When calls for the reunification of Taiwan with the Chinese mainland are growing louder in Beijing, Taiwan has sought to change how the narrative is presented to the international community by the Chinese state-run media.
Taiwan inaugurated its first English-language news, entertainment, and lifestyle television channel on October 3 to give it a stronger voice worldwide when China is said to be encroaching on the island’s territory and attempting to assert its sovereignty.
President Tsai Ing-wen has been a prominent supporter of the government-backed TaiwanPlus, which started operating as a primarily online streaming platform last year. China, for one, already runs its English-channel Television media called CGTN.
Beijing, which claims democratically-run Taiwan as its territory, is becoming more involved in English-language media, spreading the opinions of the governing Communist Party to a global audience, mainly through the English-language news channel China Global Television Network, or CGTN.
Beijing is also exerting pressure on Taiwan’s international space by asking foreign businesses to refer to the island as a part of China on their websites and regularly conducting military exercises close to the island.
Ing-wen stated during the opening ceremony that the channel has already improved Taiwan’s standing abroad and will be beneficial as the island develops stronger ties with countries that share its core values of freedom and democracy.
This development is significant when the international community, led by the West, has become more sympathetic to Taiwan’s cause.
“The stories of Taiwan should be shared with the world,” she said. “With more and more people worldwide taking an interest in Taiwan, it is more important than ever that we have a platform to bring Taiwan to the international community.”
The US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently vowed to help Taiwan develop the capability to defend itself against the Chinese invasion. Earlier, US President Joseph Biden had announced that his country would militarily intervene and defend Taipei if Beijing decided to send troops and invade the self-ruled state.
President Tsai Ing-wen has traditionally supported TaiwanPlus, a government-backed streaming platform that started last year. The perception in the Taiwanese Cabinet is that the beleaguered island state must be able to counter what Beijing is saying about the island and promote the Taiwanese point of view.
“Our voice hasn’t been completely heard on a global scale. Many people believe Taiwan is a part of China because China constantly propagates that idea. They inquire as to why when you respond that is not the case,” said Culture Minister Lee Yung-te.
The TV channel is now only accessible in Taiwan, but according to Lee, a launch in the United States is anticipated within the next six months. There are already a few English-language publications in Taiwan, the most well-known of which is the Taipei Times daily, established in 1999 and distributed widely by the Liberty Times.
Taiwan has focused on developing and sustaining a constant line of communication with the world in the face of growing Chinese aggression. For instance, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang recently asserted the Chinese Communist Party’s resolve to achieve unification of Taiwan with the mainland, a statement that Taipei has rebutted.
The running of an English-language channel would allow Taiwan to communicate with the world about how China seeks to undermine its independent authority.
Earlier in September, Taiwan’s Digital Affairs minister Audrey Tang stated that she was looking to emulate the model of ‘humor’ used by Ukraine against Russia on social media to communicate effectively with the enemy and about it.
Preparing for an imminent invasion, Tang said her country was in the process of putting together a satellite system so that Taiwan could communicate with the outside world even if the enemy destroyed its communication channels in an armed invasion, EurAsian Times reported last month.
Taiwan is setting up a backup internet connection in case a Chinese attack knocks the country offline. The plan is inspired by Ukraine's use of Starlink satellite internet. pic.twitter.com/Vk8ttPXfpP
— TaiwanPlus (@taiwanplusnews) September 14, 2022
Inspired by the Ukrainian situation, one of Tang’s strategies to maintain communications during a Chinese attack is a satellite trial program that will cost NT$550 million ($18 million) over the next two years to guarantee internet services over Taiwan.
By “instantly” moving to different types of communication, such as satellites in intermediate and lower orbit, she claimed that the aim was to maintain societal stability and keep Taiwan’s command systems operational.
She claimed Taiwan’s approach of using comedy to debunk rumors was one the country openly endorsed. She added that there are people who, “as we’ve seen with the example of Ukraine, use comedy or even internet memes to spread a message” that unites the general public.
When asked if China would use social media in a message campaign against Taiwan during a war, Tang responded that it was already doing so.
The focus has thus shifted to not just strengthening its defenses and modernizing its military while maintaining steady communication and owning the narrative that has so far been held and defined by the Communist Party of China.