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The Influence of the PRC on Taiwan’s Media

The Chinese communist regime extends its reach to the media across the strait.

Since early September 2006, waves of reports started to appear in Chinese state-run media concerning the anti-Bian movement in Taiwan, with detailed descriptions of mass demonstrations held in Taiwan against President Chen Shui-bian of the Republic of China.

Meanwhile, the pro-China media in Hong Kong (such as Ming Pao and Wen Wei Po) and Taiwan (such as China Times, United Daily News, and TVBS) posted daily anti-Bian headlines, highlighting such words such as revolution, bloodshed, execution by hanging, and on strike, with pictures showing seas of people dressed in red protesting President Chen. Few reported activities that were in support of President Chen.

Some political commentators questioned such one-sided reporting: Several TV stations acted in concert to broadcast only anti-Bian red news. Is this still news reporting? Have the market-oriented Taiwan media become the political propaganda tools of communist China?

Overview: Media in Taiwan

There are about 350 newspapers in Taiwan, all of which are privately owned. The largest two are United Daily News, with a daily circulation of 1,300,000, and China Times, with a circulation of about 1,270,000. There are three English language newspapers—the China Post, Taiwan News, and Taipei Times. China Post is the most popular of the three, with a readership of around a quarter of a million.

There are 105 TV channels. Five are satellite stations and 100 are cable. Taiwan’s multi-channel cable television penetration rate is a high 85 percent. China Television Company (CTV) is one of the world’s leading providers of Chinese-language television content, reaching audiences around the world.

There are currently more than 170 radio stations in Taiwan, with the same number of underground radio stations.

With the exception of a handful of larger and more established media concerns, most companies are similar in size and capital and are privately owned.

The PRC Communist Regime’s Global Media Strategy

On May 11, 2006, the Chinese Academy of Social Science, the leading research institute of the communist government in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), issued the first Yellow Book on Socialism in the World. It laid out the Chinese strategy to spread socialism worldwide and replace the United States as leader of the world in the 21st century. Its media strategy is one of its key elements.{mospagebreak}

In the United States and many countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, Chinese-language media is dominated by those funded or otherwise controlled by China’s communist government.

For example, a handful of top newspapers in Hong Kong such as The Sing Tao Daily, Ming Pao, Wen Wei Po, and Ta Kung Pao are actually mouthpieces for the mainland communist government. The deceased prominent democratic activist, Jin Yaoru, was a long-time editor-in-chief at Wen Wei Po and, unknown to all, an underground Chinese Communist Party member throughout his stint with the newspaper. After the June 4
Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, he stepped forward and defected from the Chinese Communist Party.

According to former Xinhua News Hong Kong Chief Xu Jiatun, the PRC funneled US$30 million into the pro-PRC newspaper Zhong Po, with circulation in Hong Kong and the United States, during his term from 1983 to 1989.

The PRC’s Infiltration of Taiwan’s Media

Experts have observed that Taiwan media limits its coverage of PRC issues. Negative reports on the PRC are hard to find. According to Dr. Chin-hua Chang, the director of the Media Research Institute of National Taiwan University, Taiwan newspapers publish fewer negative reports on the PRC than the PRC’s own media in mainland China.

As cultural and economic relations between the PRC and Taiwan expand and Taiwan political conflicts intensify, the PRC’s influence in Taiwan increases.

In the 1990s, the PRC and Taiwan agreed to an exchange of journalists. The PRC’s national state-run media, including Xinhua News Agency, People’s Daily, China Central Television, Central People’s Broadcasting Station, and China News Services, have journalists stationed in Taiwan on a monthly rotational basis. Taiwan journalists from eight newspapers and TV stations are allowed to base themselves in China. They include Central News Agency, China Times, China Post, MUCH TV, and TVBS.

