The draft foreign influence transparency act and an amendment to the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例修正草案), jointly promoted by the Taiwan Statebuilding Party and the Democratic Progressive Party, have passed the first reading in the current session at the legislature. One of the objectives of the bills is to curb China’s “grand external propaganda” aimed at influencing and undermining Taiwan’s democracy.

The “grand external propaganda,” also known as “China’s grand strategy for external propaganda,” was initiated during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, when the torch relay was met with protests in many of the countries it passed through as the international community expressed support and sympathy for the Tibetan people who went to the extremes of self-immolation in protest against Chinese oppression.

To improve its negative image in the international community, China announced in January 2009 that it would invest 540 billion yuan (US$76.42 billion at the current exchange rate) in the promotion of the “official Chinese opinion” by setting up television stations and buying media outlets around the world, or by collaborating with willing international media outlets.

In August 2013, soon after he took office, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said in a speech at the National Conference on Ideological Advocacy Work in China that “we must work meticulously to do good external propaganda, innovate external propaganda methods … and tell the Chinese story well and spread the Chinese voice well.” What this means is using big money to win the right to set the agenda and brainwash people around the world.

In contrast, pro-Chinese media outlets here in Taiwan have long been allowed to disseminate the official views of Chinese government, leading many Taiwanese to interpret international affairs in the same way China does.

Take the US-China trade dispute, for example: Many Taiwanese believe that China is winning the trade war, not to mention that many people simply do not know that the trade dispute has led to sharp decline of the Chinese economy.

Based on this understanding, a record number of Taiwanese students were sent to China by their parents to attend college last year. The unemployment rate among Chinese university graduates is a state secret in China, but according to data gathered secretly by many scholars, it is as high as 40 percent.

Still, influenced by the propaganda of pro-Chinese media here in Taiwan, Taiwanese parents think that the future of Taiwan’s younger generation lies in China.

These examples show that some Taiwanese have been brainwashed by the pro-unification media and that they, without even being aware of it, have gradually come to view the world through the filter of the Chinese government. Is the China presented in the “grand external propaganda” the real China? It is time that Taiwanese start thinking clearly about this.

Wu Cheng-yin is a software engineer and a member of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party.

Translated by Lin Lee-kai