Remarks by Dr. Szu-chien HSU, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for the vGCTF on Combatting COVID-19 Disinformation
April 29, 2020
Assistant Secretary Destro,
Fellow participants, greetings from Taiwan.
It is my pleasure to say a few words on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan. We are thrilled to have your active participation in the first virtual GCTF workshop ever held.
For those of you who join the GCTF event for the first time, GCTF stands for Global Cooperation and Training Framework. It is a platform currently administered by Taiwan, the U.S. and Japan, on which participating countries can share their experience and best practices on various issues with partners around the world through workshops, conferences and forums. Together, we are helping other countries address common challenges and build their capacities.
In the last five years, we have already hosted 22 training events, and brought together more than 450 experts from 38 countries to discuss issues ranging from public health to digital economy to law enforcement and many others.
Despite the COVID-19 outbreak disallows us to invite participants to visit Taiwan and attend these workshops in person, we are not going to sit idly by and wait for this global pandemic to subside. In fact, now we feel even more urgent than ever to offer our help to the international community. Whether it be donating medical masks and other critical supplies, or sharing the Taiwan Model of containing the virus, we believe that Taiwan can help.
The topic today is one that affects each and everyone of us. Disinformation related to the novel coronavirus has been spreading across the globe like a “digital wildfire,” and it is just as dangerous as the virus itself.
Taiwan is not only on the frontline of fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, but also of the disinformation battlefield. As COVID-19 broke out in Wuhan, China last year, we have seen an organized campaign adopting ever-more sophisticated ways to spread disinformation in our society. We have seen many cases, for example, conspiracies about the origins of the virus, and fake government announcements circulating through social media and news networks. And much of the fabricated content can be traced to China. The purpose of these disinformation campaigns were to mislead the public on the development of the outbreak and to undermine trust in our democratic institutions.
As the disease spreads from China to the rest of the world, we are seeing a large scale global propaganda campaign launched by the Chinese government seeking to influence the narrative in other countries as well. Part of their goal is to fix China’s public image, which was severely tainted by its initial attempt to cover up the virus. But I don’t think it will just stop there.
China is also taking this opportunity to portray its authoritarian rule as superior and more effective than the democratic system at tackling this crisis. However, the Taiwan model has proved that this is not true. Instead, transparency, accountability, and a vibrant civil society are keys to our comparative success so far.
The fight against COVID-19 disinformation requires our concerted efforts, which explains why the virtual meeting today is crucial. In closing, I would like to thank the American Institute in Taiwan, and Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association for cohosting this event with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I would also like to thank all of you for taking part today, and I look forward to a very productive workshop.