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Chinese netizens interpret order to stockpile food as sign war with Taiwan imminent

Disinformation included fake PLA messages telling reservists to prepare to move to barracks

PLA soldiers and missile vehicles. (Weibo image)

PLA soldiers and missile vehicles. (Weibo image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Chinese cyberspace lit up this week with rumors that war with Taiwan was imminent after a communiqué on Tuesday (Nov. 2) from China’s Ministry of Commerce directed families across the country to stock up on essential food items.

Authorities moved quickly to quell speculation among netizens, concerned such talk could lead to “unpredictable consequences,” according to a report by the South China Morning Post.

Among the flurry of online activity were fake text notifications that called on reservists to prepare to move to their barracks. The senders claimed to be representing the PLA, but a PLA-affiliated social media account on Weibo later refuted this, saying the messages had been concocted by internet users.

The editor-in-chief of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece the Global Times, Hu Xijin (胡錫進) also weighed in, writing that though relations with Taiwan are intense, a conflict is unlikely to be triggered at a moment’s notice, so there was no need to “misread the message” about stockpiling food.

The average price of monitored vegetables in China rose through October due to extreme weather in growing regions, according to a report by Caixin. In the week from Monday (Oct. 18) to Sunday (Oct. 24), vegetables reached an average of US$0.87 (NT$ 24.21) per kilogram, a rise of 24% from five weeks earlier.

In related news, an article by state media outlet China News was on Sunday (Oct. 31) posted on Weibo claiming that residents of Taiwan were also panic buying food, citing a poll conducted in Taipei earlier in the month showing 42.6% of respondents were worried about war with China.

In response, many netizens questioned the validity of the report and said it was from an alternate reality, according to Mirror Media. Some joked the so-called “panic buying” was probably just Taiwanese buying in bulk at Costco.