China’s Taiwan Affairs Office has reportedly invited Taiwanese journalists to attend a number of military open-day events hosted by the People’s Liberation Army’s North Theater Command this year.
One such media exchange program organized by the office will last until mid-November to showcase the technical feats and tactical strengths of the Chinese military.
It is the first time that gates to a key PLA barracks have been swung open to welcome members of the Taiwanese media, when legally speaking the militaries on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are still in a state of civil war.
The journalists were feted with military music and invited to watch demonstrations of such things as marksmanship, combat, and defusing explosives, Taiwanese Internet-based media outlets reported.
The troops were part of the PLA’s Red Fourth Company tasked with performing for foreign press and dignitaries.
Taiwanese journalists were also invited to watch films and documentaries depicting the close bond between the PLA and Chinese society at large, as well as the military’s leading roles in emergency responses and disaster-relief operations.
Papers close to Taiwan’s ruling, independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party say the PLA has waged a PR sortie in the realms of public opinion.
Other columnists say that while menacing the self-governed island with stepped-up air and maritime circumnavigations, the PLA is also trying to project a soft image and sway the sentiments of Taiwanese military buffs and middle-of-the-road voters who advocate a pragmatic way to engage with China.
The sponsored media trips to visit PLA barracks – with Taiwanese journalists reportedly being offered honoraria – work in tandem with campaigns in which the island’s pro-Beijing newspapers, broadcasters and publishers are mobilized to run stories and programs to put a positive spin on the image of the PLA.
Likely backed by the Communist Party’s propaganda department, there are also Facebook and Instagram pages disseminating favorable news about the PLA.
One post hails PLA soldiers as “avatars of the highest integrity and moral standards,” adding that they are always ready to “sacrifice their lives to realize the revitalization of the nation.”
“Reclaiming Taiwan via a military means is the last resort to safeguard China’s territorial integrity but the PLA will only target military personnel and use the minimal levels of force in the event of a war, and the safety and properties of Taiwanese civilians will always be protected,” reads another one.