US Skepticism Narratives and Where They Come From

  • Author = Chihhao Yu
  • Publisher = Taiwan Information Environment Research Center (IORG)
  • Published = 2023.8.8 17:00
  • Updated = 2023.11.8 18:30

Defining US Skepticism

“US Skepticism” in this report is defined as an evolving collection of unreasonable or manipulative narratives that suggests that Taiwan should keep a distance from or reduce its relations with the United States. A narrative can be qualified as unreasonable or manipulative through IORG’s information credibility evaluation process.

Taiwan-US relations have always been an important issue in Taiwan. As bilateral relations have grown stronger in recent years, various narratives have been spreading in Taiwan’s information environment, fostering skepticism towards the US. This phenomenon has prompted much public interest. However, public discourse has been based on more commentary than research, highlighting a gap in which this report aims to fill.

In 2018, Kuang-Shun Yang, co-founder of US-Taiwan Watch, introduced the phrase “US Skepticism” in Mandarin (疑美論), and characterized it as “a mainstream opinion in Taiwan” in his article titled “Protecting Taiwan is US National Interest.” In 2021, Fang-Yu Chen, an Political Science scholar, mentioned four narratives that connect Taiwan-US partnership to the provocation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in a book titled “Why and How the US Matters.” After US troops withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021, IORG identified eleven US Skepticism narratives circulating in Taiwan’s information environment. These narratives claimed that the US will abandon Taiwan, the US is not strong enough to protect Taiwan, and the US is the source of chaos and war in the world. These three precedents lay the foundations of the definition of “US Skepticism” in this report.

Given the growing importance of Taiwan in international affairs, it is essential to continue to identify, categorize, and attribute unreasonable and manipulative narratives regarding Taiwan-US relations. This report employs a data science approach to document “US Skepticism” in the Mandarin information environment, providing data evidence for each of the narratives, and a framework for content and behavioral analysis for the subject. This report aims to contribute to the on-going national and global effort in reducing the harm of information manipulation and creating favorable conditions for reasonable and constructive democratic discourse.

Escalating Narratives – From Unfair Exchange to Hollowing Out, from Abandonment to Destruction

This report has selected twelve key events during the years 2021-2023 and has identified eighty-four narratives that are both thematically related to the events and can be categorized as US Skepticism according to the aforementioned definition. The narratives have been identified through human-AI collaboration based on IORG’s Information Environment Archive and Directory. According to its content, each narrative is then grouped into one of eight types of US Skepticism.

Collectively, these eighty-four narratives present an escalation in the harmfulness of both US actions towards Taiwan and its end goal for Taiwan. According to these narratives, US actions towards Taiwan have progressed from conducting unfair exchanges with Taiwan to hollowing out Taiwan. The end goal, as the change of narrative theme implies, has also shifted from the US abandonment of Taiwan to the destruction of Taiwan altogether.



# Narratives



Mid 2021

COVID-19 vaccine shortage in Taiwan


1 2 3 4 10 16


Aug 2021

Biden Administration’s first arms sale to Taiwan


10 16


Aug 2021

US withdrawal from Afghanistan




Late 2021

National referenda in Taiwan




Feb 2022

Russian full-scale invasion against Ukraine




May 2022

Info-Pacific Economic Framework announcement




Aug 2022

Speaker Pelosi’s Taiwan visit




Late 2022

TSMC’s US expansion




Late 2022

Speaker McCarthy’s potential Taiwan visit




Apr 2023

Tsai’s US transit




Apr 2023

PRC military exercises around Taiwan




Early 2023

Everyday supply shortages in Taiwan



Table 1 – Twelve key events during the years 2021-2023 and the number of US Skepticism narratives related to each event. Note: This report has also conducted additional data analysis and added narratives to events 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9.


The United States…



… treats Taiwan as a chess piece and will abandon Taiwan



… is weak and unable to protect Taiwan



… is the source of chaos and war in the world


Fake Friend

… claims to but does not support, coerces and benefits from Taiwan



… colludes with Taiwanese elites and exploits Taiwanese people


Not Democracy

… is internally corrupt and anti-democratic



… takes actions opposed by countries around the world and its own people



… is making Taiwan a battlefield and will destroy Taiwan

Table 2 – Eight types of US Skepticism.

