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STRATEGIC VISION Volume 9, Issue 45


March, 2020

for Taiwan Security w

ISSN 2227-3646

What Will the ‘New Normal’ Look Like? Richard J. Hu

Taipei’s Exceptional Response Ruei-lin Yu

Biodefense Units Called For Lipin Tien

Implications for National Security Fu-kuo Liu

China Failed to Learn From SARS Patrick Mendis & Joey Wang

Beijing Spins COVID Narrative Hon-min Yau

Categorizing Diseases as Security Threats Chung-young Chang

the COVID Pandemic


for Taiwan Security

Volume 9, Issue 45


March, 2020

Contents Pandemic portends a new normal for security...............................4

Richard J. Hu

Taiwan demonstrates healthcare proficiency.................................8

Ruei-lin Yu

Biodefense unit needed to safeguard public health...................... 14

Lipin Tien

Crisis has implications for national security................................ 19

Fu-kuo Liu

Lessons from SARS unheeded by Communist Party...................24

Patrick Mendis & Joey Wang

Chinese propaganda spins epidemic response.............................28

Hon-min Yau

Outbreaks represent national security threats.............................34

Chung-young Chang

Submissions: Essays submitted for publication are not to exceed 2,000 words in length, and should conform to the following basic format for each 1200-1600 word essay: 1. Synopsis, 100-200 words; 2. Background description, 100-200 words; 3. Analysis, 800-1,000 words; 4. Policy Recommendations, 200-300 words. Book reviews should not exceed 1,200 words in length. Notes should be formatted as endnotes and should be kept to a minimum. Authors are encouraged to submit essays and reviews as attachments to emails; Microsoft Word documents are preferred. For questions of style and usage, writers should consult the Chicago Manual of Style. Authors of unsolicited manuscripts are encouraged to consult with the executive editor at before formal submission via email. The views expressed in the articles are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of their affiliate institutions or of Strategic Vision. Manuscripts are subject to copyediting, both mechanical and substantive, as required and according to editorial guidelines. No major alterations may be made by an author once the type has been set. Arrangements for reprints should be made with the editor. Cover photograph of is courtesy of the US Department of Defense.

Editor Fu-Kuo Liu Executive Editor Aaron Jensen Associate Editor Dean Karalekas Editorial Board Chung-young Chang, Fo-kuan U Richard Hu, NCCU Ming Lee, NCCU Raviprasad Narayanan, JNU Chris Roberts, U of Canberra Lipin Tien, NDU Hon-Min Yau, NDU Rui-lin Yu, NDU Li-Chung Yuan, NDU STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 9, Number 45, March, 2020, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University. All editorial correspondence should be mailed to the editor at STRATEGIC VISION, Taiwan Center for Security Studies. No. 64, Wan Shou Road, Taipei City 11666, Taiwan, ROC. The editors are responsible for the selection and acceptance of articles; responsibility for opinions expressed and accuracy of facts in articles published rests solely with individual authors. The editors are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts; unaccepted manuscripts will be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Photographs used in this publication are used courtesy of the photographers, or through a creative commons license. All are attributed appropriately. Any inquiries please contact the Executive Editor directly via email at: Or by telephone at: +886 (02) 8237-7228 Online issues and archives can be viewed at our website: © Copyright 2020 by the Taiwan Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the CSS, NDU, or the editors.

From The Editor


he editors and publishers of Strategic Vision offer our best wishes in these trying times to our readers throughout Taiwan and around the world. It is our most sincere hope that you and your families are keeping safe and healthy during the current global pandemic, which has left no corner of the world untouched. Given the widespread impact of COVID-19, we have made this issue a special issue offering an analysis of the many facets of the current crisis and how it will inevitably impact cross-strait and regional security. We begin with an article by Richard J. Hu that takes a look at the big picture and how the pandemic will have long-lasting, and in some cases paradigm-shifting, effects in several securityrelated fields. Next, Ruei-lin Yu looks at how Taiwan’s exemplary response to the crisis serves as compelling evidence to support greater inclusion for the country in the international healthcare and medical bodies such as the World Health Organization. Lipin Tien examines the need for a dedicated biodefense unit in Taiwan, given the impact of the coronavirus and the implications this has for the potential use of biological weapons by an enemy. This is followed by an analysis of the implications of the pandemic on Taiwan’s national security, written by Strategic Vision’s Editor, Fu-kuo Liu. Following this, Patrick Mendis and Joey Wang look at how the Chinese Communist Party mishandled the initial outbreak of the virus after it first emerged in Wuhan, and how this shows that the Party failed to learn the hard lessons from SARS. Following up on this theme, Hon-min Yau examines Beijing’s propaganda efforts as the regime attempts to control the narrative in the domestic and international press. Finally, Chung-young Chang looks at what the pandemic could teach security planners, and how disease outbreaks such as the current one must be perceived as national security threats. We hope our readers find this issue helpful as we all try to put the current global crisis into perspective and find ways to move forward. Again, we implore or readers to stay safe, follow community procedures for minimizing the spread of the disease, and keep their loved ones out of harm’s way in these turbulent times. It has been said before, but we wish to reiterate: though we have to maintain social distancing practices, we will get through this together. Dr. Fu-Kuo Liu Editor Strategic Vision

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Strategic Vision vol. 9, no. 45 (March, 2020)

A New Normal

Global pandemic threatens to rewrite the rules in security-related fields Richard J. Hu


resh security threats normally call for new security countermeasures. With the sudden outbreak and swift spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders around the world still cannot see the big picture, nor will the final contours of the danger it poses in a variety of policy areas be made clear anytime soon. Nonetheless, from recent observations and analytical reports, while more cautious consideration and in-depth research are a definite necessity, at least seven immediate security and strategic implications may be quickly identified in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. First, the pandemic is already being viewed as a watershed event by scholars and practitioners of both conventional and non-conventional security. It therefore carries new challenges to academics, policymakers, and other professionals. Conspiracy theories can be just as lethal as the viral disease itself. Whether the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak was due to disorganized mismanagement at the P4 lab at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, or a “masterstroke” by America’s clandestine special operations while Wuhan was hosting the 2019 Military World Games, or simply a pandemic that made the jump to humans from animals such as bats and pangolins, there is still a lack of concrete scientific evidence to conclusively determine the origins of the virus. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic will have rapid, broad, and profound repercussions over a variety of policy areas ranging from human interactions, domestic quaran-

tines, and effective medical actions to international economic supply chain disruptions, travel bans, future warfare, and even legal endeavors, to name but a few. All of these areas have opened themselves up for innovative thinking and a creative reimagining of ways to better manage human security, biological threats, fifth-generation warfare, and urgent transnational cooperation and conflict critical to dealing with future security issues. Second, the outbreak and rapid spread of COVID-19 has illuminated the dominant status of sovereign states while spotlighting vulnerabilities of security safeguarding systems of many governments, the United States in particular, in protecting their own people. Crisis management preparations and resources that entail painstaking logistical planning such as having an appropriate amount of face masks, negative pressure isolation wards, and other personal protective equipment are surely vital lessons that need to be learned immediately. According to media reports, the United States is facing a shortage of specialized masks (N95 respirators) and ventilators. The shortage has prompted federal health officials to loosen their recommendations on the face protection that frontline medical doctors and health workers should use to prevent infection from the highly contagious disease. Therefore, states need to prepare their healthcare systems for what is to come. While the rumors that went out and created chaotic conditions such as panic buying and

Dr. Richard J. Hu is a retired ROC Army general and a professor at Shi-shin University in Taipei, Taiwan. He can be reached at

A New Normal  b  5

stockpiling daily necessities like toilet paper, timely strategic communication to convince people to stay calm is of great importance. From a variety of perspectives, sovereign states still play the most significant role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, no matter whether it’s those who stay on high alert and take urgent and proper actions, or others who underestimate viral impacts and even try to cover up the truth with lies. Governments tend to make decisions based on the most cost-effective option, though.

