Taiwan says no to Chinese influence by blocking Tencent and Baidu’s censored video streaming platforms

Posted on Mar 31, 2019 by Caleb Chen
taiwan blocks tencent propaganda

Taiwan will block Baidu and Tencent from running video streaming services on the island. This past week, Chiu Chui-Cheng, deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, told the Nikkei Asian Review that Taiwan is currently making moves to ban Baidu and Tencent services in the country. Baidu operates a video streaming service accessible in Taiwan called iQiyi through a Taiwanese company named OTT Entertainment; similarly, Tencent is in the midst of trying to launch a similar service in Taiwan in contravention of Taiwanese law. Both Baidu and Tencent’s efforts are now being put to a stop due to national security and propaganda concerns going into the 2020 election. Chiu commented:

“We are concerned that streaming media services that have close ties with Beijing could have cultural and political influences in Taiwan… and even affect Taiwan’s elections.”

Taiwan already has laws in the books which forbid Chinese video streaming operators from operating in Taiwan because they have by and large been Chinese Communist Party propaganda machines. Baidu’s own video streaming service has been blocked since 2016 and, as Taiwanese politicians feel, should never have been able to come back. Taiwan’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Shen Jong-chin, told parliament on March 20th:

“Chinese video streaming operators cannot operate in Taiwan. Finding an agent to do business here is an apparent loophole, and we will fix the hole.”

Taiwan moves to ban Baidu and Tencent over propaganda concerns

The Taiwanese government announced that it is going to shut down iQiyi as it investigates whether OTT Entertainment received Chinese investment. The answer seems obvious given that iQiyi shut down a livestream of singer Cyndi Wang in 2017 after a Taiwanese flag found its way on screen. This most recent government action doubles down on the world’s growing distrust of Chinese companies and their investments abroad.

Taiwan is not the only country with concerns over soft power influence that the Chinese government can and does wield with their involvement with companies like Tencent and Baidu. Tencent’s involvement in international tech companies such as Epic Games and Reddit has raised the alarms around the world – but this is the first instance that we’ve seen an entity, let along a whole country, do anything about it. The Taiwanese government has put its foot down: No Chinese soft power plays by way of Tencent.

Why Taiwan is continuing its fight against CCP influence via Baidu and Tencent

The video streaming platforms that Taiwan is refusing to allow on its shores are of CCP censorship and propaganda – not free speech. Sarah Cook, writing for The Diplomat, summed up Tencent’s repressive actions earlier this month:

It has long been understood that Tencent — the Chinese company that owns WeChat and QQ, two of the world’s most widely used social media applications — facilitates Chinese government censorship and surveillance. […] No amount of pushback from users, democratic governments, civil society groups, or investors is likely to change Tencent’s complicity with the Chinese government’s repressive activities. Its very survival depends on dutiful adherence to Communist Party directives.”

Ironically, since it’s happening by way of government ordered blocks, free speech is preserved by disallowing these Chinese platforms and allowing more free platforms to thrive in their absence. China is still allowed, and even welcome, to send their propaganda for Taiwanese consumption on unbanned video platforms such as YouTube or Twitch.

With special contributions from Isaac Rockett.