The PLA Sends a Menacing Lunar New Year Message to Taiwan via Music Video

The PLA Sends a Menacing Lunar New Year Message to Taiwan via Music Video

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The PLA Sends a Menacing Lunar New Year Message to Taiwan via Music Video

The 2024 lunar new year (農曆新年) commenced on Saturday, February 10, initiating the Year of the Dragon in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. As the largest annual holiday for both Taiwan and people of Chinese heritage throughout the world, the lunar new year festival is a traditional time for family gatherings, meals of dumplings and “longevity noodles” (長壽麵), and “red envelopes” (紅包) of cash gifts to children. Just prior to the holiday, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) issued her annual lunar new year message—the last of her presidency—in which she extended new year’s greetings to her fellow citizens, praised Taiwan’s democratic achievements, and expressed her “thank[s] [to] our international friends for their consideration and support for Taiwan.”

Despite the positive message of this and similar speeches, other parties were prepared to step in with less uplifting messages. On February 7—just one day prior to Tsai’s address—the People’s Republic of China (PRC) People’s Liberation Army (PLA) observed something of an irregular lunar new year tradition of its own: releasing a propaganda music video that implicitly but clearly threatened the island’s people with offensive military action if they did not accede to Beijing’s demands for unification. This rather curious example of overt political warfare intended to impact the psychology of Taiwan’s citizens is not an isolated case—and it further illustrates both themes in the PRC’s annexation propaganda directed at Taiwan, as well as the continuing role of the PLA in conducting information operations directed at Taiwan’s civilian population.

The Legacy of PRC Political Propaganda Music Videos

This is not the first time that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—and specifically, the political warfare elements of the PLA that focus their efforts toward Taiwan—have employed music videos as a form of psychologically coercive propaganda. Five years ago, at the advent of the lunar new year for 2019, PRC state media-influenced outlets began to promote a music video titled “Our War Eagles Circle the Treasured Island” (我的戰鷹繞著寶島飛). The video, whose production was attributed to the PLA Airborne Corps Political Work Department (空降兵部隊政治工作部), alternated clips of various PLA aircraft with street scenes in Taiwan, montages of happy children playing, and prominent landmarks in Taiwan (such as Sun-Moon Lake, and the Taipei 101 skyscraper with a PLA airborne pin superimposed in the foreground).

In places, the 2019 video scenes were presented in such a way as to suggest that the PLA aircraft were flying over Taiwan itself. Throughout the video, a crooning male vocalist’s voice offered saccharine lyrics calling for Taiwan to return to the embrace of the motherland (“Our war eagles circle the treasured island, bringing the memories of your native soil, softly calling for you to return”). The video ended with a panoramic shot of an unidentified beach—presumably one intended to represent part of Taiwan’s coastline—with a PRC flag fluttering in the breeze. [1] The same song was re-released by PRC media in early 2023 with different footage, which significantly increased the allotted time given to displays of PLA military hardware, including aircraft, missiles, and amphibious landing craft.

Such PLA videos have existed in tandem alongside similar videos, produced by other parts of the larger CCP propaganda system, that use a pop music format to promote the CCP’s narratives on unification. For example, on the calendar new year for 2024 (January 1), the Straits Forum (海峽論壇)—an ongoing united front project intended to promote the CCP’s vision for annexing Taiwan (see previous GTI analysis here and here)—released a pop music video titled “We Believe” (我們相信). The video featured Taiwan pop singer Chen Li-nong (陳立農) and PRC vocalist Shan Yichun (單依純) performing a syrupy duet about a young man from Taiwan and a young woman from Xiamen who connect during a trip to the Great Wall, and sing of their hopes for a united future between the two sides. [2]

The PLA’s Menacing Musical Message for Lunar New Year 2024

This year’s lunar new year contribution from the CCP propaganda apparatus is a music video titled “Only by Returning Home Can You Win” (回家才會贏), released on February 7 and attributed to the PLA Eastern Theater Integrated Media Center (東部戰區融媒體中心). The new PLA video shares a number of commonalities with the earlier “Our War Eagles […]” video—in particular, its sentimental appeals to being a common nationality and “family,” alongside clear threats to employ military force if Taiwan remains recalcitrant. However, the “Only by Returning Home Can You Win” video includes some noteworthy differences in comparison with its 2019 predecessor, which appear reflective of broader trends in CCP policy. (Note: A full translation of the song lyrics is available in endnote #3 of this article.)

