Disinformation spreads across Taiwan; external actors include China primarily

Taiwan confronts a disinformation onslaught orchestrated by external actors, primarily China, aiming to diminish trust in the U.S.-Taiwan alliance and influence public perception.

Taiwan, in recent times, is facing a surge in disinformation, particularly narratives casting doubt on the reliability of its longstanding ally, the United States. As the island nation approaches its presidential and legislative elections, rumours have circulated, including claims of “poisonous” pork from the U.S. and unfounded accusations of the Taiwanese government harvesting blood for a bioweapon. Analysts suggest that this disinformation trend, termed “Yimeilun” or U.S. scepticism, seeks to erode trust in the U.S.-Taiwan alliance,  strategically pushing Taiwan closer to China.

The disinformation campaign appears to be orchestrated by external actors, with evidence pointing to Chinese involvement and the influence of pro-Beijing Taiwanese individuals. While not exclusively conspiracy theories, the narratives often highlight news portraying the U.S. negatively or as an untrustworthy superpower, contributing to an atmosphere of scepticism.

China’s strategic goal is to shape public opinion in Taiwan and present China as a more favourable partner. By sowing doubt about the U.S., Beijing aims to create a narrative where Taiwan views itself as exploited by America and, in turn, seeks a closer relationship with China.

The disinformation ranges from highlighting alleged flaws in U.S. actions, such as the withdrawal from Afghanistan, to questioning the reliability of U.S. weapons supplied to Taiwan. Analysts emphasize that this disinformation battle is crucial for China to influence public perception and sway the Taiwanese towards a more pro-China stance.

While Taiwan has implemented measures to counter disinformation, including public education campaigns and reporting hotlines, the effectiveness of these efforts remains a challenge. The island nation already considered a prime target for foreign disinformation, grapples with a polarized society where trust in information is often influenced by political affiliation.

As Taiwan navigates the complex landscape of disinformation, the upcoming elections add a layer of significance to the situation. Tensions with China have heightened, and faith in the U.S. is dwindling, with polls indicating a decline in trust. The success of this disinformation campaign, which may only need to sway a small percentage of voters to impact the election outcome, raises concerns about the broader implications for Taiwan’s geopolitical position and its relationship with key allies.

Amid the disinformation barrage, Taiwan faces a delicate balancing act, striving to reinforce its alliance with the United States while countering narratives that exploit historical insecurities. As the island nation grapples with evolving geopolitical dynamics, the outcome of the upcoming elections will not only shape its leadership but also determine the resilience of its public opinion against external influence.