The PRC’s China Central Television (CCTV) has aired in Taiwan via satellite on local stations eight hours a day since 1993. Its programs range from talk shows to news programs, including news conferences by Beijing’s leaders and other political programs. In March of 2003, the Taiwan government took CCTV off the air as a reprisal for Beijing’s refusal to license four Taiwanese TV stations—Eastern TV, Era Communications, Set TV, and USTV. These stations sought to reach the half million Taiwanese who live on the mainland yet have no access to the island’s TV stations. Only luxury hotels in China receive Taiwanese programs. In 2005, CCTV returned to the air in Taiwan as part of the Asia Great Wall Satellite Platform.{mospagebreak}

According to Liberty Times, back in 2002, the PRC’s Taiwan Affairs Offices in Beijing set up a center to monitor Taiwan media 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Taiwan government has, to some extent, limited the mainland media’s presence in Taiwan either through leveraging the issue to open the door in favor of Taiwan media or through diplomatic maneuvering at times of political crisis. Unfortunately, China has directly or indirectly influenced and changed the Taiwanese media in a subtle and sophisticated way.

Investment in Taiwanese Media

In 2003, Liberty Times reported that Taiwan intelligence confirmed that the PRC had made enormous investments in 17 Taiwan media outlets.

In the summer of 2004, the KMT (Kuomintang or National Party of China) was required by the Broadcasting and Television Law to sell its interests in China Television (CTV), the Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC), the Central Motion Picture Corporation, the Central Daily News and China Daily News by December 26. There were reports that Beijing had been trying to buy shares of the KMT’s media. The Taiwan Information Office issued a determination that TVBS was a foreign-owned company and therefore in violation of Taiwanese law.

Lin Chia-lung, head of Taiwan’s Government Information Office, stated at a legislative session on October 6, 2004, that mainland China was penetrating the island’s media by proxy, specifically that mainland-controlled entities had applied to set up radio stations and acquire mismanaged radio stations. One of these entities is the so-called Taiwan Radio Listeners Friendship Gathering Association. The mainland has been broadcasting to Taiwan with programs highlighting mainland nationalism. Mr. Lin estimated that 300,000 people in Taiwan listened to mainland broadcasts. Taiwanese radio listeners have been invited to the mainland for friendship sessions organized by the official Central People’s Broadcasting Station.

Infiltration of Taiwanese Media Staff

In November of 2002, Kinmen’s Prosecutors Office in Taiwan charged the former president of the now defunct Kinmen Evening News, Peng Chuei-bin, with collaborating with the enemy. Peng allegedly used his media work as a cover and took photos of sensitive military areas in Kinmen and Matsu. He was charged with passing the photos to the PRC military.{mospagebreak}

In April of 2003, the Investigation Bureau under the Taiwan Ministry of Justice investigated another Taiwan journalist suspected of obtaining and providing the PRC with intelligence on Taiwan’s annual defense budget, defense weaponry, and military procurement. According to Liberty Times, the Investigation Bureau discovered that the PRC government believes that Taiwan has an active and prosperous news media sector, and thus it is easy for media management or journalists to have direct or indirect access to Taiwan government affairs. Therefore, the Chinese regime has gone all out to infiltrate the news media in Taiwan.

CCTV’s Asia Great Wall Satellite Platform

During the last decade, the systematic expansion of PRC propaganda began to appear in Chinese-speaking communities throughout the world at an accelerated pace. Take the PRC’s China Central Television as an example. According to the CCTV Chinese-language website, CCTV is the most important news agency in China. It is an important mouthpiece for the [Chinese Communist] Party, government, and people. It is an important base of mind and culture. The safe broadcast of CCTV is an important political task.

CCTV began its global expansion in 1992 by carrying out a systematic implementation plan aimed at reaching Chinese audiences around the world. The focus from 1992 to 1995 was the Asia Pacific region, the United States, and the Middle East. The target group in 1996 was European overseas Chinese. The year 1997 saw expansion into Africa and in 1998, more penetration into the United States.

