Strait Deception: Spamouflage Spreads Propaganda and Stokes Tensions in Taiwan
Spamouflage Survives Report Part 4/6
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Miburo’s 11-month investigation into the Chinese government-aligned disinformation actor Spamouflage revealed an expansion of this actor’s messaging themes. As tensions in the Chinese-U.S. relationship escalated in the latter half of 2021, Spamouflage accounts pushed content that sought to denigrate Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), its president Tsai Ing-wen, and commented more broadly on the U.S.-Taiwan relationship.
Taiwan-focused posts surfaced in Mandarin, English, and Cantonese, and are among the most bellicose in the set. They also post quickly after major developments involving Taiwan in the international stage. There are several common themes and arguments that occur throughout Spamouflage content targeting Taiwan:
Claims that the U.S. and Taiwan are playing the “Taiwan card” in international politics.
Anyone who carries out “provocative” actions and stirs up trouble in the Taiwan region will be met with swift and violent response from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Blaming the West, in particular the U.S., for rising tensions in Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait.
Criticizing U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Biden administration’s handling of “the Taiwan issue.”
Spamouflage Facebook pages such as James Maddison, Md Rakib, and Exbgttr frequently push content relating to Taiwanese politics.
James Maddison, a Facebook page focusing on U.S.-Taiwan, relations shared links to a Spamouflage YouTube video alleging that Western countries are more focused on conducting military exercises and containing China than taking care of the pandemic at home.
A 13-member delegation composed of European parliamentarians organized by the European Parliament's "Special Committee to Deal with Foreign Intervention in the EU's Democratic Process" visited Taiwan. The two parties announced that they will exchange views on the so-called "fake news, cyberattacks", and other issues. The DPP authorities highlighted that these actions were "significant", saying that this is the first time that an "official delegation" from the European Parliament has arrived in Taiwan.
The #USA Talking about one thing and doing another on the Taiwan issue has also given European countries room to follow in their footsteps. Several factors have had an influence here. The DPP authorities also want to exploit the characteristics of Western politics, such as the principle that "the government cannot control the parliament," to make it seem as though Taiwan is gaining influence in Europe. Although this delegation visited with its official status, the actual influence of the European Parliament itself is limited. It is meaningless for some of its members to try to intervene in Taiwan, and ultimately won’t have any effect.
DPP and U.S. Politicians are playing “the Taiwan card” for their own selfish interests, tying the Taiwanese people to a war carriage. The U.S. and Taiwan should remember that the One China Principle is a widespread, international consensus, it’s an acknowledged, basic principle of international relations. Stop selling weapons to Taiwan and (cutoff) U.S.-Taiwan military relations to avoid doing serious damage to Chinese-American relations and destabilizing the Taiwan Strait.
The political and military disagreements caused by the Taiwan issue at the center of the U.S.-China bilateral relations are growing more intense every day. It has drawn global attention and fears that the situation in the Taiwan strait will grow more tense, leading to a conflict breaking out. The U.S. and Taiwan are colluding again, continuing with their plot to make Taiwan”independent”, provoking China and getting close to crossing a red line time and time again. China should respond by making its determination to protect its national sovereignty and national territory clear.
Several posts criticized Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s late October 2021 statement calling on U.N. member states to support Taiwan’s participation in the organization.
There's only one China on earth. If the Taiwan territory participates in the U.N. and other international organizations, it will need to do so according to the One China Principle. There’s no room for equivocation or leeway on this matter. Just as the spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the United States said, we urge the U.S. to recognize reality, stop making irresponsible and erroneous statements, and take concrete actions to maintain Sino-American relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese people have drawn a red line, if any person or force ignores China’s serious warning, they’ll be playing with fire.. They will burn themselves and invite their own destruction.
Photo text: “Blinken’s statement interferes with Taiwan’s politics and is poisonous!”
In the last few days, American Secretary of State Blinken made a statement supporting Taiwan’s participation in the United Nations. The Chinese government responded back firmly, stating that the One China Principle is a global consensus, the U.S can’t cross this red line.
Other posts allege that the U.S. is the main destabilizing force in the Taiwan Strait, warn of the military consequences that would result from Taiwanese independence, and assert the sanctity of the “One-China principle”.
#USA [Taiwan] is using “democracy and freedom” as a pretense to push for “Taiwanese Independence”. Its distorting international perceptions of the issue, making a fuss about “using the military to prevent reunification” and “depending on the U.S. to help plot its independence”. Using the hard-earned money of the Taiwanese people to buy arms [from the U.S.] only harms the interests of the Taiwanese people, and will bring military disaster to the island.
Bellicose Posts on Taiwan
A subset of posts from Spamouflage strike a notably more bellicose tone on Taiwanese politics and the U.S.-Taiwan relationship.
The U.S. continues with its provocative actions, it’s outrageous. This clearly demonstrates how the U.S.is the main destabilizing force in the Taiwan Strait, and the greatest risk to its security.
Photo text: No matter who you are, if you dare to stir up trouble in the Taiwan Strait, you’ll run into a swift and violent counterattack from the PLA.
Want more? Read the rest of our Spamouflage Survives series here:
Part 1: Spamouflage Survives: CCP-aligned Disinformation Campaign Spreads on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
Part 2: Five Ways to Spot a Spamouflage Disinformation Campaign
Part 3: Cotton the Act: Large-Scale Network of CCP-aligned Facebook Accounts Deny Mass Atrocity in China's Xinjiang Province
Part 5: Spamouflage’s Ill Will: Anatomizing a Two-Year Pandemic Propaganda Campaign
Part 6: Emperor in the Ether: Spamouflage’s Authoritarian Attacks on Democracy and Journalists
The idiom ”火中取栗“ , (literally “taking a chestnut out of the fire”), roughly means “making others play with fire”, that is, making others take risks and do your dirty work for you. It has also been used to describe the U.S. government in previous Spamouflage content. It stems from the French phrase tirer les marrons du feu, inspired by Jean de la Fontaine’s fable The Monkey and the Cat.