TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The China in the World (CITW) forum on Tuesday (Dec. 5) opened with a keynote address and a panel discussion about Beijing’s territorial expansion and disinformation campaign.
The first speaker was Doublethink Lab Chair Puma Shen (沈伯洋), who was recently nominated on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at-large legislator list. He said the mission of Doublethink Lab is to archive Chinese data and disinformation and quantify it for global stakeholders.
The China Index, created in 2022, is the first tool to measure China's influence in the world, according to Shen. “This is not an academic exercise. We try to include people on the frontlines, journalists, and human rights defenders, and serve as an international hub for cross-regional collaboration,” said Shen.
“Many countries with a high GDP may experience a lot of pressure from China that can result in little effect. However, those countries with a lower GDP, such as Egypt, exhibit an opposite effect with little pressure, resulting in a high degree of influence," Shen explained.
Shen said he hopes the index is used by parliamentarians to quantify China’s impact on their country and develop potential protections. By providing quantifiable data and real-world examples, more governments can be wary of Chinese influence, he said.
Doublethink Lab Chair Puma Shen (center), Doublethink Lab CEO Wu Min-hsuan (left), and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (right). (Taiwan News, Sean Scanlan photo)
The next speaker was Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), who said he had first-hand knowledge of the influence campaign that the China Index is tracking. “China’s interference looms large as we hold our presidential election. Taiwan stands on the frontlines against authoritarian expansion, gray zone threats, and as a testing ground for cognitive warfare," he said.
“Doublethink Lab and China in the World give us a chance to safeguard our democracy against misinformation. Only by enriching our toolbox can we prevent our democracy from being eroded,” said Wu.
After, the panel discussion, led by Emmy-nominated journalist Melissa Chan, featured Adrian Amatong, a member of the Philippines House of Representatives, Ji Seong-ho, a member of the Korean National Assembly, Shiori Kanno, a former member of the Japanese House of Representatives, and DPP legislative candidate Tseng Po-yu (曾柏瑜).
The first question posed was, “How is Taiwan meeting challenges in the Indo-Pacific region?”
According to Tseng, “We have a strong alliance in Taiwan involving civil society organizations and strong fact-checking and media literacy groups, but there is still a lot to be done. We research malign influence and share evidence and case studies along with countermeasures with Indo-Pacific countries."
Kanno said that a “crisis in Taiwan is also a crisis in Japan," and Japan needs to undertake more cooperation with regional partners such as New Zealand and Australia to counter China’s growing power.
Japanese voters are increasingly aware of the economic consequences of a conflict, given the 3,124 Japanese companies operating in Taiwan and the likelihood that vital shipping lanes would be cut off in the event of war, Kanno added.
Amatong said Taiwan’s situation is important to the Philippines. He said attitudes toward China changed after former President Rodrigo Duterte and the arrival of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“The Philippines is very small compared to China, so no matter how loud we shout about Taiwan, it means nothing to China. We keep reiterating that many countries need to come together to meet this challenge,” said Amatong.
Finally, Ji said that Taiwan’s prosperity is important to the international community. He described fleeing from North Korea and mentioned that China holds 2,600 North Korean defectors and refuses to grant them refugee status.
“China tramples on human rights as they do not plan on sending back defectors. China sits on the U.N. Security Council, and they are still doing little in this regard,” said Ji.
A final question posed to the panel was whether each member has been accused of being too “hawkish” about China. Replies across the conference table were almost uniformly "no,” as many said that China’s aggressive stance in political, economic, and military affairs has drawn universal concern.