Litmus test Third, the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a unique and timely litmus test for China’s National General Security Perspectives (NGSP), released by the National Security Commission of the Communist Party of China in 2016. The NGSP has comprehensive coverage in 12 policy areas, including security perspectives in the realms of political, homeland, military, economic, cultural, societal, technological, cyber, ecological, resources, nuclear, and overseas interests. However, it has apparently ignored the possibility that a health-related infectious disease or

pandemic might prove to be an important national security issue. Given that SARS-CoV strongly impacted China just 17 years ago, this inadvertent neglect serves as a reminder of the importance of thinking outside the box, and being prepared to encounter the unknown unknowns. Furthermore, the outbreak and wildfire-like spread of the COVID-19 virus must serve as an object lesson to all governments—especially the Chinese Communist government—that people’s health and human security are a great imperative for responsible leaders operating within modern governance systems. Ignoring this will bring unexpected consequences and thus could inflict tremendous harm to national and international security. Fourth, with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and other technological and digital technologies have played a significant role in China, Taiwan, and other countries. While China uses robots, primarily in the form of unmanned aerial vehicles, and closed-circuit television to control and monitor its own people to enforce quarantines, Taiwan employs big data, QR codes, and Internet websites for tracking down asymptomatic carriers, showing where to buy face masks, and to

photo: Richard Ebensberger The US Military and China’s People’s Liberation Army hold meetings on health exchange in September 2018 in Xian, China.


photo: Tauno Tohk The Wuhan Railway Station stands nearly empty as the city is locked down as a consequence of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

provide the necessary services within a reasonable time. For better or worse, technology will play a bigger role in security issues in the future. Fifth, COVID-19 provides an unexpected chance to accurately re-examine the status of existing international relationships and the complex interdependences that emerged during the era of globalization. In particular, the many functions of such international institutions as the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) and economic interdependence like interstate trade are the products of neoliberal thinking as a facilitator of global security. The institutions operating within what is inherently an anarchic world system have been shown to be inexcusably weak when it comes to dealing with global catastrophe. This weakness was made especially evident in how the WHO has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas building border walls might have some positive effects on preventing illegal migrants entering specific countries, potential super-spreaders, or spreaders with visas and passports, can still easily infiltrate through customs gates before they have shown any significant symptoms or been confirmed as viral cases, at least in the first few weeks. Places like airports, shopping malls, restaurants, buses, cruise ships, schools, offices, and workplaces are now recognized

as hubs to transmit infectious diseases. Fear has also fostered a new wave of xenophobia and promoted racism to a higher level. The COVID-19 pandemic is severely disrupting the world’s manufacturing supply chains and major financial activities, which are key elements of the neoliberal approach to international security. The pandemic and its rapid spread across multiple continents within just two to three months, and security measures like initiating travel bans and border controls adopted by certain countries, have shed light on the need to reassess the merits of globalization and of neoliberal assumptions on international relations.

Fragility of networks Sixth, as the COVID-19 pandemic has vividly demonstrated, the sensitivity, vulnerability, and fragility of our networked world reveals a need for stronger cooperation mechanisms for managing common threats that are critical to national and international security. Multilateral actions, honest and accurate reporting of infectious viral outbreaks and confirmed cases, collaborative actions on medical solutions, such as effective test kits and effective vaccines, have brought serious challenges to governments and international

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organizations. These new policy priorities need to be pragmatically addressed and responded to in effective and collective ways. Finally, the mammoth worldwide impact and startling velocity of COVID-19 transmission has demonstrated just how terrible the potential fallout of weapons of mass destruction, particularly the destruction triggered by biological weapons, would be. Whereas the atomic bomb was instrumental in ending the Pacific War in the Second World War, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a larger influence over a variety of policy sectors and geographical areas around the world. The coronavirus pandemic has spurred the cancellation of the 2019-2020 basketball season and decimated the airline and travel industries. Furthermore, China has imposed quarantines on the entire country for weeks, and America has issued a ban on travel from Europe for 30 days. From the estimates provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the pandemic could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan warned that “To put that in perspective, that would mean more American deaths than the

Vietnam War and the Korean War added together.” This is an estimation emerging from the world’s superpower. All of these images epitomize what is happening, and what could happen again in the future. Most people have never witnessed a phenomenon like this in their lifetime. As previously mentioned, the destructive impact created by biological weapons, either deployed by state actors or non-state actors, has long been underestimated. Thus, new illustrations of the power of biological weapons might spur creative, if unethical, strategies for future warfare. On 11 March, 2020, as the coronavirus was quickly spreading across the globe, the WHO finally declared a global pandemic. Although its director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated, “We’re deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity,” he did not hesitate to point out alarming levels of inaction at the same time. The COVID-19 pandemic, in a somewhat ironic way, has revealed the weaknesses and limitations of human modernization and civilization. Both brains and brawn are still necessary to shorten the painful learning curve on enhancing national and international security as well. n

photo: Wikipedia The National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States has cancelled the entire basketball season due to COVID-19.

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Strategic Vision vol. 9, no. 45 (March, 2020)

Good Graces

COVID-19 provides opportunity to highlight Taiwan’s healthcare proficiency Ruei-lin Yu


he international community of nations should recall Taiwan’s contributions in dealing with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, and recognize Taiwan’s knowledge and experience in managing such pandemics as they seek a strategy to protect the world’s populations from the current outbreak of COVID-19. Taiwan’s National Health Insurance (NHI) system has been deemed among the best in the world. It was rated as the best in the world by the CEOWORLD magazine Health Care Index in 2019. The editors took into account the overall quality of healthcare, including the infrastructure, staff competency, cost, availability and government readiness, in making their ranking. In short: Taiwan is more than capable of using its experience and expertise to

photo: Yann Forget World Health Organization Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

support all states in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. In 2009, Taiwan was invited by the World Health Organization (WHO) to participate as an observer in its World Health Assembly (WHA). China wields great influence in the WHO, and allowed this to happen in order to help boost the popularity of their preferred candidate, the Kuomintang’s (KMT) Ma Ying-jeou, after he was elected president of Taiwan in 2008. In 2017, after the KMT lost power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), China pressured the WHO into rescinding that arrangement. China’s motivation for blocking Taiwan’s participation was because the DPP leader, President Tsai Ing-wen, refuses to embrace either the so-called 92 Consensus or the “one country, two systems” mod-

Dr. Ruei-lin Yu is a professor at the ROC National Defense University.

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el Beijing employs in Hong Kong. In other words: Taiwan is barred from potentially lifesaving contributions for political reasons. The COVID-19 pandemic originated in Wuhan, China. It then spread rapidly around the globe. Even though it is irrational, anti-Chinese sentiment has been spreading in the international community. Since the beginning of the outbreak, the Republic of China (ROC) government has expended a lot of effort explaining to many countries that Taiwan is not a province of China, and hence Taiwan must not be lumped in with measures, such as flight restrictions with China, designed to stem the spread of the disease. As a result of these efforts, international public opinion supporting Taiwan’s accession to the WHO has increased. Whether the WHO will ultimately decide to grant Taiwan membership, or even allow it to assist in global efforts in this situation, will depend greatly on what actions Taipei takes. The WHO was founded in 1948 and has been coordinating international health policy and efforts to combat disease ever since. From its headquarters in

Geneva, the WHO oversees more than 7,000 people from more than 150 countries working in 150 country offices, and six regional offices. All states which are members of the United Nations may become members of WHO by accepting its constitution. There are now 194 members and several observers in the WHO. The current Director General of the WHO is an Ethiopian politician, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was selected in 2017 as the first African to hold

“In annual WHA meetings, states with diplomatic relations with the ROC (Taiwan) such as Eswatini, Haiti, and Paraguay always demand that Taiwan be allowed a seat at the table.“ that post. Dr. Tedros has been criticized for being too pro-Chinese in dealing with COVID-19. In January, 2020, while the Coronavirus was spreading throughout China, Tedros met in Beijing with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, and praised the Chinese government for its response to the Coronavirus. Despite

photo: ROC Presidential Office President Tsai meets with former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Affairs Randall Schriver.


ongoing criticism of China’s mishandling of the viral outbreak from other quarters, Tedros continues to applaud Beijing’s efforts. Member states who supply major funding to the WHO can have considerable influence, but who are they and how big can their influence be? Based on the “WHO Results Report, Program Budget,” the top three contributors are the United States, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Kingdom. China only ranked 14th in 2016-2017, and 16th from 2017 to 2019, trailing Germany, Japan, the European Commission, Kuwait, Sweden, Australia, Norway, and others. Compared with these countries and organizations, China provides relatively little funding. In terms of influence, these countries and organizations should, in theory, be able to exert more influence on WHO operations than China does. As considerations increasingly shift from playing politics to the more urgent efforts to deal with the worldwide spread of COVID-19, support for Taiwan’s participation in the WHO has grown in the interna-

tional community. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, many countries had already supported Taiwan’s participation in the WHO. In December, 2018, the European Parliament passed the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) which included provisions for the European Union to promote Taiwan’s increased participation in international organizations. EU member nations with representatives on the WHO Executive Board include Germany, Italy, Finland, Romania, and the Netherlands. In May, 2019, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations unanimously passed a bill to support Taiwan to re-gain observer status in the WHA. In annual WHA meetings, states with diplomatic relations with the ROC (Taiwan) such as Eswatini, Haiti, and Paraguay always demand that Taiwan be allowed a seat at the table. After the COVID-19 outbreak, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe both expressed their countries’ support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the WHA. The UK Minister of State for the Commonwealth

photo: ROC Presidential Office President Tsai tours a facemask production facility in Taiwan, which has agreed to help supply masks to the United States.

