Think tank calls PLA provocations against Taiwan ‘cognitive warfare’

Think tank calls PLA provocations against Taiwan ‘cognitive warfare’


Increasingly frequent goading by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft flying near Taiwan is an attempt by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to influence residents of Taiwan through “cognitive warfare” as it seeks to gain control of the island nation, according to a Taiwan think tank.

“Its ultimate goal is to control what’s between the ears. That is, your brain or how you think, which [Beijing] hopes leads to a change of behavior,” Tzeng Yi-suo, director of the cyber security division at the government-funded Institute of National Defense and Security Research in Taipei, told Voice of America (VOA) News.

In the wake of increased tensions, nations have called on the CCP to curtail its intimidation tactics and respect Taiwan’s autonomy.

Dozens of PLA warplanes flew into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone January 23 and 24, 2021. The zone encompasses areas that are not part of Taiwan’s territory, according to the online magazine The Diplomat. The provocative PLA maneuvers caused Taiwan to scramble fighter jets.

The latest incursion spike occurred three days after the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden. As it has done in the past, the U.S. State Department released a statement condemning PLA attempts to intimidate Taiwan.

“The United States will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues, consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan,” the statement said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price in February 2021 called on the CCP to cease intimidation tactics against Taiwan.

“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected leadership,” Price said, according to Reuters.

Analysts say the CCP is becoming increasingly concerned that Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is moving closer toward a formal declaration of independence, with Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian saying recently that “Taiwan independence means war.”

U.S. Defense Department press secretary John Kirby called the comment “unfortunate,” adding that the Pentagon “sees no reason why tensions over Taiwan need to lead to anything like confrontation,” according to BBC News. Taiwan’s elected leadership, however, including President Tsai, have routinely stated that there is no need to declare independence, because Taiwan is already an independent country under the official name of the Republic of China, which has been governing from Taipei, separately from mainly China, for over 70 years.

Mainland China and Taiwan have had separate governments since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, but the CCP has tried to limit Taiwan’s international activities. The CCP’s “one China” policy asserts that there’s only one sovereign state under the name China and opposes Taiwan’s independence.

In addition to military maneuvers, the CCP has deployed an aggressive propaganda campaign to discredit and delegitimize Tsai and her administration, Huang Jaw-nian, an assistant professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei specializing in media politics, told VOA.

The CCP “is running its global propaganda campaign by expanding its state media abroad and deploying a strategy called ‘borrowing a boat out to sea,’ that is, buying up foreign news outlets [with better credibility]. … The media buyouts are, in some cases, made by pro-Beijing businesspeople,” who will likely spin coverage to curry favor with the People’s Republic of China, Huang told VOA.

Despite such attempts, Tsai has said Taiwan will continue to assert its authority and push for diplomatic relationships and access.

“We will continue to show that Taiwan is a force for good and a vital partner to the world,” she said in January 2021, according to Reuters, “and we are able and determined to contribute to the international community.”