In 2021 (event 1-4), the overarching theme of US Skepticism was unfair exchange and abandonment. During the COVID-19 vaccine shortage in Taiwan, starting from mid-May, narratives of the US “not selling any vaccines to Taiwan” spread with the help of both PRC state media and Taiwanese politicians under a global vaccine shortage. As news emerged that Taiwan was to receive the first batch of Moderna vaccines, the narrative of Taiwan “using arms purchases and microchips in exchange for US vaccines” circulated widely. In August, when the Biden Administration confirmed its first arms sale to Taiwan, narratives appeared to accuse that the weapons were “scrap metal”, “overpriced”, and the sale a “scam”. Later in the same month, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was used as evidence to support narratives asserting that the US “will abandon Taiwan”. Ractopamine pork ban was the most discussed topic among Taiwan’s four national referenda held in November 2021. Narratives regarding unfair exchanges were revised into “buying (toxic) pork in exchange for vaccines”, reinforcing the notion of Taiwan-US relations as a series of transactions in which the Taiwanese interest was neglected, and that the people of Taiwan were sacrificed and abandoned.

In 2022 (event 5-9), hollowing out and destruction were the highlights of US Skepticism, constituting an effective “upgrade” from last year. Russia’s full-scale invasion against Ukraine in February marked an increase of baseline amount of content regarding conflict in Taiwan’s information environment. Narratives appeared attributing the war to US-NATO “provocation” or US-trained Ukrainian “Nazi,” emphasizing that the US is the source of chaos, bringing about war and destruction in and around the world. In May, President Joe Biden announced the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), marking the first appearance of a Destruction narrative (Type H) in this report, asserting that the inclusion of Taiwan in IPEF is equivalent to the US “making Taiwan a battlefield.” Speaker Pelosi visiting Taiwan in August brought about an array of narratives describing a war-engulfed Taiwan while PRC military exercises took place around Taiwan. Late October, news of the tool-in ceremony of the new TSMC Arizona plant was a good opportunity for manipulative narratives to accuse the US of “hollowing out” Taiwan, extracting the valuable resources and people, and making preparations to destroy Taiwan. Finally, narratives surrounding the potential visit of Speaker Kevin McCarthy once again reinforced the image of a warmongering US and the “Ukrainianization” of Taiwan. The theme of destruction continued in the first half of 2023 (event 10-12), around the shortages of electricity, eggs, water, medicine, and meat, as well as President Tsai’s US transit in April.

Escalation among US Skepticism narratives can be a signal of increased public concern, domestic political interest and foreign influence in the connection between Taiwan-US relations and war. Due to the Russian invasion against Ukraine and the PRC military activities around Taiwan, public concern in Taiwan on related matters could increase, both generating more unreasonable narratives and making public discourse more susceptible to manipulation. At the same time, domestic political interest and foreign influence could also be more incentivized to further discredit Taiwan-US relations and connect such alliance to war for various political self-interest with various inauthentic, coordinated, and manipulative means.

In order to further investigate the origin and whereabouts of US Skepticism narratives, actor categorization is necessary. Using publicly-available information in IORG’s Information Environment Directory, actors can be categorized into domestic (Taiwanese) and foreign, as well as state and private actors. Three types of actors are relevant in this report – PRC actors, Chinese actors, and Taiwanese actors. PRC actors are actors controlled by PRC party-state authorities, party-state media, or party-state-affiliated media organizations. Chinese actors are actors controlled by Chinese nationals, private organizations, or unspecified entities that are likely to be Chinese. Taiwanese actors are actors controlled by Taiwan nationals, private organizations, public-funded organizations, or unspecified entities that are likely to be Taiwanese.