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photo: MONUSCO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization director-general.

and the United Nations, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, also expressed his support for Taiwan’s participation in the WHO in February. When the 146th session of the WHO Executive Board was held in Geneva this February, the outbreak of COVID-19, combined with Taiwan’s “online” participation, drew a lot of attention. During the meeting, the ROC’s diplomatic allies again spoke on behalf of the ROC and the US ambassador to Geneva also expressed his support, followed by Germany, Japan and England, and 27 EU representatives also issued a joint statement supporting WHO membership for Taiwan. International support for Taiwan is quite strong, especially amid the global impact of COVID-19.

WHA observer Between 2009 and 2016, during the Ma administration, Taiwan was invited to attend the WHA as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei. When Tsai, the DPP candidate, won the presidency in 2016, China began exerting pressure in the international community to curtail Taiwan’s engagement. This in-

cluded the loss of WHA observer status. It was only after pressure was exerted via international public opinion that the WHO invited Taiwanese experts to participate in an online forum to share COVID-19 information in February. Despite this contribution, no one can guarantee that Taiwan will participate in the next annual WHA conference. The current outbreak, and Taipei’s exemplary record in protecting its citizens and stemming the spread, illustrate how important it is that Taiwan’s participation in the WHA be reinstated immediately. How can Taipei effect this outcome? There are several options to consider. First and foremost, Taiwan must ensure that Beijing’s current face-saving efforts, as evidenced by their misinformation and propaganda campaign now underway, do not bear fruit, and that the global media do not whitewash China’s culpability for initially leaking the COVID-19 virus and then covering it up, contributing to its spread and to the growing casualty list. Taipei should encourage its allies that are currently members of the WHO issue a no-confidence motion in the leadership of the current WHO director general.


COVID-19 Outbreak Cases in China

The coronavirus did begin in China, and the Chinese Communist Party’s lack of transparency and efforts to cover up the facts led to its spread, so Beijing must be held responsible. As a consequence of this behavior, China’s influence in the WHO must be reduced in favor of more responsible and transparent stakeholders. Moreover, if China should be held responsible for the outbreak of the coronavirus, then the WHO should be responsible for failing to respond quickly and failing to provide accurate COVID-19 information to other countries, which has severely impacted those countries. The United States, the WHO’s largest funder, is suffering greatly from increasing infections and deaths. Given this situation, Director General

Tedros’ excessive pro-China attitude should make him the target of public condemnation. If the United Sates raises a no-confidence motion on Tedros, although the motion may not pass, he and his successor will likely have to adjust their strategy and change the organization’s culture of kowtowing to China. An alternate route for Taiwan to find its way back into the WHA meetings would be to take the opposite tack: the ROC government could do what Beijing wants, and conditionally recognize the “One China Principle,” thereby improving cross-strait relations as per the Ma administration, and obtain China’s consent to rejoin the WHA. Since taking office in 2016, President Tsai has stated that she cannot accept

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the “92 Consensus,” but is willing to maintain the status quo: That is, maintain the current one China structure under the ROC Constitution, and handle cross-strait issues according to the stipulations of the “Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area.”

DPP landslide In 2020, Tsai won a landslide re-election again with historical high of 8.17 million votes. While it may be politically unrealistic for President Tsai to recognize the “92 Consensus,” it does not mean that the “One China Principle” cannot be discussed. Tsai has emphasized that the Republic of China (Taiwan), instead of Taiwan, is the official name of the country and the greatest common divisor. She has also said many times that she would be open to a meeting with China’s Xi. If the two leaders can reach a new consensus to replace the “92 consensus,” this may prove be a ticket for Taiwan to re-join the WHA. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, cross-strait rela-

tions have become more tense. Some current measures such as a ban on exporting masks to China, restrictions placed on Chinese citizens in Taiwan, and an increase in health insurance payments have not been so friendly to Chinese visitors to Taiwan. In order to find a win-win situation, Taiwan should change its strategic thinking. Our government should actively assist mainland China in controlling the epidemic and treat Chinese citizens kindly—like our relatives and friends. By taking such actions, Taiwan may be able to use goodwill and positive gestures to coax China into constructive dialogue. At the same time, Taiwan must continue to seek the support of major WHO contributors such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and the European Commission. If these countries and organizations are willing to issue a stronger written joint declaration in support of Taiwan, there would be considerable pressure placed on the WHO. Without China’s strong resistance, Director General Tedros, or his successor, may be more likely to respond in support of Taiwan’s efforts. n

photo: Office of the President Then-president of the ROC, Ma Ying-jeou, left, shakes hands with China’s paramount leader, Xi Jinping, at their historic meeting on 7 November, 2015.

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Strengthening Authority Dedicated biodefense unit called for to safeguard public health in Taiwan Lipin Tien

photo: ROC Presidential Office


President Tsai meets with members of the ROC Army’s 33 Chemical Corps Epidemic Prevention unit.

n late 2019, a new coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, a large Chinese city, which posed a serious threat to human health. Cases of this disease, now known as COVID-19, have since spread rapidly and have been reported across China and in many other countries around the globe. On 30 January, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern and raised its risk assessment of the coronavirus in terms of spread and in terms of impact to the highest level on 28 February. At the time of writing, more than 93,000 cases across at least 77 countries have been confirmed, including 3,198

deaths. Stock markets around the globe have tumbled and the price of petroleum has dropped precipitously as global demand weakens due to travel restrictions. The threat to human security and safety from contagious diseases is not new; the 1918 Spanish Flu and the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak are prime examples. An epidemic can turn into a pandemic very quickly. Once it comes into being, an epidemic from an infectious disease poses a serious containment problem for any society or government. Diseases do not respect borders, in the age of global community, the spread of COVID-19 or any other virus is just a flight away. Therefore, pandemic diseases pose one of the

Dr. Lipin Tien is a professor at the ROC National Defense University. He can be reached for comment at

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CDC graphic Many forms of coronavirus exist among both humans and animals, but this new strain has caused alarm.

most pressing threats to global security and stability. Outbreaks of infectious diseases can have significant economic repercussions in affected states and the impact suffered can be devastating because of economic losses. It can also cause significant social disorder owing to the fear and anxiety resulting from inaccurate or misleading information. The death toll in particular can destabilize a state, especially when infection may result high mortality rates if considerably prevalent. Deaths can pose a direct risk to national security due to the potential loss of a significant portion of the population. If a country’s military is severely impacted, then the threat becomes more acute. The government of the Republic of China (ROC) responded to the COVID-19 outbreak in an expeditious way. On 22 January, ROC President Tsai Ing-

disinformation; and adjusting the level of the central epidemic command center in response to any intensification in the outbreak and inter-ministerial coordination on corresponding measures.

wen convened a high-level national security meeting and issued four epidemic prevention directives relating to: government agency coordination to contain the contagion; monitoring international information and developments regarding the outbreak and providing full assistance if international cooperation is required; timely clarification of misinformation and

occur as usual. The private sector and public sector cooperate and coordinate as a team. Even military service members were called up to help in the production line for surgical masks. Unlike in China, Korea and Japan, lockdown has never been a choice in Taiwan since the outbreak of COVID-19. From the rate of confirmed cases and deaths per population,

Maintaining normalcy People were asked to remain calm and maintain their normal lives, with the exception of postponing the start date for schools and universities and cancelling almost all large meetings. Other than minor disturbances and unease caused by the limited supply of surgical masks, and some annoying misinformation which the government had to provide clarification on, life continued fairly normally. Society operates smoothly, people go to work; shopping and traveling


photo: William FBill Discher A microbiologist with USAMRIID harvests samples of coronavirus. Established in 1969, USAMRIID is the US military laboratory for biodefense research.

