Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Supermarket shoppers are pictured in Beijing on November 2. China’s Ministry of Commerce told families to keep daily necessities in stock in case of emergency after Covid-19 outbreaks and unusually heavy rain. Photo: EPA-EFE

Beijing quells rumours of looming Taiwan war stoked by fake PLA texts and misunderstood stockpile memo

  • Rumour mill started after the Ministry of Commerce urged families to stockpile essentials but state media says the public read too much into the statement
  • Chinese poem Elon Musk quoted on Twitter this week is same poem recited in 2000 by Jiang Zemin in reference to Taiwan
Authorities in mainland China were rushing to quell rumours of imminent war with Taiwan in an attempt to prevent “unpredictable consequences”.
The rumour mill began to churn after the Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom) encouraged families on Tuesday to stockpile essentials.

Text notifications claiming to be from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and asking reservists to be prepared for a draft because the Taiwan issue had become severe were also circulating on the Chinese internet on the same day.

The PLA-affiliated social media account Junzhengping issued two statements on Weibo to debunk the rumours, saying the text messages were fabricated.

“These kind of rumours being able to spread widely is linked to the heated public discourse on the topic. It’s very easy for the public, who do not know the truth, to interpret this incorrectly, leading to unpredictable consequences,” said the statement published on Wednesday.

Tensions in the Taiwan Strait continued with Beijing sending a record number of PLA fighter jets into the island’s air defence identification zone last month.
Last week, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen broke with convention by acknowledging the presence of US soldiers on the island.

Taiwan hints US military is training 40 of its marines in Guam

State broadcaster CCTV published a report on Tuesday clarifying the Mofcom statement, saying that the public had read too much into the one sentence of a Mofcom notice, which encouraged families to stockpile necessities and help prepare for emergency situations.

Zhu Xiaoliang, a Mofcom official, further explained that earlier in the year adverse weather and other factors had led to a rise in vegetable prices, affecting people’s lives, according to the report.
The mainland was battling a resurgence in Covid-19 cases in 14 provinces, National Health Commission data showed, leading to stay-at-home orders and public establishments being closed in some cities.
By coincidence, on Tuesday Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla electric car company and the world’s richest man, shared a Chinese poem that had been quoted decades ago by former Chinese president Jiang Zemin when discussing cross-strait relations.

A news report of Jiang’s interview resurfaced on Chinese social media after Musk’s post on Twitter and Weibo went viral.

The Quatrain of Seven Steps, a well-known poem in China, was said to have been written by third century poet Cao Zhi. His brother Cao Pi, or Emperor Wen of Wei, became jealous and felt threatened by Cao Zhi. The ruler ordered Cao Zhi to compose a poem within seven strides then and there, or be executed.

Taiwan talks up cross-strait exchanges, urges Beijing to ‘renounce hostility’

The poem, using the allegory of beans being boiled with the fire lit from burning beanstalks, expressed Cao Zhi’s regret over the feud between the brothers. Cao Pi was touched by the poem and spared Cao Zhi’s life.

Jiang recited the poem during a reception for National People’s Congress delegates from Hong Kong in 2000 when reporters asked him for his opinion on the Taiwan issue, according to the report.

“My understanding is that, if you are set on pushing Taiwan independence, then this would fit the verse ‘why are we so quick to incinerate each other’,” Jiang was quoted as saying.

“How can you become independent? We’re supposed to be born of the same root, right?”