Taiwanese politician falsely shares US radio host's satirical tweet about 'plan to destroy Taiwan'

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A satirical tweet by a US radio talk show host about US President Joe Biden having a "plan for the destruction of Taiwan" has been falsely shared as genuine reporting by a Taiwanese politician and picked up by Chinese social media users and state-run news organisations in China. A spokesperson for China's foreign ministry also called on the United States to "offer a clear explanation" when questioned about the tweet by state media. The talk show host, however, explained in a video on Twitter that his tweet had originally been shared as "satirical breaking news".

"Destroy Taiwan?!" reads a post shared more than 320 times since it was published by Taiwanese politician Alex Tsai on Chinese social media platform Weibo on February 21, 2023.

The post, written in simplified Chinese characters, continues: "According to famous Washington radio programme host Garland Nixon, White House insiders revealed that when he was asked if there could be any greater disaster than the 'neocon Ukraine project', Biden responded 'wait until you see our plan for the destruction of Taiwan'."

Tsai is a former legislator and a member of the Beijing-friendly opposition Kuomintang party.

His post includes a screenshot of a February 15 tweet by Garland Nixon -- a US-based radio host and political analyst -- that contains the same purported remarks from US President Joe Biden.

Two other screenshots, one of a Google search result for a programme Nixon hosts and another of his LinkedIn page, are also included in the Weibo post.

Screenshot of the Weibo post, taken on March 6, 2023

The United States has been sending money and arms to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in February 2022. This involvement has been derided by critics -- including Chinese state media -- as a "neocon disaster".

US neoconservatism has come to be defined by its strong support for an interventionist foreign policy.

Following Tsai's post, the Weibo hashtag "US broadcaster revealed Biden once described a plan to destroy Taiwan" was viewed more than 150 million times.

Nixon's tweet was also shared elsewhere as genuine reporting on Weibo here and on Twitter here.

Chinese state media organisations Global Times and CCTV as well as the pro-Beijing Taiwanese newspaper China Times all reported on the tweet.

CCTV also asked China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin about the tweet during a February 24 press conference. He responded that he was "also curious what the US 'plan for the destruction of Taiwan' looks like" and said the United States needed to "offer a clear explanation".

But a closer analysis of Nixon's Twitter account found the tweet was intended as satire.

Satirical tweet

Nixon's Twitter bio includes the line: "PURVEYOR OF SATIRE". Below is a screenshot of his profile:

Screenshot of Garland Nixon's Twitter profile, which states he is a "purveyor of satire"

In a video broadcast on Twitter on February 24 titled "THE UKRAINE/TAIWAN COMPARISON - WHY MY "DESTRUCTION OF TAIWAN" TWEET WENT VIRAL", Nixon reiterated that the post was satirical.

"Many people that know me know that I'm known for doing these tweets, right? Satirical breaking news tweets," Nixon says at the video's two-minute and 38-second mark, while showing the tweet on screen.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also addressed the claim in the tweet in a statement on February 22.

The ministry said: "This information was completely unverified, and, based on the continued positive development in Taiwan-US relations in recent years as well as the strong promise and continued support for peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits by high-ranking US officials, this claim is categorically untrue."

US-Taiwan relations

Washington maintains a one China policy; while it does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it is the self-governing island’s most important international benefactor.

"We oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side; we do not support Taiwan independence; and we expect cross-Strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means. We continue to have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," a Department of State fact sheet on US-Taiwan relations reads.

But the United States and China have increasingly sparred over Taiwan since a high-level US visit to the island in 2022.

Beijing opposes any official exchanges with the democracy and has reacted with anger to a flurry of trips to the island by US politicians in recent years.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has previously warned that China may be stepping up its timeframe for a possible invasion of Taiwan, AFP reported.