Taiwan—the nation closest to China—is doing far better than the rest of the world. The ROC government approaches epidemic prevention effectively and flexibly. Nonetheless, the one main statutory authority cited for governmental measures implemented is the Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Act. The purpose of this Act is to “arrest the occurrence, infection and spread of communicable diseases”. The component authorities defined in this act are the Ministry of Health and Welfare at the central level, and governments at the municipality and county level. If the central competent authority makes a judgment on the severity of epidemic situations in other countries, it can decide that it is necessary to mobilize for disease control, and submit a request to the Executive Yuan for approval to establish a central epidemic command center. All the jurisdictions listed in the act, and authorities stipulated for this command center, are of epidemic prevention and disease control measures. The command center is an ad hoc unit, which requires an authorized approval procedure mandated by statute and may be dismissed due to the epidemic

situations and their management. According to the CDC Act, said component authorities at the central or municipality/county level may implement the relevant disease control measures jointly with the national defense mobilization preparedness system prescribed in the All-out Defense Mobilization Readiness (ADMR) Act, whose purpose is to establish a national defense mobilization system and facilitate the concept of all-out national defense.

National security issues The reference of mobilization systems seems to be a seamless application of these two different Acts. However, a careful textual reading indicates that the difference between the CDC Act and ADMR Act raises issues in statutory application and reveals certain limitations in the CDC Act’s mechanism to the extent of managing national security issues by itself. First, the purpose and jurisdiction of the CDC Act are disease control and epidemic prevention; however, the purpose and jurisdiction of the ADMR Act are national defense mobilization. Even if CDC Act

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“borrows” the mobilization system prescribed in the ADMR Act for implementing epidemic prevention measures, it cannot change the fact that national security issues do not fall under CDC Act’s jurisdiction. Second, the ADMR Act stipulates two mobilization phases. They are mobilization preparation during peacetime for reserving overall war fighting capabilities and executing disaster relief, and mobilization during wartime or when a Presidential Emergency Decree has been issued. The text of the ADMR Act implies only military operations and mobilization for the use of force for national defense: it is not designed to answer epidemic issues. Third, neither issues regarding national security nor national defense are articulated by the CDC Act, and neither of these two issues fall under the authority of the command center proscribed by CDC Act. Though the Ministry of National Defense and National Security Council may assess intelligence regarding epidemic situations through other official channels, they are not the component authori-

ties mandated by the CDC Act to implement measures regarding disease control when epidemics like COVID-19 emerge. The fact that the CDC Act may utilize the ADMR Act’s mobilization system to implement epidemic prevention measures when needed apparently indicates that the CDC Act mechanism needs an enhancement, and that the legislation for an exclusive mechanism to manage epidemic prevention involving national security issues is therefore necessary. National security issues exist always, but epidemic prevention is temporal. The Ministry of National Defense and National Security Council own their professional judgments in national defense and national security respectively, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare owns professional authority in epidemic alert and prevention. When epidemic prevention involves national security measures, it is a cross-jurisdictional issue and needs professional judgments from both national security and epidemic prevention. Therefore, national

photo: ROC Presidential Office Taiwan’s National Health Research Institute works to find a vacine for the COVID-19 global pandemic.


biodefense is the whole scheme, and either epidemic prevention or defense is one part of the whole picture. A lex specialis is thus imperative to address the whole picture of biodefense. A national biodefense strategy may be issued under such a lex specialis, and an overarching and dedicated unit can also be instituted to oversee national biodefense measures. ROC forces may develop military manuals and tactics while engaging in epidemic prevention or bioresearch for biodefense purposes in compliance with both domestic law and international treaty. Approaches to managing epidemics like COVID-19 constitute a core national security issue. National security issues caused by epidemics will be better managed if an umbrella law on biodefense proscribing every coercive measure by government in the name of epidemic prevention in compliance with the constitution and professional judgments is enacted. China is speeding up the legislative process for a biosecurity law as an umbrella law in order to

coordinate the agencies responsible for overseeing the health emergency response system. The United States issued its National Biodefense Strategy in 2018 and placed a dedicated unit within the National Security Council. Since epidemics are a national security issue, a permanent dedicated unit, not a disease-specific ad hoc center, should be instituted in our government to oversee the preparedness for any disease that threatens our national security before it is required. This unit needs to be authorized by a statutory umbrella in order to coordinate and direct government agencies. After all, a single ministry is not supposed to manage its own functions while at the same time resolving the inevitable disputes between agencies facing complex challenges such as COVID-19. A democratic country is one that is ruled by law. It is time for Taiwan to legislate a new law for the purpose of national biodefense, and accordingly draft its own national strategy on biodefense to treat epidemic prevention as a national security issue. n

photo: Garrett Dipuma Louisiana National Guardsmen administer nasal swabs to personnel that exhibit COVID-19 symptoms at a mobile testing site in Louisiana, March 21, 2020.

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Strategic Vision vol. 9, no. 45 (March, 2020)

Reorienting Security COVID-19 pandemic has profound implications for Taiwan’s national security Fu-kuo Liu

photo: Italian Government An Italian government task force meets to formulate plans to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic.


n December 2019, the novel coronavirus now designated COVID-19 broke out in China. Wuhan, a city in central China, was quickly identified as the epicenter of the disease. As the situation worsened, the Chinese government announced a complete and indefinite quarantine lockdown of the city two days before the end of Chinese New Year. By this time, though, the coronavirus had spread far beyond Wuhan, and the entire Hubei Province was also completely locked down soon after. More than

mid-March, following an announcement from the World Health Organization (WHO), South Korea, the United States, Europe and Iran had become new epicenters of the pandemic. Never before in modern times has the global public faced such an infectious disease and such widespread fear and concern around the world. As human beings do not have sufficient understanding of the coronavirus yet, the challenge it presents is not yet fully known. So far, amid great uncertainty, the coronavirus pandemic has forced

80 cities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have now been fully quarantined. By around mid-February, it had become clear that COVID-19 had spread to the rest of the world. As of

offices, schools, and factories to shut down and disrupted global transportation, the tourist industry, manufacturing supply chains, etc. Global financial markets have plunged into an unknown situation,

Dr. Fu-kuo Liu is the director of the Taiwan Center for Security Studies at National Chengchi University and editor of Strategic Vision. He can be reached for comment at


which could likely result in a global economic recession. The prospects for the 2020 economic and financial markets are bleak. Recently, challenges to public health have become a critical part of national security, as the outbreak of COVID-19 has so far claimed more than 8,000 fatalities (as of 18 March) globally. Moreover, national security is not only challenged by the spread of COVID-19, but also threatened by the psychological fear triggered by disinformation and fake news related to the virus. Since COVID-19 is so unprecedented, national governments and international organizations such as the WHO are still trying to figure out how the virus was generated, what the nature of the virus is, how it develops, and more importantly, how it can be dealt with. With the uncertain nature of this unknown virus, fear of unpredictability may have provided sufficient grounds for further speculation and spreading rumors. In light of the continuing spread of COVID-19, many analysts have examined the possible consequences of disruptions to interstate transportation

and global supply chains. Others are even looking into new highlights of national security that have been clearly identified. Confronting the threat of COVID-19, there are three key areas in information that need to be seriously considered: new hackers breaking into personal computers and electronic devices to steal personal information, disinformation regarding the spread of the coronavirus, and utilization of information technology and big data.

Working against the clock As COVID-19 spreads quickly in China and the rest of the world, the WHO and related international institutions, as well as national health agencies, have worked against the clock to contain and address the outbreak in their communities. New information and instructions have been sent by health institutions to the public. At the same time, hackers are taking advantage of the fear over the coronavirus to send fake emails promising health kits to unsuspecting users, only to be infected with Emotet malware.

photo: Huangdan2060 A street poster in Xinhuang Dong Autonomous County, Hunan, China reminds people to protect against the coronavirus.

