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The China-Taiwan information war - Digital Threat Digest

PGI’s Digital Investigations Team brings you the Digital Threat Digest, SOCMINT and OSINT insights into disinformation, influence operations, and online harms.

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On 13 January 2024, Taiwan will hold its presidential elections to select its new leadership. The unification versus independence issue continues to be the main point of contention, particularly during these upcoming elections. Following President Tsai Ing-wen’s step down as leader from the pro-independence Democratic People’s Party (DPP), Vice President Lai Ching-te currently maintains a lead in the polls. He is followed by the CCP-aligned Kuomintang’s (KMT) Huo Yu-ih and Ko Wen-je from the alternative third party Taiwan People’s Party (TPP). Amidst all of this, China has increased its onslaught of seeding disinformation to shift public opinion over the question of Taiwan’s independence.

It’s no secret that Beijing has long sought to subvert Taiwanese democracy and persuade the island (semi-)willingly to join the mainland. China’s approach to this involves several strategies including bots, traditional media, and military displays of strength. A vast network of bots and fake accounts spread disinformation on several platforms on a large-scale – such as the now infamous 50 Cent Party. The CCP also inundates mainland-owned Taiwanese news media outlets with pro-CCP propaganda, and flash Beijing’s military prowess through militarised channels, profiles, and accounts across various social media platforms.

As the rest of the world shifts their eyes towards the Taiwanese Strait, Beijing has even extended its targeted disinformation towards the nations interfering with their “unification process”. Recently, the term “US scepticism” has garnered attention, referring to disinformation portraying the US, not China, as the island’s biggest threat. It is worth noting that many of these narratives come from supposed Taiwanese accounts, but are written in official-sounding phrases used in mainland China, and not used in Taiwan.

Chinese disinformation has already distorted Taiwan’s public conversation. For now, it seems as though this interference is unlikely to change the current status quo of the elections, as an independent Taiwan remains broadly popular. However, across the Strait, Beijing continues to ramp up its military drills in a threatening show of force. For now, the real battle will most likely be in online and digital spaces, but in the future may expand further depending on how these initial moves perform.

More about Protection Group International's Digital Investigations

Our Digital Investigations Analysts combine modern exploitative technology with deep human analytical expertise that covers the social media platforms themselves and the behaviours and the intents of those who use them. Our experienced analyst team have a deep understanding of how various threat groups use social media and follow a three-pronged approach focused on content, behaviour and infrastructure to assess and substantiate threat landscapes.

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