China and Taiwan are at war … on social media.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army on Feb. 3, 2019 released a propaganda video celebrating China’s desire to “unite” with Taiwan. By force, if necessary.

Propaganda battle escalates.

A day later on Feb. 4, 2019, the Taiwanese ministry of defense struck back with its own propaganda video depicting all the ways Taipei would resist unification. Warships, fighter jets, attack helicopters, tanks, artillery.

The PLA’s video is the cheesier one. Set to the tune of “My Fighting Eagle Flies Around Taiwan,” the video including painterly shots of beaches, mountains and forests and idylic tableaus of daily life.

Until the warplanes appear and the lyrics describe the Chinese people’s desire to “reunite Taiwan with the mainland.'” J-10, J-15 and J-20 fighters fly in formation, missiles hanging from their wings. Pilots gaze with determination at the horizon.

The message isn’t subtle. Neither is the Taiwanese military’s response.

The Taiwanese video, entitled “onstandby24/7,” is less poetic than the Chinese video is. Sailors, soldiers and airmen toil over maps, speak into radios. Tanks deploy on a beach. Artillery fires. Destroyers and frigates sail side-by-side. Mirage 2000 fighters take off. AH-1 helicopters fire rockets.

“Threats from the enemy only serve to strengthen our resolve to protect our freedom and democracy,” the Taiwanese defense ministry stated. “We will defend the Republic of China’s continual development and maintain peace within the Taiwan Strait and in the region.”

Propaganda videos play a big role in military messaging and recruiting on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese air force in 2017 tapped a charismatic young stealth-fighter pilot to star in recruiting videos that the PLA Air Force hopes will help the air arm to satisfy its growing demand for new airmen.

David Axe

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