Security Implications of COVID  b  21

Image: Pharexia A depiction of the spread of COVID-19 cases around the world as of March 28th 2020.

It has been reported that with the spread of COVID-19, hackers are gaining ground by injecting malware into victims’ computers. They would either utilize ransomware to extract illegal profits or hack into numerous computers and control victims’ financial information. Over the last few months, various malicious files disguised as various forms of documents containing information about the coronavirus have been widely reported. COVID-19 has greatly disrupted the regular world order and will change the way we live. Hackers are taking advantage of this chaotic period and will further complicate national security.

Fake news Beyond the cyber security of individual users, many communities around the world have faced the spread of disinformation and fake news about the pandemic. As COVID-19 is a new and completely unknown virus to human society, a large amount of disinformation is being intentionally or unintentionally spread through the Internet creating false stories about the pandemic. As a result, it has spread tremendously in

many societies. The threat of COVID-19 has become a serious challenge to national security as well as global security, as the pandemic may overwhelm the existing medical capacity of some countries. Apprehension among the general public may easily be diverted by disinformation which acts against national interests. Early this year, when the coronavirus emerged in the PRC, much disinformation appeared on websites. Because officials attempted to hide evidence of the spreading epidemic, people who are very critical of official mishandling spread a great deal of information and disinformation over the Internet. Even as officials were trying to hide the real situation, grassroots resentment began to grow, and individuals tried to appeal to a wider audience through various social media outlets. The high volume of criticism on the Internet rapidly spreading all over China and abroad was alarming to the Chinese Communist regime, which regarded this criticism as a threat. Western media began to speculate that the position of China’s leader, Xi Jinping, would be shaken by the coronavirus. From Beijing’s perspective, the sort of disinformation being disseminated outside the control of governmental messaging carried broader politi-


cal signals, and perhaps even represented a political agenda against the Party. In mid-March, a quarrel broke out between the United States and China that centered on a disinformation campaign about to the source of the coronavirus. US intelligence agencies implied that Russia, China, Iran and other countries were waging a disinformation campaign against the United States. This disinformation was accompanied by a convincing discourse aimed at fomenting fear and distrust in national leadership amid the pandemic. This all began when PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested on social media that COVID-19 may have been brought to Wuhan by American soldiers last November as part of a biological warfare attack. “CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!” Zhao tweeted. It has been suggested that Zhao was attempting to amplify criticism of the US government’s sluggish response to the spread of COVID-19, while at the same time clearing the Chinese regime of responsibility for beginning the disease.

disinformation may not directly have any tangible impact, at least compared to other types of cybercriminal activities, it can cause large-scale panic, incite racist attacks and xenophobia, promote harmful homemade cures, and result in shortages of supplies and critical medical equipment. In fighting against the proliferation of disinformation, the WHO has

“COVID-19 related misinformation and disinformation has mainly spread via social media and private messaging platforms.”

In Canada, national security agencies dismantled a fake government coronavirus pandemic response website in March to prevent the spread of such chaotic messages. As hostile actors and cyber criminals try to capitalize on public fears of COVID-19 and

even labeled this malicious campaign an “infodemic.” In the fight against the spread of COVID-19, it is critical to be able to utilize modern technologies, especially information technology, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, etc. to help trace and monitor. China was the first country hit by COVID-19, and suffered a tremendous loss of life. In order to manage and control the spreading of COVID-19 on the ground, the PRC government utilized AI, drones, and big data to increase their monitoring capabilities. As the government announced quarantine lockdowns on numerous cities, AI, drones and other IT assets were being deployed in hospitals, on city streets, and in mass transportation hubs to make sure that the real-time data obtained by command centers accurately reflected the situation on the ground. The pandemic crisis has forced Chinese society to shift away from traditional ways of conducting commerce and communications. It has presented a quantum leap in implementing information technology in China.

persist in mocking and criticizing government policies, the spread of disinformation will complicate government efforts and even compromise government credibility in fighting against the pandemic. Misinformation and disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic has mainly spread via social media and private messaging platforms. Although

As one of China’s most immediate neighbors, Taiwan was expected to suffer a large number of COVID-19 cases. On the contrary, Taipei has so far carefully managed the first wave of virus cases from China. Now, COVID-19 is fast spreading throughout the world, and South Korea, Europe, Iran, and the United States will be the next epicenters to be watched cautiously.

Fighting chaos

Security Implications of COVID  b  23

photo: ROC Presidential Office President Tsai makes a visit to the First Tactical Fighter Wing.

Taiwan, which learned harsh lessens from the painful experience coping with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, has a well-prepared medical care system. As soon as the news of cases of a new coronavirus strain began to emerge from Wuhan, the Central Epidemic Command Center under the Ministry of Health and Welfare was quickly assembled and began operating in January. The center makes decisions on medical advice and emergency response, as well as taking the lead in the distribution of medical supplies and equipment.

Taiwan’s government has managed to utilize its own IT, AI, and big data assets to allocate medical resources and quarantine places, and track those who require quarantine. As COVID-19 appears to be an unprecedented threat to human society and national

witnessing the rapid spread of COVID-19, however. There are three lessons which have implications for national security. First, the pandemic could really change the global economic and power structure. So far, apart from the WHO, there has been no significant international cooperation on countering COVID-19. This emergency demonstrates that countries such as the United States, where intrusive government surveillance and curtailment of personal freedoms are anathema, are having a harder time dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, and are powerless to do much about it, despite Washington’s position as a world leader. Second, accompanying the spread of COVID-19 has been the spread of disinformation and fake news about the crisis, and this has emerged as a significant issue challenging the stability of national security. This threat should be incorporated into the cyber security domain and should be addressed within the

security, modern technologies will definitely become part of national security and could lead us to a comfortable way of deterring and denying the pandemic. With COVID-19 rapidly spreading, the spring of 2020 is shaping up to become a pivotal time in human history. The situation now in China seems to be becoming more stable. The rest of the world is still

framework of national security. Third, the use of information technology has played a significant role in tracking and managing COVID-19. More effort should be placed on developing the full potential of informational technology to further assist in the fight against COVID-19, as well as future pandemics. n

Big data assets

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Lessons Unlearned Wuhan virus shows Chinese Communist Party failed to learn SARS lessons Patrick Mendis & Joey Wang

photo: SISTEMA 12


A woman stands outside a closed seafood market in Wuhan, China.

iven the absolute power of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), authorities in Wuhan have controlled the dissemination of information fearing the possible negative impact on social order and political stability. It was hardly a surprise, therefore, that the CCP has been willing to mortgage the health of its citizens during this coronavirus debacle for the preservation of the system that keeps the Party in power. Indeed, while China responded faster to the coronavirus epidemic than it did to the 2002-2003 out-

system as the authorities have continued to silence and punish those who deviate from the official orthodoxy. Even with the lessons of the SARS disaster, which demonstrated the need for greater openness and responsibility, Chinese leaders committed the same mistakes, while somehow expecting a different outcome. The authorities’ first mistake was to shoot the messenger. Dr. Li Wenliang, a young ophthalmologist working at Wuhan Central Hospital, first shared his concerns on 31 December, 2019, with a group of col-

break of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the CCP has overlooked the inherent failures of its

leagues on the social media platform WeChat. At the time, the coronavirus had not yet been identified.

Dr. Patrick Mendis is a distinguished visiting professor of global affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei and an alumnus of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Joey Wang is a defense analyst and an alumnus of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, currently based in the United States.

Lessons Unlearned  b  25

Dr. Li then warned his co-workers of the SARS-like symptoms that his patients were exhibiting, and encouraged them to adopt stricter measures to prevent contamination in their hospitals.

