if she violated China’s Anti-Secession Law.

Beijing has repeatedly criticized American support for Taiwan, claiming it encourages independence sentiments in the country while ignoring the effect China’s own continued harassment has on this. China is also worried by renewed talk in Washington about whether the U.S. should explicitly state it will come to Taiwan’s defense if China actually attacks, the Times stated.

China’s latest propaganda push also coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Korean War, known in China as the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea, which is often used as a tool to fuel anti-American sentiment, according to the report. With current U.S.-China relations at a low point, officials are using the anniversary to rally Chinese citizens against the U.S.

A memorial museum dedicated to the Korean War recently reopened in the Chinese city of Dandong, while a series about the war is being released “to carry forward the great spirit of resisting U.S. aggression,” the Times reported. A new drama about a combat engineering unit keeping a vital bridge intact during one of the last battles of the war has also been released.

Beijing is also facing pressure over other territorial claims, including the disputed South China Sea and China's shared border with India. Due to the ramped-up propaganda, if China feels challenged in any of these areas, it may prove harder for General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平) to back down, according to the report.