Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Fumio Ota

【#1106】Lessons Japan Should Learn from Taiwan Election

Fumio Ota / 2024.01.17 (Wed)

January 15, 2024

During campaigns for Taiwan’s presidential election on January 13, Beijing tried to exert influence on Taiwan in a variety of ways to ensure that the election results would be favorable to China. The lessons from such Chinese maneuvers are also lessons for Japan. Let me give two of them: To enhance resilience against a carrot and stick operation and to implement measures against cognitive warfare through disinformation.

Chinese carrot and stick operation

As for carrots, Beijing invited Taiwanese neighborhood association heads to China on favorable conditions to encourage them to vote for the Nationalist Party known as Kuomintang, which is conciliatory to China, and lifted an embargo on Taiwanese agricultural and fishery products only for Kuomintang supporters.

Regarding sticks, Beijing has exerted psychological pressure on Taiwan since last year by launching a satellite passing over Taiwan on January 9 and flying drones near Taiwan and balloons over the Taiwan.

Although some people may think that China will not intervene in Japan in such a blatant manner, there was a case in which Beijing exerted influence on the Komeito party, a junior coalition partner of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Immediately after Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi visited China late last year, Komeito turned against the export of the next-generation fighter jet to be developed jointly by Japan, Britain, and Italy to third countries. The party had earlier approved the export at working-level talks with the LDP.

Beijing is also likely to intervene in Okinawa and other local elections in Japan in the future. If China flies drones and balloons towards Okinawa or launches a satellite over Okinawa just before the next Okinawa gubernatorial election scheduled to come in two years, it may work to the advantage of candidates who advocate a conciliatory approach to China.

Measures against disinformation

Meanwhile, China has disseminated official disinformation regarding Japan in the past. On September 17, 2012, the Global Times, an international newspaper affiliated with the People’s Daily, the official organ of the Chinese Communist Party, reported that a referendum in Okinawa on March 4, 2006, found 75% of the people wanted Okinawa’s independence from Japan, and the remaining 25% demanded autonomy while seeking to belong to Japan. There is no fact that any referendum was held in Okinawa on March 4, 2006. Japanese people may not be fooled by such disinformation. However, given that the Global Times is translated into five languages, ignorant foreigners may mistakenly believe that 75% of Okinawans are demanding independence from Japan.

In December 2016, China’s Defense Ministry claimed that F-15 fighters of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force fired decoy flares at Chinese military aircraft and condemned the action as dangerous and unprofessional enough to endanger the safety of the Chinese aircraft and crew. However, the F-15 fighters in the photograph shown by China’s Defense Ministry as evidence were not on flight mission that day.

Japan should develop a mechanism for official organizations to timely deny such disinformation and expose the truth to the world.

Fumio Ota is a councilor and a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. He is a retired Vice Admiral of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and a former Director of Defense Intelligence Headquarters.