Whistleblower silenced This had all been shared privately to alert his colleagues of the dangers. However, once screenshots began to circulate, they came to the attention of his superiors at the hospital. Dr. Li’s reward for this simple act of professional vigilance was an order from the hospital authorities to write a letter of self-criticism. The local police also paid him a visit in the middle of the night, where they accused him of being one of eight people who had been spreading “false information” and who had “gravely disturbed social order.” Finally, Dr. Li was forced to respond affirmatively to the questions: “Can you stop your illegal behavior?” and “Do you understand you’ll be punished if you don’t stop such behavior?” His answers were signed and sealed by affixing his red thumbprint to

the police report. With this restraining order, the virus was then allowed to continue spreading unabated for several more weeks. This leads to the authorities’ second mistake. Setting the stage for the perfect storm, the city of Wuhan had been preparing for its annual mass banquet. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the event, local organizers attempted “to break a world record for the largest number of dishes served.” The significance of this event cannot be overstated. For at least three weeks prior to the banquet on January 18, 2020, Wuhan authorities had been informed of the virus spreading in the city. The SARS experience—and simple common sense— would have dictated taking immediate measures to protect public health. Instead, Wuhan authorities did the unthinkable: issuing orders to suppress the news and covering-up the gravity of the outbreak. Even after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency on January 30, media outlets such as Xinhua were instructed to give the news of the coronavirus a positive spin and avoid

photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention A COVID-19 test kit issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


mentioning the WHO declaration. By this time, the pathogen had already spread well beyond China. One reason for the suppression of the news—as reported by The Financial Times—was that the mayor of Wuhan had declined the advice of health experts out of concerns that measures to contain the disease “may hurt the local economy and social stability.” This decision would have two escalatory effects. First, it accelerated the virulence of the virus, given the sheer number of people in close proximity. Second, it facilitated the spread of the virus around the world. The conclusion of the banquet ended with an exodus of some five million people from the city, which helped transport the virus beyond Hebei province, and beyond China’s national borders. By 29 January, the number of coronavirus cases had risen to 7,700 cases worldwide and 170 deaths in China. The figures were likely very conservative,

given the shortage of medical test kits at that time. On the same day, China’s Supreme Court finally recognized that the Wuhan police should have been more “tolerant” of those sounding the alarm, rather than accusing them of rumor-mongering. This was a lame gesture to the clear recognition of the facts on the ground. This points to the third mistake.

Inadequate response With the cover-up having now failed, China is slowly and begrudgingly admitting to the inadequacies of its critical response. The advance team from the WHO was only able to enter China as recently as 10 February, and it was still unclear when the full WHO mission would deploy, or the latitude they would have to investigate the origins of the infection. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC)—one of the

photo: Kevin Bell South Korean and US Military forces conduct disinfection operations in Daegu, South Korea.

Lessons Unlearned  b  27

photo: Jim Gathany The David J. Sencer CDC Museum at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.

world’s most respected organizations and the most experienced first responder—has not even been invited to assist in the investigation. To this degree of restriction and censorship, not to mention the potential threats to public health beyond national borders, there has been a massive outcry, not only over the silencing of Dr. Li Wenliang, but of the Chinese government’s mishandling of the entire crisis. In this context, one can only tremble at the thought of the estimated one million Chinese Uyghurs in the so-called “vocational training centers” or internment camps in Xinjiang province. The exiled World Uyghur Congress sounded the alarm over the risk of the virus spreading inside the camps. According to official Chinese media, there are only 55 cases reported in Xinjiang. Even if it is not actually complicit, the WHO must, at the very least, share some of the blame for the speed of the response. According to The Washington Post, even as the virus was spreading through Wuhan in January, the WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was praising the “transparency” of the Chinese response, and giving the general

impression that “China has got this.” The CCP keeps a vice-like grip on what people in the country can see and hear. In China, controlling the narrative is the sine qua non of the success of Beijing’s leadership. Contagious diseases are, however, indifferent to religious and political ideologies. Once a certain critical mass is reached, the message is simply too ubiquitous to cover up or ignore. To this point, it is reminiscent of the maxim—often attributed to the 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer—that “All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” At this juncture, the best possible policy prescription can only be to heed the message of scientific truth, and the messenger who ultimately paid for his diligence in this crisis with his life. In an interview with The New York Times before he died of the disease he tried to warn others about, Dr. Li Wenliang offered this advice: “If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier, I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency.” n

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Cognitive Warfare China employs propaganda to control narrative during COVID-19 pandemic Hon-min Yau

photo: US Government


n the 21st Century, diseases have become a significant threat to global public health. As travel becomes more frequent and less expensive, outbreaks of infectious disease can quickly traverse from one country to many continents and destabilize established political structures and economic order. While the digital age can exacerbate public discussion of an incident, the framing of how a crisis is handled has strong security implications for any government. In this discursive battlefield, rhetoric and words are bullets, and new and old media are weapons. Hence, during disease outbreaks, the public opinion within and outside one country regarding a government’s crisis management could present a security challenge to the survival of an administration and even

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses reporters in Beijing.

the legitimacy of a regime. Western-style democracies rely on direct support from their constituents, and maintaining a positive discourse has been one of the essential tasks of public diplomacy in any liberal democracy. However, is this concern any different in a non-democratic government? Specifically, what is the role of public opinion in decision-making in an authoritarian nation such as China? In December 2019, word leaked out of Wuhan, China about a new type of infectious disease, first dubbed the Wuhan Coronavirus, later named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO). Within just two months, the virus had spread to more than 40 countries and six continents. By the end

Dr. Hon-min Yau is a professor at the ROC National Defense University. He can be reached for comment at

Cognitive Warfare  b  29

of February 2020, new COVID-19 cases outside of China exceeded the confirmed cases in China, and there were more than 100,000 infections globally. Dr. John MacKenzie, a member of the emergency committee of the International Health Regulations in the WHO, said that Beijing was too slow in reporting new cases in the early phase of transmission, calling the regime’s behavior “reprehensible.” On contrast, the director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, publicly praised China’s effort for their immediate actions. This praise was quoted by the Chinese state media for weeks.

Extolling China’s efforts Furthermore, on 26 February, the Central Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) released a publication, A Battle Against Epidemic, to extol China’s efforts in dealing with this new disease. It was reported by Xinhua News that this book would soon be published in five different languages, including English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic. These contradictory views clearly show that there is a struggle over the narrative of China’s handling of COVID-19. Global health officials were aware of COVID-19 on 31 December, 2019 when China informed the WHO, just one day after word of the viral transmission, already well underway in China, was posted online via a shared private message from Chinese ophthalmologist Li Wenliang. Dr. Li’s intent was to save lives by alerting the medical profession about the impending epidemic, for which he was later persecuted by the Chinese government. Li, along with seven other people, were reprimanded by police for spreading rumors online. In retrospect, COVID-19 is not China’s first experience with disease outbreaks—or their cover-ups—on this scale. The most infamous was probably Beijing’s mishandling of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in November 2002, which drew enormous

criticism internationally. Initially, a period of hesitation by the Chinese government regarding information-sharing and action spawned panic, anxiety, and domestic rumormongering. There were also problems of communication and collaboration among Chinese provinces and special administration regions regarding the allocation of resources, countermeasures, and responses. These fatal mistakes undermined China’s efforts in the early 2000s to create a positive image of itself in the international arena. China was severely criticized for not informing the international community for more than four months, and thereby contributing to the quick global transmission of SARS. At the time, Taiwan could only deal with the unknown disease by itself as China’s political position forced the WHO to exclude Taiwan from the global health dialogue. It was seven months after the first discovery of the SARS that China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) finally sent the first contact to Taiwan’s Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF) on 23 May, 2002, to inquire about assistance. Finally, when responding to questions raised by Taiwanese media in the World Health Assembly (WHA) regarding Taiwan’s participation in the WHO in May 2002, China’s top diplomat, Sha Zukang, famously remarked: “Who cares about you?” In the end, SARS turned out to be a public relations nightmare for China. Based on past experience, the CCP is more prudent and responsive in guiding general narratives in media, academia, and even relative stakeholders to reduce resistance and negative impressions. The CCP uses the term “media warfare,” to describe actions which emphasizes the “soft kill” effect of media and stresses the strategic leverage of information to manipulate perceptions of both domestic and international audiences. As a manipulative strategy by an authoritarian regime, this technique is also similar to “sharp power,” as coined by the National Endowment


for Democracy in 2017. This Chinese strategy is different from the consensus-building nature of “soft power,” and it is uses strategic communication to influence targeted audiences to advance China’s political ambitions. Three approaches can be observed in China’s media warfare: distraction, manipulation, and making an opponent less attractive. With distraction, China uses one-sided representations to hide the other side of the event. In January and February 2020, China’s Central Television broadcasted multiple times that the deaths due to influenza in the United States had reached the highest number in 40 years, and by late January 2020 these reports also indicated that there were more than 6,600 deaths and 13,000,000 infections in the United States. By comparing COVID-19 to the so-called “US influenza,” Beijing’s intention is to downplay the severity of China’s domestic outbreak. In addition, the COVID-19 whistleblower, Dr. Li Wenliang, unfortunately became one of the disease’s first victims on 7 February. To deflect people’s anger at the CCP, the media emphasized that Li was a responsible and loyal

