Paid ‘news’: China using Taiwan media to win hearts and minds on island – sources

TAIPEI (Reuters) – The articles on the web site of the main Taiwan newspaper had been gushing a couple of new Chinese authorities program to lure Taiwanese entrepreneurs to the mainland.

FILE PHOTO: A banner is mirrored on a refined floor as Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) speaks throughout an occasion to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” on the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China January 2, 2019. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool through REUTERS/File Photo

China “treated Taiwanese businessmen like its own people,” one of many articles stated, citing “multiple perks”. Far from being a menace to Taiwan, this system to give financial incentives to Taiwanese to begin companies within the mainland was an “unprecedented” alternative, it stated.

While the articles had been introduced as straight information, they had been really paid for by the Chinese authorities, in accordance to an individual with direct data of the association and inner paperwork from the Taipei-based newspaper.

The placement of the articles was a part of a broader marketing campaign by China to burnish its picture within the Taiwanese media as a part of efforts to win hearts and minds in Taiwan for China’s “reunification” agenda.

Reuters has discovered proof that mainland authorities have paid at the least 5 Taiwan media teams for protection in numerous publications and on a tv channel, in accordance to interviews with 10 reporters and newsroom managers in addition to inner paperwork reviewed by Reuters, together with contracts signed by the Taiwan Affairs Office, which is chargeable for overseeing China’s insurance policies in the direction of Taiwan.

The efforts have been going on since China and Taiwan deepened their financial collaboration practically a decade in the past, however particulars just like the monetary preparations of such partnerships had not beforehand been reported.

Reuters is withholding the title of the media teams on the request of the previous and present workers who offered the paperwork.

The Taiwan Affairs Office paid 30,000 yuan ($four,300) for the 2 function tales concerning the mainland’s efforts to entice Taiwan enterprise folks, in accordance to an individual conversant in the preparations and inner paperwork from the newspaper.

“It felt like I was running propaganda and working for the Chinese government,” the particular person stated.

The placement of stories tales by corporations and particular pursuits is widespread in Taiwan. However, the commissioning of such tales by China is doubtlessly explosive in Taiwan, which has been more and more delicate about mainland efforts to sway widespread sentiment amid rising tensions throughout the strait.

While the Taiwan Affairs Office paid for a lot of the tales within the paperwork reviewed by Reuters, different Chinese authorities our bodies additionally commissioned tales, in accordance to three folks with direct data of the matter. One of the contracts was signed by a municipal authorities in southern China.

China has seen self-dominated Taiwan as a wayward province to be introduced below its management, by pressure if obligatory, since a civil conflict divided the 2 in 1949.

One senior information supervisor stated he dealt with tales paid for by the Chinese authorities at a significant newspaper for a number of years. He left the publication in 2016 and now works for a information group affiliated with the Taiwan authorities.

“The money was mostly paid via the Taiwan Affairs Office,” stated the particular person, including that provincial or municipal governments throughout China additionally sponsored protection.

The Taiwanese authorities stated it was conscious of the Chinese efforts and that such partnerships had been topic to a wonderful of up to T$500,000 ($16,000) for violating rules on Chinese ads.

“It is using our press freedom to harm press freedom,” Chiu Chui-cheng, the deputy minister for Taiwan’s Ministry of Mainland Affairs, informed Reuters. “This is part of the mainland’s media war against Taiwan,” he stated, vowing to strengthen legal guidelines to shut what he referred to as “loopholes” in Taiwan’s nationwide safety.

“It’s spreading messages of Chinese ideology, harming our free speech and democracy.”

The Taiwan Affairs Office didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Employees from the media corporations stated Beijing’s efforts to sway the general public’s notion of China was undermining Taiwan’s media.

“When funding from the Chinese government becomes a big part of your revenue, it’s impossible not to exercise self-censorship,” stated a reporter, who stated she was concerned in a number of tales commissioned by the Chinese authorities in 2017-2018 for a newspaper primarily based in southern Taiwan.

“It gives China space to manipulate politics and influence public opinion in Taiwan.”

Several reporters and newsroom managers stated that some media organizations had been participating in self-censorship as tales positioned by China had grow to be more and more necessary sources of earnings.

Issues seen as “sensitive” by China, such because the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, had been now not being lined by their information shops, they stated.

Beijing’s marketing campaign comes at a time of rising concern over Chinese infiltration in Taiwan. In June, tens of hundreds of individuals rallied to name for the regulation of “red media” – shops that they claimed ran favorable protection of a China-friendly presidential candidate forward of key elections in January.

Two officers working at a Taiwanese state safety company, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, stated Chinese infiltration of Taiwan’s media posed “threats” to the island’s safety.

“Their ultimate goal is unification,” stated one of many sources, who oversees Chinese actions on the island. “They think it is better to win the heart of the people than to start a war.”

The Taiwan Affairs Office has arrange corporations that perform the story placement marketing campaign. The corporations liaise with information organizations’ gross sales representatives, ordering up matters and lengths for tales, 5 folks with direct data of the preparations stated.

Such corporations embody Beijing-based Jiuzhou Culture Communication Center, in addition to Publishing Exchange Center Across the Taiwan Strait within the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou, in accordance to a contract signed by the Taiwan Affairs Office unit and the Taipei newspaper, in addition to the particular person conversant in the association.

Liu Tan, a consultant from the Beijing firm, ended a cellphone name with Reuters after a reporter recognized himself. The Guangzhou firm didn’t reply to requests for remark.

In one deal, signed in early 2017, the Beijing firm paid the publication 120,300 yuan in change for 10 full-web page, colour-print tales to promote investments and tourism for an japanese Chinese province.

FILE PHOTO: A vacationer factors at China’s Xiamen from a former navy fort, forward of the 60th anniversary of Second Taiwan Straits Crisis in opposition to China, on Lieyu island, Kinmen county, Taiwan August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

The two options concerning the enterprise incentives within the main Taiwan newspaper had been even edited by the Taiwan Affairs Office earlier than they had been despatched to the paper’s newsroom in Taipei for publication, the particular person stated.

The particular person added that the folks interviewed within the reviews had been picked by an official from the Communist Party’s Publicity Department. 

“Readers were unable to tell the stories were paid for,” the particular person stated. “All they could see was positive coverage of the mainland.”

Reporting By Yimou Lee and I-hwa Cheng; enhancing by Philip McClellan

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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