The new song is a parody version of the popular Hokkien (i.e., Taiwanese dialect) song “Only If You Want to Fight Will You Win” (愛拼才會贏), which encourages determination in the face of adversity. In line with the original song, the opening lyrics of the PLA parody (“When a family is not complete, it is hard to avoid regret / When a country is not complete, this will never be forgotten”) are performed in Hokkien. (The lyrics of the song are sung through twice—first in Hokkien, and then in Mandarin.) This is a somewhat surprising turn, as CCP policy has traditionally been geared toward emphasizing Taiwan’s absolute Chinese identity, while downplaying anything that might nod toward a distinct Taiwanese identity. However, at least in this case, it may be that the desire to increase the video’s exposure—and perhaps, reach a wider audience—may have outweighed the traditional approach. Despite this, the Hokkien lyrics of “Only by Returning Home Can You Win” contain odd phrasing, which likely indicates that both the writer of the lyrics and the singer were not conversant in Taiwanese. [4]

The video also makes pains to stress the cultural commonalities between the two sides—as with the line “our home and country are like the waves of Matsu’s town” (家國可比是媽祖鎮波浪), thereby referencing the sea goddess Matsu widely venerated on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. [5] This name-dropping reflects both the efforts of the CCP to leverage Matsu worship in united front outreach to Taiwan, as well as the CCP’s broader “‘the two sides of the Strait are one family’ concept” (“兩岸一家親”理念) that seeks to emphasize the ethnic and historical ties between Taiwan and the PRC. The video also includes a series of montage scenes intended to emphasize the PRC’s cultural greatness, such as images apparently drawn from the 2022 Winter Olympics.

However, while the song does make such softer nods to shared culture and history, the video overall has a noticeably harder edge than its 2019 predecessor. The 2019 video merely implied (albeit heavily so) military action against Taiwan, in the form of the watchful PLA aircraft circling the island. This year’s video takes a heavier hand, in terms of both the song lyrics and the imagery. Such examples include:

  • “When a family is not complete, it is hard to avoid regret / When a country is not complete, this will never be forgotten” (一家未圓難免遺憾 / 一國未圓沒齒不忘) against the backdrop of flights of PLA bomber aircraft;
  • “Every day the steel and guns go through the mud” (每日鋼槍泥漿) accompanied by scenes of amphibious landing vehicle exercises;
  • “The spirited and courageous sky soldiers” (有魂有膽親像天兵將) set against scenes of attack helicopters, paratroopers parachuting from an aircraft, and airmobile soldiers rappelling from helicopters.


Most provocatively of all, the song contains the lines “Drive away the tigers and hit the foxes / We must teach a lesson to the unfilial” (驅虎打狐 / 更得要教訓不孝郎) superimposed over animated images of missile strikes against Taiwan—an unambiguous, high-handed message that Taiwan must cease its disloyal behavior toward its parent country, or else face stern punishment.


While it is only one modest example in an ongoing flood of hostile CCP propaganda directed at Taiwan, the PLA’s menacing lunar new year message for 2024 is illustrative of both broader CCP narratives, as well as the sharpening tone of Beijing’s messages directed at Taiwan. The very title of the song is evocative of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s (習近平) June 2023 message that “Only when the country is well, and the nation is well, can cross-Strait compatriots be well” (國家好,民族好,兩岸同胞才會好)—an indication that the people of Taiwan have no right to determine their own future outside of the very narrow parameters set by Beijing. Indeed, the curious duality in the tone of the video—sentimental in its invocation of shared “one family” cultural ties and ethnicity, while simultaneously overlaid with an imperious and sinister air of menace—carries with it something of the attitude of an abusive spouse: “I love you, but do as I say or else it will be your fault when I’m forced to hurt you.”