In October 2004, CCTV launched its partnership with EchoStar to bring a Great Wall Satellite Platform to EchoStar’s over 10 million DishNetwork subscribing households in North America. The platform included 17 channels, such as the CCTV-E&F channel, CCTV-9 English channel, and other Chinese-language channels. CCTV claimed on its website this indicates that propaganda to foreign countries has stepped up to another level. It shows that CCTV’s propaganda work in foreign countries has experienced a huge change in both concept and operational mode.

The Asia Great Wall Satellite Platform, beginning on February 1, 2005, is an extension of the North America Great Wall Platform. It contains 11 TV channels broadcasting from PRC through Ku-Band Section of #5 Asian-Pacific Satellite. Its signal covers Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Thailand, and others.

The channels that the Asia Great Wall Satellite Platform provides are CCTV-4, CCTV-9 (English), CCTV-OPERA, BTV (Beijing), Dragon TV (Shanghai), TVS (Cantonese), Jiangsu International, SETV (Fujian International), HTV (Hunan), SZTV (Shenzhen), and Strait Star.{mospagebreak}

Multichannel Engagement and Influence: Money Talks

Ever since the PRC and Taiwan opened a dialog, the PRC regime has embarked on increasing its interactions with Taiwanese society through trade and business investment, cultural and educational exchange programs, international conferences, and other social activities. As the economy grows, the PRC’s propaganda tactics have also become increasingly sophisticated. Communist doctrine has been embedded in attractive amusement programs and cultural spectaculars. Sharing a common cultural heritage with mainland China, the Taiwanese people are more apt to be influenced. However, it is not a two-way street. While the PRC regime has taken advantage of the freedom of Taiwan, it has kept the Taiwanese democratic ideologies outside of China through tight media control and censorship.

One effective strategy is to build up a United Front by inviting selected overseas media to contribute at overseas Chinese media forums. The Second Worldwide Chinese Media Forum hosted by China News Agency, the Changsha City government in Hunan Province, and the Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs in Hunan Province took place in Changsha City, Hunan Province, between September 22 and 24, 2003. About 180 overseas Chinese media, including some Taiwan media, attended the forum. None of the many overseas media outlets that openly refuse to toe the CCP line or those regarded by the CCP as potential threats or those who openly challenge CCP propaganda were invited to the forum. Some highlighted topics on the agenda were how overseas Chinese media can cooperate with media in mainland China and how to objectively report news related to China.

Stories have often been heard about how a certain journalist had changed his or her view of the PRC after taking a complimentary silk road trip in China offered by the PRC government. According to an article published by a U.S.-based think tank, the Jamestown Foundation, in the World Journal, one of the six branch-newspapers of the United Daily News (UDN)—Taiwan’s most influential newspaper—has developed business ties with mainland China. When Chinese Consulates in both New York and San Francisco pressured World Journal‘s local offices to not publish ads related to Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned by the PRC government, the New York office complied. Its San Francisco office still prints Falun Gong ads, yet most of the time on the paper’s least-viewed page.

Alarming Trend

How effective is the PRC in infiltrating Taiwan and influencing Taiwan politics?

In January 2004, PRC Premier Wen visited the United States. At least two reporters of Taiwanese TV media, including TVBS, stated to the Taiwan Falun Dafa Society that their managers in Taiwan ordered the reporters to remove from their footage any background that shows Falun Gong.{mospagebreak}

Between March and April 2006, Taiwan’s New News Weekly invited Jiao Guobiao, a former professor at Beijing University and an advocate of democracy in China, to write three essays. The publication of these articles led mainland China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, a department under the State Council, to launch an investigation. The Taiwan Affairs Office was even investigating who actually invited you to write the essays, so I was scared of asking you to write for us again, said a journalist at New News Weekly.

Lack of objective media coverage of the PRC may have contributed to the overheating of investment in the mainland PRC by Taiwan businesses. Information from the Investment Commission of the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs shows that over 70 percent of Taiwan’s Foreign Direct Investment went to mainland China. The estimate of business communities puts it at a high 90 percent. Less than one-third of them see profits.

Xiao Tian is a correspondent for Chinascope.