The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) utilizes techniques and methods associated with the “three warfares” to target Taiwan, particularly through the efforts of the former General Political Department’s (GPD) Base 311 (61716 部隊), its “Public Opinion Warfare, Psychological Warfare, and Legal Warfare Base” (輿論戰心理戰法律戰基地). Base 311, which has its headquarters in Fujian, within Fuzhou province, seemingly oversees at least six regiments that are responsible for engaging in the three warfares against Taiwan, including through multiple forms of propaganda.
While a comprehensive analysis of Base 311 would be beyond the scope of this article, an overview of its recent activities offers an illustration of its efforts to influence public opinion in Taiwan, including through associated proxy organizations, in peacetime. In a wartime scenario, Base 311’s engagement in the three warfares could be impacted by the PLA’s organizational reforms, which may enable increased coordination of these political warfare activities with information warfare.
Targeting Taiwan in Peacetime
In peacetime, Base 311’s employment of the three warfares has included the utilization of a commercial front, the China Huayi Broadcasting Corporation (中國華藝廣播公司, CHBC). Established in 1991, CHBC focuses on Taiwan-related content, including the Voice of the Taiwan Strait. CHBC describes itself as seeking to “promote Chinese culture” and emphasizes that, “cohering [凝聚] compatriots’ feelings” is the company’s abiding purpose. Its coverage of Taiwan is routinely negative, often highlighting political contention and social issues.
While there is relatively limited information available regarding the activities of Base 311 itself, CHBC maintains a much higher public profile, including through its involvement in multiple cross-Strait forums and exchanges. Typically, the commander of Base 311 is dual-hatted as the CEO (or chairman, 董事長) of CHBC. Major General Wang Shu (汪澍), who became the commander of Base 311 in 2010, was concurrently the chairman of CHBC. Since Wang Shu was promoted to become the director of the Nanjing Political Institute in 2015, there has been no official announcement regarding who would take over his role as commander of Base 311. However, since about mid-2015, Qiu Yu (邱雨) has been identified as the chairman of CHBC, which may be an indication that he has taken on the role of commander of Base 311 as well. Since there is minimal information available about him under that name, he may also use a pseudonym to distinguish his PLA and CHBC personas.
In peacetime, CHBC’s attempts to influence public opinion have involved organizing cross-Strait exchanges, including the following, held within several months of each other in 2016:
- In August, CHBC was involved in organizing a cross-Strait college students’ exchange involving a community activities planning competition held in Fuzhou.
- In September, CHBC organized activities on “Sun Yat-sen thought” for students from elite Taiwanese universities that highlighted his commitment to national unification (国家统一) and national rejuvenation (民族振興).
- In November, CHBC, along with partners including the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, organized a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sun Yat-sen that brought together youth delegates from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, and mainland China.
- In his remarks, Qiu Yu (邱雨) called for promoting the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nationality (中華民族的偉大復興).
Beyond CHBC’s broadcasting and propaganda activities, Base 311 also appears to be linked to the Collaborative Innovation Center for the Peaceful Development of Cross-Strait Relations (兩岸關係和平發展協同創新中心). Ai Songru (艾松如), a psychological warfare specialist in the PLA, has been identified by multiple sources as CHBC’s Director and General Manager (董事、總經理), since at least 2011, under the pseudonym Ai Ke (艾克), seemingly to distinguish his PLA and CHBC activities. Ai Songru has also been described as the executive director of the Collaborative Innovation Center for the Peaceful Development of Cross-Strait Relations. This center, established in 2012 at Xiamen University, has the objective and mandate “to promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and eventually reunify the nation.” In particular, it seeks to become “the most authoritative and influential source of information and scholarship on Taiwan studies in the world.”
These attempts to establish its authoritativeness and influence public opinion on Taiwan have included hosting a variety of events and exchanges related to issues in cross-Strait relations, including the Dajiang Forum; frequent publications in Chinese-language and English-language platforms; and participation in international conferences. Although its activities may appear relatively innocuous, the linkage of CICCSR to CHBC and thus to Base 311 indicates the intention to influence that underlies its engagement with Taiwanese and international audiences.
The Future of the Three Warfares in Wartime?
Looking forward, Base 311’s position and function within the PLA may evolve as a result of the ongoing organizational reforms. There are indications that Base 311, previously subordinate to the former GPD, may now be under the aegis of the PLA’s new Strategic Support Force (戰略支援部隊), based on a number of personnel transfers. Although there is not yet a definitive indication that this change has occurred, such a shift would be consistent with a broader pattern in which the majority of the four former General Departments’ operational units appear to have been transferred to the SSF.
The transfer of Base 311 to the SSF could reflect the PLA’s intensified focus on ensuring the operational impact of the three warfares in a warfighting context (see part 2). In practice, the conceptual framework of the three warfares is closely linked to the PLA’s strategic thinking on information warfare, which incorporates cyber warfare, electronic warfare, and also psychological warfare. In this regard, a potential organizational shift could prelude an enhanced focus on integrating the three warfares into information operations on the battlefield. In particular, the potential coordination of the PLA’s cyber and psychological warfare capabilities could enable more effective “cyber psychological warfare.”
At this point, it is unclear how and to what extent Base 311’s activities, including those of its front organizations, will continue to be coordinated with other key actors in the PLA’s political work/warfare system in the future. For instance, there are indications that Base 311 previously collaborated with or otherwise provided support to the former GPD Liaison Department (總政治部聯絡部), the Chinese Communist Party’s Taiwan Propaganda Leading Small Group, and also the Taiwan Affairs Leading Small Group, based on reports of interactions with figures from these organizations. Such collaborations will likely continue, but the coordination of these various political warfare activities could remain a challenge for the PLA.
The PLA’s efforts to target Taiwan in peacetime have involved extensive propaganda and also exchange activities organized by front organizations. In wartime, Base 311 would take on a much more active, combat-oriented function, in coordination with kinetic and information operations. Although the design of effective countermeasures against the three warfares could prove challenging, further attempts to enhance transparency regarding these activities and their underlying intentions may constitute an initial step toward undermining their efficacy.
The main point: Base 311 is a critical component of the PLA’s political warfare against Taiwan in peacetime that could take on a critical combat role in a conflict scenario.
 Within the same timeframe, Mei Huabo (梅华波) replaced Ying Hongwen (尹洪文), who was previously Base 311’s political commissar. See, for instance: Fuzhou Daily, July 29, 2015.
 See, for instance: CHBC, May 17, 2011; People’s Daily, May 18, 2015; CHBC, July 17, 2016.