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China Steps Up Its Information War in Taiwan

Taiwan’s Election Is a Test Run for Beijing’s Worldwide Propaganda Strategy

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen at a campaign rally in Taoyuan, Taiwan, January 2020 Tyrone Siu / Reuters

On January 11, Taiwanese voters will elect a new president and parliament. The election pits incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) against Han Kuo-yu, the mayor of the southern city of Kaohsiung, and his opposition Kuomintang (KMT). But the vote is about more than that. It is a battle over the island’s relationship with China—a contest between those advocating for more distance from the mainland and those calling for less.

Joining Tsai and Han in that contest is a third, unofficial contestant: Beijing. The Chinese government has undertaken a vast information influence campaign designed to support its favored candidates and sow distrust in Taiwan’s democracy.

China’s efforts go far beyond spreading disinformation and stale state propaganda. Beijing’s ambition is to shape the production, dissemination, and consumption of information in Taiwan. And as my colleagues and I argue in a forthcoming Brookings report,

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