Did Biden claim to have a “plan for the destruction of Taiwan”?
The claim that US President Joe Biden said the US has a “plan for the destruction of Taiwan,” has been plastered across several Chinese-language Youtube videos over the past week. However, no major English-language media platform has picked up on this news. We took a closer look to find out more.
The original claim has a single English source. Posted on February 16th by American political commentator Garland Nixon, the tweet claims “White House insiders” leaked a conversation in which Biden said “wait until you see our plan for the destruction of Taiwan.”
The first person to translate the claim into Chinese was Alex Tsai, who is political commentator and former legislator in the Taiwan-based Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). On February 21st, Tsai posted a translation of the tweet on Facebook accompanied by screenshots of Nixon’s tweet and his credentials. Tsai also positioned Nixon as a credible, respected radio presenter. From here, Tsai’s post blew up on social media platforms, with other news outlets and commentors picking up on it. On Chinese social media platform Weibo, there were over 100 million views on the hashtag, “China seeks explanation from the U.S. for its plan for the destruction of Taiwan,” by February 22nd.
However, a quick look at Garland Nixon’s profile reveals that he has posted (and continues to post) a series of tweets with the similar format of “BREAKING NEWS,” followed by dubious, satirical updates related to American and International politics. While some are clearly unrealistic and easily identifiable as false information, others are more ambiguous. However, when viewing the series of over 50 tweets in context, the likelihood of all being fabricated increases.
On February 22nd, the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry addressed this claim, highlighting Nixon’s unreliability and stating that, “such information is unverified and false, as Taiwan-US relations continue to grow in a positive direction, and US officials repeatedly pledge to support Taiwan and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
On February 24th, Nixon confirmed on a livestream broadcast for his own audience that his tweet was indeed satire, claiming that he was known for his satirical “breaking news” tweets, and that this was clear when looking at his Twitter timeline. However, Nixon has so far failed to address this directly on Twitter – even fanning the flames with vague or sarcastic responses to commentors asking for clarification. This is compounded by Nixon also using the same twitter account to share his actual political views and to retweet verified news sources.
Therefore, given the unsubstantiated nature of the claim and it’s extremely unreliable source, we give this claim a rating of false.
However, despite the February 22 clarification from the Taiwan Foreign Ministry and several fact-checks, this claim has persisted – particularly in Chinese-language media. On February 24, an official from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, retweeted Nixon’s tweet with the comment that the United States “doesn’t care who will be destroyed,” seemingly taking the tweet seriously.
Alex Tsai has also made several follow up Facebook posts doubling down on his claim that Nixon’s tweet is credible and believable. In them, he makes no mention of how other satirical tweets Nixon has clearly made – instead claiming that the Taiwan Foreign Ministry is falsely accusing Nixon of being unreliable. Tsai has also made appearances on television and Youtube news broadcasts reaffirming his belief that the quote did actually come from Biden.
The persistence of this claim begs the question of whether this is misinformation – a mistakenly shared satirical joke tweet – or disinformation – a malicious claim circulated intentionally with ill-intent.
The Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and initial fact-checker Polygraph have both suggested more nefarious motivations – bringing up Tsai’s political leanings and the fact that Nixon is affiliated with a radio station allegedly sponsored by the Russian state, Radio Sputnik. The Youtube news channels that have been covering this claim continuously are known for leaning towards pro-China and pro-Russian stances, and CCP-sponsored platforms such as China Daily have also downplayed its satirical origins – instead using it as a talking point within their own wider political narratives about US-China tensions.
While it is not possible to say for sure whether this claim is misinformation, disinformation or even both, it is a clear example of how widespread misunderstanding can arise when translations are spread across different language platforms. It also highlights the difficulty of identifying satire – particularly when the source muddies the waters by weaving satire in with serious content.