From a data science perspective, a narrative can be defined as a set of documents (news articles, social media posts, instant messages, etc.), each published by an actor (individual, organization, anonymous account, etc.) at a specific platform and time. This set of documents forms the narrative’s content (main argument), its life cycle in the information environment (narrative creation and amplification), and its network behavior characteristics consist of actors across physical and cyber localities. IORG’s Information Environment Archive, Information Environment Directory, and human-AI collaborative processes provide this report with necessary data evidence for further analysis.

Continued PRC Involvement Signifies Tactics and Priorities

Overall, PRC is the largest source of foreign influence in terms of both creation and amplification of US Skepticism narratives. Furthermore, PRC involvement in narrative amplification is high while the involvement in narrative creation is low. In other words, PRC actors tend to “join in” and spread existing specific narratives of US Skepticism rather than creating new ones. Data shows that PRC actors have been involved in the amplification of seventy US Skepticism narratives while creating twenty-eight narratives, out of the total eighty-four.

Figure 1 – Amplification of 8 types of 84 US Skepticism narratives related to 12 key events during 2021-June 2023, showing high level of PRC involvement. Source: IORG Information Environment Archive. Image by Taiwan Information Environment Research Center (IORG).

Figure 2 – Creation of 8 types of 84 US Skepticism narratives related to 12 key events during 2021-June 2023, showing low level of PRC involvement. Source: IORG Information Environment Archive. Image by Taiwan Information Environment Research Center (IORG).

PRC involvement among US Skepticism narrative can signify PRC propaganda tactics in spreading US Skepticism, as well as PRC strategic priorities beyond the weakening of Taiwan-US relations.

PRC involvement across eight narrative types suggests that betrayal for self-interest is the main theme of PRC propaganda targeting Taiwan-US relations. Sixteen Type E (Collusion) narratives and fifteen Type D (Fake Friend) narratives have been amplified by PRC actors, the two most out of all types. Furthermore, both types have eight narratives which were created by PRC actors, also surpassing other types. This shows a collective tendency among PRC actors which could be the result of both a top-down strategic decision based on PRC internal logic, or that of a collective trial-and-error process among the actors. Both indicate that the anthropomorphization of foreign affairs and the idea that the US will betray Taiwan for its self-interest is capable of maximizing damage to Taiwan-US relations.

Chaos narrative creation by third-party actors indicates restraint among PRC actors while less can be seen among proxies and volunteers. Five Type C (Chaos) narratives were created by non-Taiwan and non-PRC actors, the most out of all types. Among five narratives, two (26 40) were created by “He-Tan” (和坛), two (35 37) by Russian state media Sputnik and RT, and one (34) by “Global Chinese Military Alliance” (全球華人軍事聯盟). “He-Tan” is a Facebook Page controlled by China VTV (中華微視), a Hong Kong-based Chinese-language media group; Russian state media is in an official cooperation relationship with PRC state media; “Global Chinese Military Alliance” is an anonymous Facebook Page part of a Malaysia-based content farm group.

Lack of PRC involvement in certain narratives suggests PRC strategic goals that supersedes the goal of weakening Taiwan-US relations, including vaccine supremacy, Taiwan’s provincial status, and PRC’s peaceful image. Fourteen out of the total eighty-four narratives were lacking any PRC involvement. Two narratives (3 5) mentioned Taiwan’s domestic vaccine development, contradicting the supposed PRC vaccine supremacy. Two narratives (40 41) were related to Taiwan’s sovereignty, contradicting the PRC claim that Taiwan is part of China. Eight narratives (23 26 31 39 68 71 79 80) referenced a Taiwan Strait war or a world war, implying that the PRC is an aggressor and damaging the self-promoted peaceful image. However, recent PRC involvement in creating and amplifying war-related narratives around Speaker Pelosi’s Taiwan visit (August 2022) and the Tsai-McCarthy meeting (April 2023) also showed periodic deprioritization of this peaceful image and promotion of PRC military might over Taiwan.

