Analysis of media coverage on the Taiwan question

This paper analyses international media coverage on the Taiwan question following Taiwan's 2024 democratic elections.

Abstract: This paper analyses international media coverage on the Taiwan question following Taiwan’s 2024 democratic elections. It examines perspectives from Western, Chinese, and Taiwanese media outlets. The analysis reveals Western media’s inclination towards Taiwan’s independence and democratic values. Chinese media advocates Taiwan’s unification with the mainland and utilizes derogatory rhetoric about the Democratic Progressive Party. Taiwanese media exhibits reverence for democracy but also alignment with the DPP’s pro-independence stance. The study employs frame analysis to identify key themes like economic impacts and nationalism. It finds a gap between official stances and public opinion in both China and Taiwan. The paper argues media narratives are often tightly controlled by those in power. It concludes complex territorial disputes require impartial, balanced reporting giving voice to diverse local viewpoints. Understanding the nuances in perspectives is essential for peaceful resolutions in contested regions like Taiwan.


The 2024 national democratic election in Taiwan culminated successfully with the election of Mr. Lai Ching-te as the next president-elect of the island nation. Despite its successful conclusion, this highly anticipated election faced significant challenges, notably stemming from mainland China’s explicit opposition to Lai’s party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The primary source of contention lies in the DPP’s firm disapproval of China’s reunification plans and its pursuit of independence for Taiwan. Subsequently, a hate campaign emerged across social media aimed at the leading candidate, Mr. Lai.

The Western media has asserted that the orchestrated hate campaign targeting DPP leaders is attributed to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Notably, there is a discernible inclination of Western media towards the comparatively less powerful island of Taiwan, emphasizing its pursuit of independence and the endurance of democratic values, in contrast to the authoritarianism prevalent in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Conversely, media organizations in Eastern countries, particularly China, advocate for Taiwan’s unification with the mainland. However, the media landscape is multifaceted, revealing a spectrum of perspectives influenced by diverse political and economic inclinations across regions.

This paper aims to delve into this complexity, analysing and demystifying various opinions and coverage from different segments of the media. The author will primarily examine print media from various regions across the globe, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and media sources from both China and Taiwan. Employing frame analysis, the author will scrutinize distinct perspectives related to the event, encompassing economic, political, and indigenous standpoints. The overarching goal is to explore whether these frames influence public perception and contribute to a nuanced understanding of the unfolding events.

The Western Media Outlook

Commencing with broad news coverage, several media organizations have consistently demonstrated a heightened level of empathy towards Taiwan. Take Reuters, for example, which has frequently, if not consistently, functioned in a capacity resembling the dissemination of information in alignment with the perspectives presented by the Taiwanese defence ministry. This is evident in their reporting on the movements of Chinese vessels and air force in the Taiwan Strait, portraying a perceived sense of aggression from the mainland, even in the absence of explicit assertions from China to that effect.

Moreover, Reuters has tended to downplay China’s stance on reunification, including its One China policy, often employing assertive language such as “gunning” in reference to China’s efforts in this regard. Conversely, the news agency consistently adopts an affirming tone when reporting on instances of U.S. military support to Taiwan, emphasizing terms like ‘outrage’ and ‘China’s pattern of intimidation’ when China deploys military aircraft near the Taiwan Strait, yet expressing less concern when the same actions are undertaken by the United States.

Prioritizing financial costs over political and human rights

Multiple perspectives come to light when conducting interpretative analysis of this event within Western media. One notable viewpoint is the economic perspective, which places a primary emphasis on the economic well-being of the respective country and the diverse businesses that stand to be impacted in the event of a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. This analytical lens explores how China’s actions, ranging from minor skirmishes to provocations such as breaching Taiwan’s air and water space, and missile launches, exert economic repercussions on both Taiwan’s domestic economy and the global economic landscape.

According to a recent analysis by The Economist, the potential ascendancy of Mr. Lai from the DPP, in contrast to other contenders like Hou and Ko, could have a negative impact on the trade relations between Taiwan and mainland China. This is primarily attributed to the DPP’s historical perspective, as they have consistently viewed the free trade between the two nations as a strategic move towards eventual unification.

This economic perspective examines this international event primarily through the lens of the economic potential and influence held by the island country, rather than emphasizing the values upheld by the indigenous population or their right to sovereignty.  In the present case, Taiwan relies on Huguo Shenshan (the “magic mountain that protects the nation”), a modern fortification symbolized by its $147 billion semiconductor industry, constituting 15% of the country’s GDP. This sector plays a pivotal role, contributing nearly 40% to its total exports and serving as a cornerstone of the island’s economy. Moreover, it serves as a security safeguard. Taiwan’s expertise in producing the world’s most advanced chips positions it as an essential player in the global supply chain, crucial for industries like consumer technology, automobiles, and aviation. Notably, both American corporations (as well as its armed forces) and Chinese businesses and military hardware rely on Taiwan’s semiconductors.