“communist comrade,” and his sacrifice exemplified the unique tradition of unselfish devotion without thinking about one’s own safety. China used Li’s CCP membership to divert negative sentiment from its earlier handling of the situation. Through manipulation, China reframes a particular event with an inaccurate account. For example, on 10 February, 2020, when Chinese students

“There has been little to no official exchange between Taiwan and the WHO regarding the actual status of COVID-19.” in France gathered at Place de la Bastille under the name of “Mourning Dr. Li Wenliang” to protest the CCP’s clampdown on freedom of speech, the Chinese Consulate in France stated that using “whistleblower” to describe Li’s sacrifice is to tarnish his reputation, as the term implies that Li was an “informer” or “spy.” China twisted the meaning of whistleblower, which is often used by civil activists with a positive implica-

photo: Kong Fu Wang Yellow Crane Tower sits on Snake Hill in Wuhan, China. Citizens in Wuhan have faced tremendous hardship during COVID-19.

Cognitive Warfare  b  31

photo: SupChina A propaganda banner adminishes citizens “A bite of wild animals today, See you in hell tomorrow.”

tion, into a negative connotation to stop people from discussing Li’s act. In another case, Taiwan briefly participated in the WHA as an observer from 2009 to 2016 at the invitation of the WHO Director-General. However, China’s dissatisfaction with the current administration in Taiwan led to the termination of this gentleman’s agreement in 2017. Hence, there has been little to no official exchange between Taiwan and the WHO regarding the actual status of COVID-19.

One China principle On 22 January, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, responded to journalists’ questions regarding Taiwan’s participation in the WHO and its first confirmed case two days earlier, stating that “Taiwan region’s participation in WHO technical activities” must be arranged by the Chinese side “through consultations under the one China principle,” which posits that Taiwan is part of China. Geng added that Taiwanese medical experts had been invited to Wuhan on 12 January, 2020. However, he did not mention that these Taiwanese medical staff visited China under Taiwan’s initiative, which

follows the Cross-Strait Agreement on Medical and Health Cooperation signed in 2010, which stemmed from the practical need to handle medical incidents. China exploited the actual event and skillfully linked their visits with the question of WHO membership, painting an image of China’s support to the wellbeing of people in Taiwan. China also makes opponents look less attractive in order to build coalitions abroad and encourage domestic frenzy to support the CCP. For example, there were Taiwanese businessmen who were trapped in Wuhan when China suddenly quarantined the whole city in early 2020, and Taiwan was trying to bring its citizens back. China wanted to avoid the impression that Taiwan was conducting an “international” emergency evacuation of its citizens. The initial settlement of the flight and itinerary was organized by China when the first flight arrived in Taipei on 3 February, 2020. However, the ROC government claimed that more than 70 percent of the flight manifest was different from the agreed-upon passenger list, and there was one confirmed case among the passengers. Follow-up flights were postponed before China could agree with Taiwan’s request to send its designated flag carriers and check all passengers with a


photo: US Army Alabama National Guard’s 46th Civil Support Team work a threat scenario created by Dugway’s Special Program Division . Training teams.

Taiwanese medical team before they boarded. Other countries, as well as Hong Kong, used this same model to evacuate their citizens from China. Nevertheless, China still views Taiwan’s efforts as politically incorrect, and this issue became a cross-strait dispute. During the ongoing negotiations over charter flights, China’s Taiwan Affairs Council later accused Taiwan of sabotaging humanitarian aid and ignoring the actual needs of Taiwanese people.

Sick man of Asia Another case where China made its opponent look less attractive was when The Wall Street Journal published an article titled, “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.” The article discussed the uncertainty of China’s economic juggernaut, but the title was viewed negatively by China as it employed a term rarely used since China’s “century of humiliation,” wrought by Western powers. On 19 February, 2020, Beijing decided to expel three journalists with the Wall Street Journal after publication of the contentious title, instead of focusing on the arguments within the article itself. In retaliation, Washington put a personnel cap on

employees of five Chinese media outlets operating in the United States. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, this latest escalation offers China the opportunity to create a “rally around the flag” effect to secure its political legitimacy among the Chinese people. From China’s efforts to win hearts and minds, we can observe the following implications. Firstly, given the fact that Xi Jinping is the “chairman of everything” in China, he certainly would be responsible for everything, including the handling of the outbreak of COVID-19. Xi emphasized that he had been in the “people’s war” against the virus since 7 January, 2020, to ease criticism that the Chinese authorities were a day late and a dollar short in their handling of COVID-19. This instead presented a dilemma for the CCP to explain why the Chinese public was kept in the dark until the sudden quarantine of Wuhan on 23 January. There were also multiple reports of CCP official’s wrongdoing from the distribution of resources to the utilization of donations, and the CCP quickly changed the leadership of Hubei Province on 13 February. There were reports of severe shortages of protective equipment and face masks and questions

Cognitive Warfare  b  33

of countermeasures by Chinese medical staff, Zeng Ying-chun and Zhen Yan, in the medical journal The Lancet on 24 February. While the article indirectly criticizes the Chinese method of governance, it was mysteriously retracted by both authors two days later. On 2 March, it was reported by Xinhua News that the People’s Liberation Army’s Central Theater Command had sent over 10,000 military medics to the region. This development indicated that, in a globalized world, even an authoritarian regime now cares more about public opinion, and even their policy response can be reactive instead of proactive. Secondly, this also presents challenges to China’s communication strategy. As exemplified by Dr. Li’s case, both domestic and overseas Chinese citizens now possess the positive energy to critique social injustice. Hence, when a communication from the CCP is deemed by the audience as not being truthful, justifiable, or sincere, information that clearly has manipulative intent will be more destructive than constructive to the regime. On 26 February, 2020,

when China Global Television Network reported that the leading scientist, Zhong Nanshan, claimed COVID-19 might not have originated in China, comments aroused criticism from the Chinese public because he presented no scientific evidence or argument to support the assertion. On 2 March, six days after the release of A Battle Against Epidemic, many in the Chinese media indicated that there were no signs of the book in shops, and critics believed that the book’s title was extremely inappropriate, as the Chinese people continue to suffer and die from COVID-19. The CCP’s claim of victory has been deemed untimely, as it comes before the epidemic is actually over. Finally, the CCP prioritizes the One-China principle in the WHO without acknowledging the potential risks to global security and the actual needs of Taiwanese people. As exemplified in the case of COVID-19, the CCP may be able to stop the dissemination of information, but it cannot stop the virus it unleashed. There is always a limit to China’s approach to winning hearts and minds. n

photo: PRC Government Patients enter the ward of Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan. China has been touting it’s ability to quickly build such facilities.