Narratives from Within Taiwan Reflect Collective Psychology

Creation of US Skepticism narratives in Taiwan reflect existing collective psychology in Taiwanese society, this report argues. These collective psychological attributes contribute to the continued circulation of the unreasonable and manipulative US Skepticism narratives in Taiwanese society. They can also be conceptualized as the “cracks” in Taiwanese society, drawing the creators of US Skepticism to produce matching narratives, exacerbating such divide. Data shows that forty-four out of the total eighty-four narratives have been recognized to be created by Taiwanese actors. These include, in descending order, twelve Type E (Collusion), ten Type C (Chaos) narratives, and nine Type A (Abandonment).

Creation of Type E (Collusion) narratives within Taiwan reflect the partisan polarization in Taiwanese society. Out of the eleven Collusion narratives, seven were created by politicians and anonymous Facebook pages in opposition, two were created by a media outlet and an affiliated web programming under Want-Want China Group. Despite containing outrageous claims and near-conspiracies, Collusion narratives still circulate Taiwan’s information environment, arguably resulting from affective decision-making. A 2019 study has demonstrated the presence of emotional partisanship in Taiwan. Furthermore, studies in 2021 and 2023 have shown that public awareness of COVID-19 pandemic-related information, perception of government performance in terms of epidemic control, as well as preference over brands of vaccine, are all affected by partisanship in Taiwan.

Creation of Type C (Chaos) narratives speaks to the recognition of US global power and anxiety towards war among Taiwanese public. A 2021 poll showed a majority of the Taiwanese public recognizes US power globally, especially its military power. This awareness recognizes that the US is capable of effectively influencing world affairs regardless of being favorable or oppositional to US actions. Explicit mention of war in all Chaos narratives indicates the on-going anxiety of regional conflict among the Taiwanese public. A March 2022 poll showed that 41.0% of Taiwanese people lack confidence in the capability of Taiwan’s military defending Taiwan, and that 49.2% do not think that the US military will assist in Taiwan’s self-defense. Poll also showed that 31.0% of Taiwanese people consider the PRC as the top threat to Taiwan. A lack of confidence in defense capability combined with a sense of threat from the PRC would constitute war anxiety.

Creation of Type A (Abandonment) narratives reflect a collective “orphan” mentality. US scholar Goldstein traces this powerful metaphor back to the official perspective of the Republic of China after the US recognition of the PRC in 1979, captured in the government slogan at the time: “dignity and self-reliance at the face of adversity” (莊敬自強 處變不驚). This report further argues from a grassroots point-of-view that the orphan mentality is rooted in Taiwan’s colonial history. One of the most important work in Taiwanese literature is “Orphan of Asia” (亞細亞的孤兒) by Wu Chuo-Liu (吳濁流). First published in 1946, this novel expresses the perplexity of the Taiwanese identity at the end of WWII and the Japanese rule over Taiwan. In July 2022, Japanese ambassador Izumi Hiroyasu (泉裕泰) mentioned during a public event that the late Prime Minister Abe Shinzo once reminded him to “not let [the Taiwanese people] feel lonely” before his assignment to Taiwan, indicating an awareness of the sensitivity on abandonment among Taiwanese public. Ambassador Izumi’s remark was widely reported and shared in Taiwan’s information environment at the time, reflecting in part its popularity in Taiwanese society.


US Skepticism

Societal Attributes in Taiwan



  • Partisan polarization



  • Recognition of US global power
  • War anxiety



  • Collective “orphan” mentality

Table 3 – Pairings of US Skepticism types and collective psychology in Taiwan

Exploring the connection between the network behavior of manipulative narratives and societal collective psychology allows us to consider the effect of environmental factors on the process of information transference. While information literacy capacity remains vital for individual actors to discern credible content, recognizing societal attributes that incentivizes creation or amplification of controversial content provides valuable access points for positive intervention. Advocacy or policies can be prescribed to ease partisan polarization or reduce orphan mentality, making irresponsible personal actions less favorable, and effectively creating space for information literacy to properly operate.

