China is weaponizing pop culture in a bid to influence Taiwanese youth, experts said on Thursday, four days after Chinese officials held a cross-strait street dancing competition and a festival to promote young Taiwan-based Internet vendors.
The cross-strait hip-hop dance championship and an Internet entrepreneurship festival were organized by the All-China Youth Federation at the Pingtan Comprehensive Experimental Zone (平潭綜合實驗區) in Fujian Province, China.
Fujian provincial officials are courting Taiwanese youth by organizing events involving street dancing, video games, the art and design industries, and young professionals, a source familiar with cross-strait matters said on condition of anonymity.
The efforts are based on a directive from Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to integrate Taiwan through cooperation, economic benefits and emotional appeal, the source said.
The unity displayed at the dancing competition was meant to cap the Straits Forum and the Common Homeland Forum, “united front” career events taking place the same week in Fujian, they said, adding that the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, next year would also feature breakdancing.
Earlier this year, officials in Xiamen, China, opened a cross-strait employment and start-up center for Internet-based content creators, they said, adding that the move was likely an attempt to cultivate pro-Chinese sentiment in Taiwanese influencers.
National Cheng Kung University political science professor Hung Chin-fu (洪敬富) said that Chinese officials increasingly target young Taiwanese through “united front” career programs.
Chinese officials are aware that young Taiwanese do not identify with China in the same way that their parents and grandparents might have, he said.
The official Chinese slogans of “three middles and the youth” (三中一青) and “one generation and one stratum” (一代一線) evince a concerted effort to cozy up to young Taiwanese, he said.
“From Beijing’s perspective, the global youth culture, such as breakdancing and Internet celebrities, is an angle to be played in the quest to integrate Taiwan,” he said.
Although the All-China Youth Federation is not overtly political, the group is linked with the Communist Youth League, which has been tasked with influencing young people from Taiwan, he said.
The dancing competitions, start-up subsidies and training for content creators should be understood as propaganda warfare waged by Beijing for political ends, he said.
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