Source: Zero Hedge

There’s been a noticeable uptick in Western media headlines predicting looming war between China and Taiwan, and reports of preparations for a near-future mainland invasion of the autonomous democratic-run island. This especially after both US defense officials and Taiwan’s leaders recently for the first time confirmed the presence of US Marines there.

This state of things, along with the increasingly bellicose rhetoric of some US officials and media pundits – answered by Beijing’s assertion of its “red lines” on growing US involvement in Taiwan centering on weapons sales – has fueled frenzied speculation on social media. Authorities in China are now trying to reign in the speculation of imminent war among Chinese citizens online

But the profusion of internet rumors that wartime preparations are being made has also been fueled by Chinese state broadcasters themselves. In some places this reportedly caused citizens to begin stocking up on food and supplies.

Bloomberg, for example, details that “Chinese social media networks have seen a flurry of chatter about a possible Taiwan crisis in recent days, seemingly fuelled by Beijing’s call for citizens to stockpile food and an unrelated message claiming to show the nation was preparing to mobilize military reserves.”

The report underscores that “The surge came after a report by China’s state broadcaster saying that Taiwanese were hoarding their own survival supplies.”

Ironically it also appears that President Xi Jinping’s recent tough talk – for example this past summer warning pro-independence leaders that foreign meddlers will “get their heads bashed” – has backfired to some degree as his own population is increasingly buying into hype that war is just around the corner. Bloomberg provides an example of the kind of viral content that state censors are now trying to quash:

On Tuesday (Nov 2), the Economic Daily published a commentary urging the public “not to over read” a Ministry of Commerce statement encouraging families to stock up on some daily necessities due to supply-chain concerns. Later on Tuesday, a social media account affiliated with the official People’s Liberation Army Daily newspaper denounced the mobilisation rumours as a “vile” and “malicious fabrication.”

It will not only cause negative impact to the state, the military and society, it could also lead to severe consequences,” said the account, Junzhengping.

But as with any messaging that goes viral whether true or false, it inevitably results in furthering the rumors:

On Wednesday morning, the Junzhengping denial was among the top-trending topics on the Weibo social media network. Still, the war talk continued to simmer, with a 63-year-old video of PLA generals singing that they “will definitely plant the flag of victory on Taiwan” getting more than 130 million views.

The Commerce Ministry notification about ensuring enough supplies and stable prices for essential staples in supermarkets in some instances triggered hoarding and a degree of panic buying among some:

War fears or not, there were scattered reports of runs on rice, noodles and cooking oil in some Chinese cities, according to local media. The more immediate worry for some was the possibility of neighborhood lockdowns as a COVID-19 outbreak spreads in several provinces.

The government moved quickly to try to tamp down fears with assurances of sufficient supplies. A bright yellow sign in an aisle of a Beijing supermarket asked customers to buy reasonably and not to listen to rumors or stockpile goods.

Other reports suggested survival gear was also flying off the shelves in some locales.

Another fear among officials is that given Xi has lately pushed a message of “peaceful reunification” of Taiwan, while expressing the desire to win over the Taiwanese population by persuasion, online and media war rumors can only serve to polarize the situation. So it appears state media is now frantically trying to walk back a number of its own prior over-sensationalized claims regarding the tense Taiwan situation.