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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Shutting out cognitive warfare

Shutting out cognitive warfare

A woman who purchased books from Eslite bookstore was harassed by telephone calls from someone claiming to an Eslite marketing employee, saying that “there is no way Taiwan could win a war with China” and “unification with Taiwan is inevitable,” among other things.

The case not only involved the leak of personal data, but revealed the extent of the infiltration of China’s cognitive warfare that Taiwanese have to reckon with.

Here I Stand Project deputy secretary-general Cynthia Yang (楊欣慈), who bought the anti-Chinese Communist Party book If China Attacks (阿共打來怎麼辦) from Eslite’s online bookstore in February, said at a news conference that she received a telephone call on Saturday from a woman claiming to work at Eslite’s marketing department, warning her that some of the content of the book was “inappropriate” and inviting Yang to participate in a survey being conducted by the store.

Yang then received another call from a man, who also identified himself as an Eslite pollster, despite not knowing that Taichung is a city in Taiwan.

He told Yang that “the Chinese military’s capabilities are strong, so there is no way Taiwan can win a war,” that “the US will not help” and that “Taiwanese soldiers are afraid to fight,” as well as promoting ideas such as “the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is better,” “we are all Chinese, not Taiwanese,” and “unification with Taiwan is inevitable.”

Leaks of personal data in Taiwan is nothing new, be it from private firms or government agencies.

Taiwan has been named the No. 1 target of cyberattacks in the world — it is estimated that there are between 20 million and 40 million cyberattacks originating in China every month.

The Eslite case is obviously not financial fraud, but it shows that personal information leaked by Taiwanese companies has been used to launch cognitive warfare against Taiwanese on behalf of China’s propaganda machine.

It is outrageous, but not surprising that people who buy or read certain politically sensitive books are being monitored, especially when online platforms have branches in China or Chinese partners.

Well-known cases, such as Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kei (林榮基) being prosecuted by Chinese authorities and Taiwan-based publisher Li Yanhe (李延賀) being detained by Chinese police, have shown how China treats dissidents. The Eslite case shows that China is trying to spread fear of war, anti-Democratic Progressive Party sentiment and skepticism about the US ahead of next year’s presidential election. Indeed, China’s meddling in democratic elections has already aroused concern in many other nations.

The US, Canada and Australia have uncovered cyberattacks and information warfare that have been attributed to China’s security and intelligence agencies.

The government should conduct a thorough investigation of the Eslite case, especially looking into possible collusion between China and Taiwanese companies.

he Executive Yuan last month approved amendments to three anti-scam laws, and the Legislature yesterday third-reading passed the Personal Data Protection Act (個人資料保護法) to raise the fines for institutions that fail to safeguard personal data security. The cabinet also enacted a new plan to assist private firms counter fraud.

However, these laws will not stop all the attacks, so people should establish their own self-conscious “firewalls” to shut out China’s cognitive warfare.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2023/05/17

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Former Examination Yuan president Yao Chia-wen, center, and Taiwan Society chairman Chang Yen-hsien, right, listen as Sim Kiantek speaks yesterday at a press conference in Taipei on interpreting the Cairo Declaration.
Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) interpretation of the Cairo Declaration, issued on Dec. 1, 1943, as the legal basis of Taiwan’s “return” to the Republic of China (ROC) after World War II was not only incorrect, but also dangerous because his rhetoric was exactly the same as that of Beijing, pro-independence advocates said yesterday.

“[Ma’s interpretation] fits right in with the ‘one China’ framework, which would be interpreted by the international community as saying Taiwan is part of China because hardly anyone would recognize the China in ‘one China’ framework as referring to the ROC,” Taiwan Society President Chang Yen-hsien (張炎憲), a former president of the Academia Historica, told a press conference.