‘Humour over rumour’: Taiwan eyes Ukraine messaging model if China attacks

TAIPEI – Taiwan is looking at Ukraine’s ways of communicating its message to the outside world at a time of conflict, by making use of tools such as satellites and deploying humour, the Digital Minister said on Wednesday.

China’s war games and blockade drills around Taiwan last month, following a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have heightened concerns on the island about the prospect of an attack by its giant neighbour.

“We look at the experience of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. We found that the whole world can know what is happening there in real time,” Ms Audrey Tang, head of Taiwan’s new Digital Affairs Ministry, told Reuters.

Ukraine had effectively conveyed its message to the world, said Ms Tang, adding that keeping up high-quality communication in real time was critical to its effort.

“It’s not only for our own people, but also for the people who care about us all over the world, so that we can enlist the assistance of international friends.”

China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control.

Taiwan’s government strongly rejects China’s sovereignty claims.

Among Ms Tang’s plans to preserve communications if China attacks are a satellite trial programme worth 550 million Taiwan dollars (S$24.81 million) over the next two years to ensure Internet services across Taiwan.

The goal, she said, was to maintain social stability and keep Taiwan’s command systems running by “instantly” switching to alternative forms of communication, such as satellite in middle and lower orbit.

Several Taiwan companies are in talks with international satellite service providers, seeking partnerships after such service is legalised in Taiwan, she added, but gave no details.

Ukraine has been using billionaire Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite broadband service, for example.

Ms Tang helped craft Taiwan’s public messaging for the Covid-19 pandemic, using memes and humour to fight disinformation, much of which the government accused China of spreading, although Beijing denied it.

“We say very publicly that our playbook is ‘humour over rumour’,” she said.