In the event of a Chinese invasion on the island, a Bloomberg report highlights potential global economic costs exceeding $10 trillion. In another report, Rhodium Group, a research outfit, estimates that a Chinese blockade of Taiwan could cost the world economy more than $2trn. The report underscores that a scenario akin to Ukraine’s fate for Taiwan, leading to a prolonged conflict, could significantly impact economies worldwide. Conversely, the report suggests that if a peaceful unification were to occur, the economic ramifications might be less pronounced. Discussion of the potential $10 trillion global cost of a Chinese invasion exemplifies the prominence given to financial outcomes over political or human rights concerns.

Nationalistic narratives

Further examination of the media’s interpretative analysis of this event reveals a prevalent nationalist perspective within various media organizations. These entities, often characterized by their conservative stance and emphasis on national values, exhibit a distinct nationalistic viewpoint. A recent article from The Telegraph, for instance, emphatically declares that Taiwan has attained “freedom” following successful elections, urging Britain to extend its support. Additionally, the article expresses enthusiasm for the DPP’s victory, framing it as an extension of democracy on the island in contrast to China’s one-party system and suspended communism. The article advocates for U.S. military support for Taiwan, endorsing the supply of arms and ammunition to bolster its self-defence capabilities.

The Chinese Media Outlook

The Chinese outlook is more straightforward. Information flow to and from China, as well as within its borders, is officially regulated and censored by the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of Information Industry. Moreover, the determination of which content to censor is predominantly orchestrated by the Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda Department, ensuring that only information aligning with the party’s agenda and values circulates.

In a published article, the China Daily underscored that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), in recent elections, secured only 40% of the total votes, asserting that it does not truly represent the mainstream public opinion on the island. The article maintained the stance that “Taiwan’s leadership election cannot change the historical trend of unification.” This clearly nationalist newspaper exhibits a notable bias toward the Chinese perspective. Notably, it refers to the DPP as “local,” revealing its strong alignment with the Chinese cause. Throughout its reporting, the China Daily consistently employs derogatory terms such as “master of dark arts” and “monopolist” to characterize the DPP, while also making unsubstantiated claims, such as labelling the United States as “dishonest,” without providing supporting evidence.

A striking observation emerges as a clear disparity between the official stance of the government and the prevailing mainstream public opinion. Notably, a mere 12% of the Chinese public supports the unification of Taiwan with China, as indicated by one estimate. This aggressive policy preference is primarily fuelled by a combination of nationalism and peer pressure, according to another survey. Similarly, in Taiwan, the mainstream public opinion finds limited representation in the media—a topic further expounded upon in the following section. Consequently, a discernible gap exists between the official narrative propagated by the governing authorities and the sentiments harboured by the local population.

The Taiwanese Media Outlook

Upon evaluating Taiwan’s national newspapers, a prevailing sense of reverence for democracy is evident, notably reinforced by the successful conclusion of recent presidential elections. Whether in print or on digital platforms, a palpable commitment to free speech and dissent prevails, with a notable absence of censorship targeting the opposition. This commitment to democratic values and governance stands in stark contrast to the media landscape in mainland China.

Another noteworthy aspect is that the majority of Taiwanese media generally opposes unification with the mainland, citing concerns over the political system and authoritarianism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Despite ethnic similarities with the Chinese population, the media contends that only independence can safeguard the democratic values of the island state. This stance aligns with the position of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), recognized for advocating independence and openly resisting China’s reunification plans. However, it’s crucial to note that this stance doesn’t perfectly mirror public opinion.

In terms of indigenous perspectives, there isn’t a singular viewpoint among Taiwanese citizens regarding the political future of Taiwan. According to a survey on Taiwan’s political preferences, about 5.8% favour immediate independence or reunification, while nearly 29% prefer maintaining the current status quo. Over 28% support an indefinite status quo, 25% lean towards maintaining it before eventually moving towards independence, and only 6% want the status quo now with eventual unification in the future. These diverse opinions underscore the intricacies of Taiwan’s political landscape.

Lastly, a discernible influence of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is evident in certain segments of the media, wherein the portrayal and endorsement of the DPP’s political stance on the island’s future are prevalent. An example is Liberty Times, the most widely read daily on the island, which has faced significant criticism for its perceived bias towards the pro-independence camp. This alignment between sections of the Taiwanese media and the DPP’s pro-independence position leads to a lack of balanced coverage, limiting the representation of diverse perspectives among citizens. Consequently, there is a clear need for more impartial and multi-faceted reporting.


Analysing the media coverage of the Taiwan question demonstrates that territorial disputes are complex, involving not only geopolitical factors but also the aspirations and perspectives of the local populations directly impacted. Grasping these nuances is essential for any peaceful resolution or coexistence in contested regions. In the case of Taiwan, the Taiwanese people do not have a strong consensus on their identity, relationship with China, or willingness to fight. Their future depends significantly on how they grapple with these fundamental questions, especially as the next election cycle approaches.

While diverse perspectives exist across different regions and political affiliations, it is evident that media narratives are often tightly controlled by those in power. There is a need for more impartial, balanced coverage giving voice to a diversity of viewpoints, especially those of local indigenous populations directly impacted. Thus, as consumers, we must be vigilant about how media is regulated and curated, recognizing that true understanding requires actively seeking out multiple lenses.

Sajjad Momin
Sajjad Momin
Sajjad Momin is a 2nd-year law student at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, India.