Additionally, the recognition of collective psychology as a factor in the information transference process modifies the informational network model from a network of individuals to a network of micro-communities. This updated model suggests that individuals are affected by the collective psychology of their micro-community. Therefore, the responsibility for a better information environment can be understood as not only an individual responsibility but a communal one. The updated model provides a conceptual ground for efforts of community trust-building in addition to individual capacity-building, while collaborative communities such as provide inspiration for building trustable environments and trustworthy personal connections. Information sharing, authentic communications, and physical gatherings are some of the essential components in creating communities of trust. These communities of trust would serve as the middle layer in between individual and institution, providing an extra layer of support for vulnerable individuals, and contributing to the essential collective task of strengthening democratic resilience.

US Skepticism Reverberates PRC Propaganda and Completes an Alternative Worldview

Among the eight types of US Skepticism, four (A D E H) refer to Taiwan-US relations while the other four (B C F G) address the US alone.

Type A and D frame Taiwan-US relations as a fake friendship ending in the US abandoning Taiwan. Type E and H frame Taiwan-US relations as a collusion between the two with a goal to destroy Taiwan.

In contrast to the fake friend the US is supposed to be, the PRC brands itself as the real family of the Taiwanese people and therefore will not abandon Taiwan. To emphasize the supposed bond between the people of China and Taiwan, PRC official statements and state media reports often use phrases such as “two shores one dear family” (两岸一家亲), “blood thicker than water” (血浓于水), “same root same origin” (同根同源), and “same language same ethnicity” (同文同种).

Commonly-Used Phrase

English Translation

# Documents 2023.1-6


two shores one dear family



blood thicker than water



same root same origin



same language same ethnicity


Table 4 – Number of documents mentioning the commonly-used phrases in the Mandarin information environment during Jan-Jun 2023.

During Taiwan’s COVID-19 vaccine shortage in mid-2021, the PRC repeatedly emphasized that Taiwanese people were receiving help from China. Incidents of Taiwanese people traveling to China for vaccination and overseas Taiwanese getting vaccinated at Chinese embassies were promoted by PRC propaganda. Official statements also highlighted that the PRC was willing to “carry out maximum effort” (尽最大努力) in “helping Taiwan compatriots in winning the battle against the pandemic” (帮助台湾同胞尽快战胜疫情), and that this act “embodies the cross-strait familial affection from blood thicker than water” (体现了血浓于水的两岸亲情). As a part of the “five shortage” rhetoric in early 2023, PRC propaganda again emphasized that shortage of goods and resources can be resolved through “cross-strait convergent development” (两岸融合发展) and “endeavoring de-obstruction” (应通尽通) and that “unification” (统一) will bring “solid benefit” (实实在在的好处) to the “compatriot in Taiwan” (台湾同胞).

Adding on to the Taiwan-US collusion claims, the PRC depicts the image of a despicable Taiwanese government that is actively destroying Taiwan. PRC propaganda often talks about the “DPP authorities” (民进党当局) conspiring (勾连) with external forces and plotting for independence (谋独). Furthermore, PRC propaganda describes the government as self-willed (一意孤行) and perverse (倒行逆施), neglecting people’s livelihoods (罔顾民生) and voices (漠视民意), and selling out the people of Taiwan for its own benefit. In this version of the world, the current government in Taiwan is not a government of the people, but a tyrannical self-serving ruling elite, and is therefore more than capable of collusion with the US and destroying Taiwan.

Commonly-Used Phrase

English Translation

# Documents 2023.1-6


DPP authorities






plotting for independence









neglecting people’s livelihoods



neglecting people’s voices


Table 5 – Number of documents mentioning the commonly-used phrases in the Mandarin information environment during Jan-Jun 2023.

Type B and F claim that the US is internally weak and non-democratic. Type C and G claim that the US is, in terms of its external role in international affairs, also non-democratic (in the sense of unilateralism) and the source of chaos and war.

Echoing the Weakness narratives, PRC actors promote PRC military power in the information environment, including actual incidents of fighter jets incursion into Taiwan’s ADIZ and multiple military exercises around Taiwan, as well as unverifiable or false information about fighter jets “passes the Taiwan Strait midline”, “approaches Hualien”, missiles “hit Taoyuan airport”, and the “deafening sound over the Taiwan island”. While Not Democracy narratives conceptualize a corrupt and non-democratic US, PRC propaganda suggests that “democracy takes different form in every country” (各国民主形态各异) and China “has an obvious advantage” with its “whole-process people’s democracy” (全过程人民民主).

