Sometimes it is not enough for China’s propaganda organs to brainwash people through repetition, such as, say, by insisting that there is only one China and that Taiwan is indivisibly part of it. On some occasions the facts themselves must be created.
China did just that at the weekend when the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece Xinhua news agency reported on remarks by Taiwan Affairs Office chairman Zhang Zhijun (張志軍). During a speech at the fifth World Peace Forum in Beijing on Sunday, Zhang, a keen practitioner of saturation propaganda, touched on souring relations in the Taiwan Strait following the election of Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) as president in Taiwan.
While there was nothing atypical in Zhang blaming Tsai’s refusal to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus” and absurd (to the Taiwanese) “one China” framework, he did go beyond the usual rhetoric by rewriting recent history.
“We have noticed that the current Taiwan authorities attempted to sideline and break off political, economic and cultural links between the two sides of the Strait through certain policies and actions,” Zhang told his audience at Tsinghua University, the organizer of the event.
The situation, Zhang said, has led to the suspension of cross-strait communication mechanisms and increased uncertainty and risks.
Xinhua then stepped in with the following: “The two sides have suspended the regular mechanism between cross-strait affairs departments, as well as the consultation mechanism between the mainland’s [sic] Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).”
Anyone who has followed cross-strait relations since the January elections in Taiwan would immediately know that this is revisionism. The two sides have not suspended regular and consultation mechanisms — Beijing has. In fact, the Tsai administration has repeatedly signaled its desire for communication to continue, regardless of the disagreements that Taipei and Beijing may have over the CCP’s expectations of Tsai.
Through this revisionism, Beijing is trying to create a moral equivalence by portraying Taipei as somehow responsible for the cessation of dialogue: not only has Tsai “irresponsibly” refused to say what Beijing wants her to say (which she will not and cannot), but her government has, we are to believe, furthermore closed the door on dialogue, which plays an important role ensuring predictability and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
This is a patent lie. The Tsai administration desires dialogue and has explored various avenues since the Chinese side announced it had suspended the mechanisms last month to keep the discussion going. Behind the scenes, members of the “blue” camp (i.e., opposition Kuomintang) who are involved in quiet discussions with the Chinese side have also sought to convince Beijing that refusing to talk with the Tsai administration is sheer folly. Even they acknowledge that the notion that Taipei suspended talks is a lie.
Knowing the modus operandi of Chinese propagandists, expect this — Taiwan as responsible for suspending communication mechanisms — to become the new narrative over the coming weeks and months. It will be repeated in official media, by officials like Zhang, and at various conferences and forums abroad.
The Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA) is co-organizer of the event, which was held July 16-17. Over the years CPIFA has co-organized a number of forums with other Chinese organizations involved in political/information warfare, including China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC).
First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White