DPP-manipulated ‘think tanks’ poison cross-Straits relations with biased reports

By Lin Xiaoyi and Huang Lanlan Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/28 21:33:40

Taiwan Photo:VCG

Earlier this month Fan Shiping, an advisor to authorities on the island of Taiwan, boasted on a television program that the Chinese mainland's economy is failing, which "affects its military budget." Fan even suggested that the People's Liberation Army (PLA)'s deployment was limited by cost factors, and scoffed that the PLA should consider using paper planes, which are less costly than drones.

Similar nonsenses have recently flooded the island. Most "think tanks" and "research institutions" on the island have long been attached to political parties, costing them basic objectivity and fairness and turning them into rumor mongers and ideological mouthpieces, experts said.

"They speak for those who fund them," Ni Yongjie, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies, told the Global Times Tuesday.

Most think tanks in Taiwan that engage in cross-Straits relations are financially supported by parties and are therefore politically biased, he added.

Assertions riddled with ambiguities 

Many Taiwan-based "research organizations" are playing a disgraceful role in support of secessionism, said Taiwan-affairs scholars.

These organizations wantonly spread political rumors to attack the political system and ideology of the Chinese mainland, misleading local residents and increasing hostility on both sides across the Taiwan Straits, Chen Xiancai, a Taiwan studies expert at Xiamen University, told the Global Times.

Information Operations Research Group (IORG), for example, recently released a report that accused Beijing of "spreading false information" about the COVID-19 pandemic and the influenza situation in the US. 

The IORG report was an obvious attempt to confuse the public and manipulate information about the mainland, said Jennifer Sung, a PhD student at political science department of the National Taiwan University in Taipei, who say IORG consistently demeans any point of view from Chinese mainland media as some kind of nefarious attempt to manipulate public opinion.

The report also suggested that normal official and civic exchanges across the Straits were a form of "interpersonal infiltration." It tagged Taiwan scholars who refute rumors as Beijing's "collaborators," calling them "the key factor to the success" of "information manipulation" by the mainland in Taiwan.

In sharp contrast is a "Cross-strait Security Situation" report jointly issued by the Taiwan International Strategy Research Association and the Taiwan International Studies Association on October 24, which showed that 81.4 percent of the respondents in Taiwan are in favor of more exchanges cross the Straits.

The main task of research institutions and think tanks on the island is to issue instant "survey" and "polls" to set the tone for some events or phenomena, most of which are simple and crude, and their conclusions are more like unsubstantiated "verbal claims," Sung said.

"Their conclusions and the quality of their academic achievements vary greatly, because they serve parties and individuals who hold different positions," Sung told the Global Times. 

Sung noted that IORG's arguments are completely in line with the island's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and are an attempt to create "green terror" and obstruct cross-Straits exchanges.

The rise of think tanks like IORG in Taiwan started in 2000, when the DPP came to power the first time, and it set up many exclusive think tanks to boost its power of persuasion over public opinion, said Chen. 

These research institutions lacked the professionalism and scientific understanding and became outsourced manufacturers for policy propaganda, he added.

New Power Party, another think tank in Taiwan, recently groundlessly stated that mainland's enterprises including Taobao Taiwan and iQIYI disobeyed local laws in the Taiwan market.

The Global Times found that the only academic results in the "think tank section" on New Power Party's website are six polls from March to July this year, and the rest are mainly commentaries on current affairs full of bias against the mainland. The organization reportedly has only three members who conducted the "research" within half a year of its founding.

'Pawn' under spotlight

These biased organizations and institutes in Taiwan seldom produce solid research results, but they are addicted to holding press conferences and research forums, at which DPP officials and the US are always siding with them, Sung commented.

In many cases, these research institutions, which have close ties with DPP and the US, are the source of much of the disinformation, analysts said.

In February, the island's "Institute for National Defense and Security Research" (INDSR) worked with local authorities in inviting Randall Schriver, former US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, to give a speech in Taiwan. In his speech, Schriver groundlessly slandered the Chinese mainland.

Chen noted that DPP authorities want the think tanks to lean toward Washington and to lobby the US to adopt a "Taiwan independence" policy.

"The interaction between them is actually mutual utilization. For these think tanks with limited space to operate on the international stage, they can expand their influence by joining the discussion in Washington. In exchange, they give the US a chance to interfere in China's internal affairs and a platform to speak out against China," Chen said.

Gloomy future

In the past, think tanks and research institutions worked as an unofficial communication channels in cross-Straits relations, promoting exchanges and cooperation, building consensus, and laying a foundation for mutual trust between the two sides, but now that door is closing, lamented local scholars and residents in Taiwan.

Now the DPP-supported think tanks are deceiving the public with the cloak of academic research, said Ni. "Actually they not only propagate the separatist DPP's policies but also participate in its policy making, particularly in terms of its policies toward the US," he said.

"I have never quoted any report produced by Taiwan think tanks," Sung said, saying he thinks they only pay attention to some sensitive political issues with prejudice to grab attention, which offers no real help to the future of the island and the people.

"The DPP's support for think tanks with taxpayers' money is meaningless, as their research doesn't help Taiwan make any positive changes. In fact, the think tanks don't influence the DPP's self-interested decision-making path, nor do they offer constructive suggestions if they might annoy their 'sugar daddy,'" Leo Wu, a Taiwan resident, told the Global Times. 

Wu also mentioned that the Tsai Ing-wen authority recently prevailed over all dissenting views to allow Ractopamine-enhanced pork from the US, which cluttered up the island again.

The authorities of Taiwan need to get rid of the influence of ideology, and give positive guidance to the research institutes, let independent and objective think tanks produce more solid and constructive research results to assist decision-making, Chen said.

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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