U.S. skepticism originates from Taiwan, CCP follows, amid U.S. Afghan withdrawal

IORG Dokidoki Alert ﹋ No. 11 ﹏ 2021.8.1-31

  • Author = IORG
  • Published = 2021.9.16 12:00

What’s Up in August?

In this Dokidoki Alert, IORG presents 11 narratives of U.S. skepticism related to American military withdrawal from Afghanistan. They are categorized into 3 groups: A. Abandonment theory: “The U.S. will eventually abandon Taiwan”, B. Strength theory: “The U.S. does not have the strength to protect Taiwan”, and C. Chaos theory: “The U.S. is the source of war and chaos.” Stay alert.

Theory

Suspicious narratives

Features

Chinese state or affiliated media

  • State
  • Affiliated

👋🏼 Abandonment

The U.S. is supporting Taiwan for now, it will eventually abandon Taiwan.

Unable to disproof

👋🏼 Abandonment

The U.S. had abandoned Vietnam, Hongkong and Afghanistan, therefore it will abandon Taiwan.

❌ Inappropriate causal relationship

👋🏼 Abandonment

Citing the New York Times: “America’s backing for its allies is not unlimited.

✅ Correct: content is from a NYT report

  • Hong Kong Good News 

👋🏼 Abandonment

“Afghanistan is a lesson to Taiwan”

❌ False comparison

👋🏼 Abandonment

Today Afghanistan, tomorrow Taiwan”

❌ False comparison

😵 Strength

America’s power is declining vis-a-vis China. The U.S. cannot win against the Taliban, therefore the U.S. does not have the strength to protect Taiwan against China.

❌ Inappropriate causal relationship

😵 Strength

Afghanistan has become a weak spot of the U.S., making it powerless to protect Taiwan in the face of China.

Unable to disproof

None

😵 Strength

America’s military power is inferior to that of China in the West Pacific, insufficient to protect Taiwan against China.

Unable to disproof

⚔️ Chaos

The U.S. brings about wars everywhere around the world.

Unable to disproof

⚔️ Chaos

Citing Trump: “Bad things will happen to Taiwan”

✅ Correct: content is from a Trump statement

None

⚔️ Chaos

The U.S. provokes China, trying to cause cross-strait war

Unable to disproof

Number of Facebook posts daily concerning the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, 2021. There are in total 1,071 posts skeptical of the U.S., including 871 “abandonment theory” posts, 87 “strength theory” posts, and 113 “chaos theory” posts. In opposition to these narratives, there are 1,059 posts opposing skeptical narratives towards the U.S.. Furthermore, there are 1,184 neutral posts. Source: IORG.

  • “U.S.-skeptical posts” or “skeptical posts” refers to Facebook posts containing narratives skeptical of the U.S..
  • “Opposing posts” refers to Facebook posts opposing those narratives skeptical of the U.S..
  • “Neutral posts” refers to Facebook posts containing neutral information regarding the U.S. Afghan withdrawal.

Based on the distribution of posts, posts skeptical of the U.S. increased rapidly after the Taliban took over Kabul, the Afghan capital, on August 15th. Posts opposing the U.S.-skeptical narratives matched in quantity one day later. On August 20th, the number of opposing posts surpassed that of the skeptical posts, mostly sharing U.S. President Biden’s statements regarding Taiwan. Following that, the number of both skeptical and opposing posts declined and neutral posts became mainstream.

The main topic of the skeptical posts is what IORG calls “abandonment theory”: the U.S. will abandon Taiwan. Within this topic, 3 narratives stand out. The first is “Today Afghanistan, tomorrow Taiwan,” found in at least 141 posts (16.2%). This narrative can be attributed to CNEWS, a Taiwanese site. The second is “Afghanistan is a lesson to Taiwan,” found in at least 127 posts (14.6%). This narrative can be attributed to a Taiwanese media personality Shaw-kong Jaw (趙少康). The third noteworthy narrative is citing content of a New York Times report titled “Afghanistan’s Unraveling May Strike Another Blow to U.S. Credibility,” which can be found in at least 86 posts (9.9%). These 3 narratives can be attributed to Taiwanese outlets, not ones that are proven to be controlled by the CCP.

Taiwanese media and Chinese state media outlets have been found referencing each other’s reports in spreading narratives of the “abandonment theory.” After United Daily News published their editorial “The Shock of Afghanistan,” Chinese state media Global Times and Tong Shuo 2.0 shared its content. After an editorial from Global Times “Why America will eventually abandon Taiwan,” UDN repackaged the content and published “6 reasons why America will eventually abandon Taiwan, listed by Global Times.”

Chinese state authorities and state media have also participated in the promotion of the “chaos theory,” saying that “America is the source of wars and chaos,” assigning blame for unrest in the Taiwan Strait to the U.S. provoking China. Examples include Global Times on the 15th, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chun-ying (华春莹) on the 17th, spokesperson Zhao Li-jian (赵立坚) on the 18th, Global Times chief editor Hu Xi-jin (胡锡进) on the 20th, spokesperson Wang Wen-bin (汪文斌) on the 24th, and the response of Taiwan.cn on the 28th towards U.S. war ships passing through Taiwan Strait. Aside from Chinese state media, “chaos theory” can also be found in reports by Taiwanese news media such as UDN and CTI. Finally, Chinese state media also promotes the “strength theory,” saying America does not have the strength to protect Taiwan, that it “cannot even handle the Taliban, let alone an all-out war against the PLA.” Examples of such narratives can be found on Xinhua, CGTN, Tong Shuo, and Global Times.

Opposite of the 1,071 U.S.-skeptical posts were 1,059 opposing posts. 294 (27.76%) of these quote official statements made by U.S. government officials. 2 peaks can be observed on the 18th and 20th of August, sharing statements made by U.S. President Joe Biden and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on American commitment to Taiwan. The strongest rebuttal to U.S.-skepticism are statements from the U.S.. Additionally, 58 posts mentioned Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s statement that “Taiwan’s only option is to make ourselves stronger, more united and determined in defending ourselves.”

Links shared by U.S.-skeptical and opposing posts are from distinct sources with some exceptions. Links to KMT-leaning outlets such as UDN, CTI, China Times, and qiqi content farms are being shared by U.S. skeptical posts; opposing posts share links to anti-CCP outlets Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty, or DPP-leaning outlets Liberty Times and Newtalk.

Data analysis found that U.S.-skeptical posts contain content from Weibo 20x times more than the opposing posts. CCP interference is more likely to affect U.S.-skeptical narratives.

Full version of this Dokidoki Alert is available in Taiwanese Mandarin. Please visit https://iorg.tw/da/11 for more…

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