The 2024 PLA music video takes a harder tone than its 2019 predecessor, and is more overt in its threat of military action if Taiwan does not bow to Beijing’s demands for unification on the CCP’s terms. This is reflective of a broader pattern in terms of Beijing’s harder-line policies toward Taiwan, which have been growing steadily more rigid and ideological since the PLA’s last threatening music video was released in early 2019. This small but telling example of political warfare, in the form of schmaltzy music, further points toward continued and intensified PRC coercion against Taiwan in the year ahead.

The main point: In early February, the PLA provided a lunar new year message to the people of Taiwan in the form of a music video, which clearly threatened offensive military action against the island if it did not embrace Beijing’s demands for unification. The video provides a curious but illustrative example of the CCP’s overt political warfare against Taiwan, and further reinforces that Beijing is likely to pursue a hardline policy toward Taiwan in the year ahead.

The author is grateful to GTI Spring 2024 Intern Willian Hung for his review of the content and translations contained in this article.

[1] For a more detailed discussion of the 2019 video, see: John Dotson, “Beijing Sends a Menacing Message in Its Lunar New Year Greeting to Taiwan,” China Brief (Feb. 15, 2019). https://jamestown.org/program/beijing-sends-a-menacing-message-in-its-lunar-new-year-greeting-to-taiwan/.

[2] The role in this song/video of Chen Linong, a native of Kaohsiung who first rose to fame as a member of the Chinese boy band Nine Percent (百分九少年), provides a particular illustration of the ways in which the Chinese government seeks to leverage pop celebrities from Taiwan—whether through sincere belief, or else via commercial pressure—to support the CCP’s narratives on unification. For further discussion of the pressures faced by Taiwan artists and musicians, see: Adrienne Wu, “The Normalization of CCP Censorship and its Threat to Taiwanese Creative Industries,” Global Taiwan Brief (July 13, 2022), https://globaltaiwan.org/2022/07/the-normalization-of-ccp-censorship-and-its-threat-to-taiwanese-creative-industries/; and Taiwan Salon podcast season 1, episode 8 (“Weining Hung on Taiwan’s Music Industry”), https://globaltaiwan.org/podcasts/taiwan-salon/taiwan-salon-season-1/.

[3] The song lyrics are available in the music video, but also in this PRC state media article: “祖国统一,台湾当归!东部战区发布重磅MV《回家才会赢》” (“Reunification of the Motherland, Taiwan Must Return! The Eastern Theater Releases the Blockbuster Music Video ‘Only by Returning Home Can You Win’”), Xinhua (Feb. 7, 2024), https://baijiahao.baidu.com/s?id=1790242849745906771&wfr=spider&for=pc. The complete lyrics are:

一家未圓難免遺憾 / 一國未圓沒齒不忘

When a family is not complete, it is hard to avoid regret /

When a country is not complete, this will never be forgotten.

每日鋼槍泥漿 / 天蒼海茫茫 / 有魂有膽親像天兵將 / 家國可比是媽祖鎮波浪

Every day the steel and guns go through the mud / The sky and sea are vast / The spirited and courageous sky soldiers / The family and country are like the waves of Mazu Town

要時起 / 禍時落 / 驅虎打狐 / 更得要教訓不孝郎

From time to time / Disastrous times come / Drive away the tigers and hit the foxes / We must teach the unfilial [young man] a lesson

家與國安定 / 國圓家鼎興 / 回家才會贏

Peace and stability in the home and country

The country is whole and prosperous

Only by returning home can you win

[4] Observations made by GTI Intern Willian Hung.

[5] The mention of “Matsu’s town” (媽祖鎮) may be a reference to Meizhou Island (湄洲島) in Fujian Province, traditionally held to be the birthplace of the goddess Matsu. CCP propaganda efforts regularly seek to leverage Matsu as a point of cultural connection between the PRC and Taiwan.