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Paradigm Shift

Pandemic highlights need to classify outbreaks as national security threats Chung-young Chang

photo: Taiwan Presidential Office


A monitor at Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center displays the growing number of COVID-19 cases worldwide.

new infectious respiratory disease, COVID-19, emerged in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and has been spreading over China and across national borders. By 10 March, 2020, there were a total of 113,702 confirmed cases and 4,012 deaths. In addition to China, which was the epicenter of the epidemic outbreak, South Korea, Italy, and Iran were hit early and hard, and the United States is now facing a serious challenge as case numbers continue to rise. Countries around the globe are

While the WHO is still urging the international community to be well-prepared for the coming pandemic, the health minister of Germany took action to proclaim a pandemic on 5 March. In light of the fact that community transmissions of the virus have already been found in several countries worldwide, together with the growing number of confirmed cases, the epidemic outbreak may already be a pandemic. Judging by the potential severe consequence of this outbreak in terms of the human toll and socio-

taking precautionary measures, including restricting cross-border travel and mass crowd activities, in an effort to contain the person-to-person spread of the virus.

economic impact, the World Health Organization (WHO) decided to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January, 2020, and ask for, among other things, US$675 million to help

Dr. Chung-young Chang is a professor at Fo-Guang University in Taiwan. He can be reached for comment at

Paradigm Shift  b  35

protect states with weaker health systems as part of its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. The Wuhan Coronavirus Disease 2019 was formally named COVID-19 on 11 February by the WHO. It has also become a common challenge not only for China but also the rest of the world, since epidemic disease knows no boundary and will reach us, one way or the other, following the trail blazed by globalization. COVID-19 is not the first epidemic outbreak that has caused serious damage and loss to humankind, nor will it be the last. In retrospect, the 1918 influenza pandemic, widely known as the Spanish flu, was an H1N1 strain in 1918-1920 that had an estimated death toll of between 50 million and 100 million. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) of 2003 resulted in 8,098 cases and 774 deaths globally, and impacted the global economy to the tune of about US$40 billion. The H1N1variant reemerged in 2009-2010 as a flu pandemic labeled swine flu, causing 150,000–575,000 fatalities. South Korea suffered economic losses of US$10 billion and 36 deaths due to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome that hit in 2015. An outbreak of the Zika virus was declared

a global public health emergency by the WHO on 1 February, 2016 and was regarded as an “extraordinary event.” Singapore was hit hard with huge loss of tourist revenue in the middle of the Zika outbreak. While Dengue Fever is a common epidemic in southern Taiwan during summer time, it took a heavy toll in 2015 with 43,419 cases and 209 deaths on record, at an estimated economic cost of US$950 million.

Epidemic events Needless to say, there have been many other epidemic events, including H5N1 of 2004-2005, H7N9 of 2015, and Ebola of 2014-2016, that have posed a real and massive threat and caused severe damage. It is beyond doubt that these epidemic diseases and other, similar kinds of viral variants will return, perhaps in a more unpredictable and potent way, to pose a serious threat to national security and global security as a whole. Hence, it is worth noting that the Canadian government identified pandemics as a major threat to the security and interests of Canada, and advocated to strengthen and better prepare for future public-

photo: Beuax Herbert An airman with the 354th Medical Group sanitizes her hands before entering the clinic on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.


health emergencies in its National Security Policy of 2004. Many other countries, including China, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and Taiwan, also include the concept of health security in their national security strategies.

Severe disruptions In addition to an increasing human toll and heavy medical cost, the devastating effects of COVID-19 may be just starting to hit the world economy hard. Tourism-related businesses have so far been among the economic sectors hit the hardest, in addition to the severe disruption of the normal operation of interconnected global manufacturing and supply chains, especially since China, once known as the world’s factory, has been unable to recover from the socio-economic impact of the outbreak. In fact, the Japanese and US automobile industries and manufacturers of 3C electronic products have been forced to shut down production, or at least scale it down, due to the lack of availability of parts normally sup-

plied from China. It is important to note that while the COVID-19 epidemic seems to have begun to subside inside China since late February, at least according to official Chinese statistics, 42 percent of China’s economy has been affected by the lockdown policy, and its economic growth rate is estimated to have slumped to 4.5 percent in the first three months of 2020—down from 6 percent in the previous quarter of 2019. It has been reported that Chinese airlines are expected to lose US$12.8 billion in revenue because of the drop in demand. In addition to all of this, the challenges that the global economy has been facing remain, and will be getting worse. The worldwide economic growth rate is also expected to slump in the first quarter of 2020, perhaps reaching 2.4 percent, compared to 2.9 percent in 2019. It is estimated that globally, the airline industry may lose US$29 billion in 2020, according to the International Air Transportation Association. As the Interim Economic Outlook report released by the OECD on 2 March, 2020, indicates, aside from

photo: Taiwan Presidential Office A factory worker in Taipei helps produce masks for the rapid spike in demand caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Paradigm Shift  b  37

trade disputes and political tensions among nations, current and potential containment measures as a response to, and loss of investment confidence and consumption as a result of, the outbreak of COVID-19 would dampen national and global economic growth and may drive some economies into recession, including Japan and some European nations. A US Joint Chief of Staff daily intelligence brief predicted in early March that COVID-19 would likely become a global pandemic within the next 30 days, and that the socio-economic impact of the outbreak will be more extensive and long-lasting if that estimate is accurate. Perhaps it is just as OECD Chief Economist Laurence Boone pointed out in the Interim Outlook report, “the COVID-19 is giving a further blow to a global economy that was already weakened by trade and political tensions.” However, it is worth noting that while the outbreak will slow down economic growth, drain out national resources, and weaken national strength, it may also be an investment opportunity for the pharmaceutical and bio-medical industries to develop a vaccine and relevant bio-medicine to combat the virus as well.

Prepare for the worst How to promptly and properly manage the deadly and costly security risk of a pandemic has become an urgent task for both national governments and international organizations. This is especially true for those world bodies whose purview is health and disease prevention, as well as for the governments of China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Germany, France, Japan and the United States. These nations are experiencing a growing number of confirmed cases at the present time. Since the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to leave any country or area untouched, however, the rest of the global community will have no choice but do their best and prepare for the worst. Boone identified several essentials that need to be

incorporated into any strategy to manage this pandemic. “Governments need to act immediately to contain the epidemic, support the health care system, protect people, shore up demand and provide a financial lifeline to households and businesses that are most affected,” she said. The WHO has provided technical

“Planners have to start thinking about the unthinkable, and incorporate it into their strategic thinking on national security.” guidance and calls for a number of actions, including an adequate supply of personal protective equipment and proper training for health workers; promoting “solidarity, not stigma” to address COVID-19; WHOled joint investigation and research missions must share their findings and recommendations for managing the outbreak; a proper guidance on points of entry and public health preparedness and response for the aviation and maritime sectors; guidance for mass gathering events and taking care of ill travelers; a WHO checklists for risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) readiness and initial response for COVID-19; and others. The key to success, however, rests in cooperation between all levels of government and the people, within and across countries. Cooperation in ensuring transparency, sharing information, and providing mutual assistance across national borders is of particular importance in order to timely identify, contain and manage the spread of the virus. There may, however, be other critical efforts and arrangements that need to be made ready, or be already in place, to deal with this kind of non-traditional security challenge that is hard to predict, prevent, prepare for and respond to. Firstly, planners have to start thinking about the unthinkable, and incorporate it into their strategic thinking on national security.


photo: Brandie Nuzzi US Navy Hospital Corpsman Rhiley Bauer examines Logistic Specialist Didier Dorsainville during a medical training drill.

Adopting a horizon scanning approach may be useful for policy makers to anticipate and prepare for risks that are beyond detection. While traditional security, which focuses on military preparedness and strategic defense, will remain crucial for the survival and security of nations, the importance of non-traditional security issues, such as epidemic outbreaks and public health emergencies, must not be overlooked or set aside. Developing a national security strategy may require, among other things, that more comprehensive and responsive forecasting be employed that has a forward-looking vision by monitoring global trends and anticipating their impact on the national security environment. Secondly, a new, more integrated organizational arrangement may be necessary to properly respond to the challenge of a changing environment. The United States created its Department of Homeland Security

Office for Emergency Response and Management under the State Council in 2006 and expanded it, integrating 12 other departmental units and agencies, to become a new Department of Emergency Response and Management in 2018 to deal with various kinds of public emergencies and to ensure social order and public security in China. Several other countries, including Singapore, Japan, and the United Kingdom, also created similar ad-hoc mechanisms or task forces to manage emergencies and crises. Hence, it is recommended that the Executive Yuan’s Office for Homeland Security be integrated with the Office for Disaster Prevention and Management and the Department of Cyber Security, so as to create a single organization in charge of integrated homeland security matters in Taiwan, including counter-terrorism, critical infrastructure protection, disaster management, and cyber security. This new organizational

in 2003 by integrating almost two dozen separate departments and agencies, as an organizational response to the threat of terrorism. The Canadian government likewise integrated six agencies to form Public Safety Canada in 2003 to ensure coordination across all federal departments and agencies responsible for national security. China established a new

arrangement, operating on the basis of the integration of organizational missions and functions and a whole-of-government approach, will be particularly useful in dealing with complex disasters that used to require time-consuming or painstaking coordination and cooperation among different agencies with distinct jurisdictions. n


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