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Eyes on Taiwan: Chinese Media Accidentally Leak Instructions to Censor Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Could Taiwan be the next Ukraine?
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While the world’s attention is fixed squarely on the Russian missiles targeting Ukraine, tension might also be brewing halfway across the world in China and Taiwan. The Washington Post revealed that a Chinese state-owned media group accidentally published censorship guidelines on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The censorship guidelines stated that “unfavorable” articles about Russia would not be posted, and neither would “pro-Western” remarks. 

The post has since been deleted from Weibo, but not before it was saved as a screenshot and disseminated on Twitter. According to WPS, the post belonged to Horizon News, a subset of state-backed Beijing News

Censorship is nothing new to Chinese media, and the “guidelines” are expected given China’s strong alliance with Russia. Trade between the two countries reached the $140 billion mark in 2021, and Russia’s tenuous relationship with Ukraine mirrors China’s own situation with Taiwan. As Russia mounts its offensive strategies to claim Ukraine’s breakaway Donbas region, China has been persistent in its denial of Taiwan’s sovereignty. Occupied by the Ukraine crisis, political analysts from NATO and APAC have shrewdly pointed out that Russia’s actions in Ukraine could potentially set a precedent for China’s intentions to reclaim Taiwan. 

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Aside from Beijing News’ blunder, a senior editor from state-backed Xinhua News Agency penned a public opinion on the issue of Russia and Ukraine—and how China’s response factors into the equation. 

“We should be clear that in the future, when China completely resolves the Taiwan issue, and when China and the United States engage in various strategic games, we also need understanding and a certain degree of support from Russia,” wrote editor Ming Jinwei on Weibo. “China needs to support Russia morally and emotionally, but not to irritate the US and the EU too much because of this support.”

The blog post was clear: In the interest of China’s future plans for Taiwan, they will need Russia’s support. How exactly China plans to “resolve” the Taiwan issue remains vague, but the nation has threatened to take “drastic measures” on more than one occasion. Taiwan has been governing itself as an independent state, despite China’s refusal to recognize its independence.

While both Beijing and Taiwan officials recognize that their situation is different from that of Russia and Ukraine, that’s where the agreement stops. 

"Taiwan is not Ukraine," said Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. "Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China. This is an indisputable legal and historical fact.”

Taiwan rejects China's territorial claims, with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen calling on all security and military units to “raise their surveillance and early warning of military developments around the Taiwan Strait.” 

"In the face of foreign forces intending to manipulate the situation in Ukraine and affect the morale of Taiwanese society, all government units must strengthen the prevention of cognitive warfare launched by foreign forces and local collaborators,” said Tsai, as reported by Reuters.

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For now, all we can do is wait and see how the Russia-Ukraine conflict pans out. And if the fallout will reach our corner of the world. 

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