Chaos narratives portraits the US as the source of chaos and war in the world, complementing PRC positions that China “will not take the old path” of “national strength guarantees dominance” (国强必霸) and that China is a “defender” (捍卫者), “maintainer” (维护者), and “constructor” (建设者) of world peace and international order. Anti-world narratives emphasize US unilateralism, in agreement with Chinese foreign affairs statements that “numerous developing countries are no longer the silent majority” (广大发展中国家不再是沉默的大多数), calling for “true multilateralism” (真正的多边主义), “global governance of co-deliberation, co-construction, and co-ownership” (共商共建共享的全球治理), and “community with a shared future for mankind” (人类命运共同体), which is a part of the Constitution of both the CCP and the PRC since 2017 and 2018, respectively.


US Skepticism

PRC Propaganda Not Explicitly Anti-US

A + D

US is a fake friend and will abandon Taiwan

China is the real family and has come to Taiwan’s aid

E + H

US colludes with Taiwanese elite and will destroy Taiwan

DPP government is perverse and sells out people of Taiwan

B + F

US is weak and not a democracy

China is powerful and truly democratic

C + G

US is the source of chaos in the world and its unilateral actions are opposed by countries in the world

China is the defender of world order and promotes democratization of global governance

Table 6 – Pairings of US Skepticism types and PRC propaganda narratives not explicitly anti-US.

While data shows US Skepticism narratives circulate in Taiwan’s information environment, PRC propaganda spreads in the wider Mandarin information environment, reverberating with US Skepticism narratives without being explicitly anti-US. Together, these Mandarin narratives describe a US detrimental to the world, present the PRC in a positive light as a superior alternative, and construct an alternative worldview that compels its readers to partake in the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” (中华民族伟大复兴). For the people of Taiwan and the Mandarin-speaking diasporas around the world, this worldview can be attractive in various degrees. Adoption of this worldview could lead to changes in political behaviors, constituting a feasible pathway for information manipulation to affect election results and damage election integrity.


This report has compiled eighty-four “US Skepticism” narratives related to twelve key events between 2021 and June 2023. It provides data evidence of continued circulation of these eighty-four unreasonable and manipulative narratives in the Mandarin information environment that may discredit Taiwan-US relations. Analysis on narrative content and behavioral data has further concluded the level of involvement among PRC and Taiwanese actors in the creation and amplification of US Skepticism narratives. It also provides additional signals to both the strategic priorities of the PRC state and the collective psychology of the Taiwanese public. Finally, pairings of US Skepticism and other PRC propaganda illustrate an alternative worldview to which Mandarin speakers worldwide could be susceptible.

US Skepticism manufactures negative images of Taiwan’s democratic allies and Taiwan’s democratic governance. These unreasonable and manipulative narratives are harmful to the quality of public discourse, create unfounded mistrust towards democracy, and therefore should be rejected. Readers should also take note of actors that repeatedly create or amplify these narratives, and should exercise substantiated skepticism towards these actors. While US Skepticism should be rejected, sound arguments on the subject of Taiwan-US relations should be respected and welcomed. Like any other topic in public affairs, Taiwan’s foreign policies are and should be subjected to public scrutiny and debate. To ensure a well-functioning public discourse on the matter, it is essential to make careful distinctions between US Skepticism and reasonable skepticism towards the US with fact-checking and information credibility evaluation.

Responses to US Skepticism involve multi-stakeholder collaboration with the rough consensus that reasonable public discourse is fundamental for a functioning democracy. Here are four responses: information accessibility, information literacy, strategic communications, and multidisciplinary research.

First, information accessibility should be enhanced by governments, institutions, and professionals on Taiwan-US relations and international affairs. Accessible and credible information on the subject is essential to establishing constructive public discourse and enabling better individual and institutional decision-making around Taiwan-US relations and Taiwan’s foreign policies. US-Taiwan Watch is a good example of the popularization of expertise on the subject.

Second, information literacy capacity should be enhanced through grassroots collaboration at both the individual and community level. Since 2020, IORG and Taiwan Pàng-phuānn Association of Education have been hosting workshops in every county and city of Taiwan. Participants include teachers and students in middle and high schools, as well as parents and senior citizens in local communities. During these workshops, participants can engage with real-life examples, practice fact-checking, and identify manipulation with IORG’s information credibility evaluation. Group sessions during these workshops also allowed the participants to engage with each other face-to-face, compare evaluation results, and engage in relevant discussions.

Third, public communications in refuting US Skepticism should be strategic in being inclusive and practical. Given the complex composition of individual intent to participate in the circulation of US Skepticism, public-oriented content on Taiwan-US relations should take note in being inclusive to dissent, avoiding further alienation. It should provide facts and clarify falsehoods while being aware of the risk of emotional responses that could conversely consolidate unfavorable individual and environmental attributes and further US Skepticism. Moreover, public communications should be practical towards uncertainties in Taiwan’s foreign relations. Content that expresses and clarifies uncertainty allows its audiences to familiarize with uncertainty, which could lead to increased tolerance on uncertainty, better responses when confronted with skepticism, and sustained support for democratic values.

Fourth, data science and other cross-disciplinary research should continue to better understand various aspects of US Skepticism, including the social and informational environments in which such narratives arise and circulate. Rigorous scientific research produces credible information that could then be made accessible via the first response. Additionally, collaborative research between the scientific community and civil society builds trustable partnerships, which are essential for the whole-of-society response to information manipulation and authoritarian expansion. This year (2023), in collaboration with academics in computer science, social science, and neuroscience, IORG is conducting multiple public opinion polls to survey video social media consumption in Taiwan, as well as carrying out behavioral experiments to establish causal relationship between information manipulation and public support for democracy.

As the next Taiwanese Presidential election in January 2024 approaches, public discourse is turning its focus onto the candidates. As foreign policy is an important area for debate, public discourse related to the US (as well as Taiwan’s other allies) is expected to continue, including unreasonable or manipulative narratives. US Skepticism narratives under the Presidential election context is likely to include more Fake Friend and Collusion narratives, prioritizing the discrediting of the government and its officials for their US policies. The “Nan-Hai Meeting” incident is a good example. On July 12th, reports published by United Daily News (UDN) used photographs of alleged Taiwanese governmental meeting minutes to claim that the US “demanded Taiwan to set up a P4 lab” to “develop bio weapons.” Taiwan’s government has since refuted this claim. The alleged “US demand” (美方要求) can be interpreted as US coercion, supporting Fake Friend (Type D) narratives. The alleged language of President Tsai’s “paying great attention” (非常重視) to the matter and her “directive” (指示) to comply can be interpreted as collusion, supporting Collusion (Type E) narratives. The fact that this specific incident featured official documents, former Premier Su as the alleged meeting chair, and President Tsai’s expressing approval demonstrated the special characteristics of US Skepticism during election campaigns in Taiwan. Continued monitoring and analysis of information manipulation and foreign interference are critical in safeguarding election integrity in Taiwan, as well as the continued strengthening of the partnerships among democratic countries.

Lastly, the research and analytical framework utilized in this report can be reproduced to conduct research on US Skepticism in other information environments, as well as research on manipulative narratives targeting other countries. Preliminary exploration at IORG have found both Japanese-language US Skepticism narratives, as well as Mandarin-language narratives in Taiwan that can be categorized as “Japan Skepticism.” IORG is committed to collaborating with like-minded partners in the Indo-Pacific and globally, sharing our technology and experience to collectively better understand and safeguard our respective information environments.


IORG Research Fellow Jasmine Lee and multiple IORG Researchers have also contributed significantly to the completion of this report.


Appendix: US Skepticism Narratives Related to Twelve Key Events, 2021-June 2023