Analysis: China's propaganda machine is intensifying its 'people's war' to catch American spies

That was the rallying cry of a Chinese navy newspaper on social media over the weekend, as Beijing urges public vigilance in opposition to American espionage following the launch of a CIA mission center dedicated to China.

Beijing’s propaganda equipment is now intensifying a years-long marketing campaign, following CIA director William Burns’ October 7 announcement the China Mission Center would counter what he referred to as “the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century.”

A video by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV claimed — with out citing sources — the CIA was recruiting Chinese-speaking brokers who perceive not solely Mandarin, but additionally numerous tongues together with Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hakka and Hokkien.
The clip, printed Saturday, was extensively carried by state media retailers on social media and instantly went viral. On Weibo, China’s closely censored model of Twitter, a related hashtag grew to become the highest trending subject on Saturday, and has since garnered greater than 280 million views.
Nationalists flocked to the US embassy in China’s official Weibo account, leaving mocking comments detailing their proficiencies in Chinese dialects and demanding to be recruited.

“What should we do when the CIA is blatantly recruiting Chinese-speaking agents?” requested Junzhengping, a Weibo account run by the People’s Liberation Army Daily, the Chinese navy’s mouthpiece.

“Foreign hostile forces have been working very hard, and (we) should never drop our guard on national security work,” it mentioned in a post on Sunday, accusing the US intelligence service of getting extra “sinister and unbearable measures” up its sleeve.

“But no cunning fox can beat a good hunter. To safeguard national security, we can only trust the people, rely on the people,” it added.

Last week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry railed on the CIA’s transfer, which it referred to as “a typical symptom of the Cold War mentality.”

“(The) relevant US agency should view China’s development and China-US relations in an objective and rational light, and stop doing things detrimental to mutual trust and cooperation between China and the US and China’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a information convention on October 8.

The propaganda push on the week-old information — and the misinformation round it — has seen Beijing repeat its acquainted narrative that China’s nationwide safety is underneath grave, fixed risk from the United States, and that American spies are an even bigger hazard to the lives of abnormal Chinese individuals than they could assume.

Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese authorities has unleashed a flurry of campaigns in recent times to remind the general public of the purported risk — and encourage them to behave.

In 2015, China arrange a nationwide hotline for residents to report on suspected spies or espionage actions. On April 15, 2016, it marked its first annual National Security Education Day with an avalanche of propaganda, together with a comic-style poster extensively displayed throughout Beijing warning younger feminine civil servants about courting good-looking foreigners — lest they fall for a possible James Bond.

In 2017, the Beijing municipal authorities started providing rewards of as much as half 1,000,000 yuan ($78,000) for anybody who helps expose a spy.

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And for the nation’s second National Security Education Day, an internet publishing home issued books for schoolchildren to discover ways to safeguard nationwide safety, containing video games like “find the spy.” The Global Times, a state-run nationalist tabloid, said the books had been a part of an effort to mobilize college students from main faculties to schools as “a huge counter-spy force.”

About the identical time, an unofficial discover circulated extensively on social media, itemizing eight obvious “traits” of potential spies — with overseas correspondents, missionaries and NGO workers recognized as possible suspects.

But the spy-catching campaigns haven’t stopped at planting suspicion on foreigners dwelling in China. They have additionally been used to focus on authorities critics, social activists, legal professionals, journalists, feminists and different outspoken members of the Chinese public.

As Xi shores up nationalism and wages a sweeping crackdown on “Western values” corresponding to democracy, press freedom and judicial independence, liberal-leaning voices — which had as soon as proliferated on Chinese social media following the nation’s financial opening — have been largely silenced by fervent ultra-nationalists.

On social media, liberal commentators are sometimes accused by nationalists of being traitors to their nation and labeled “walking 500k” — that means they work for overseas spies and are value a money reward upon being reported to authorities. Their accounts are incessantly attacked by nationalist trolls and reported to censors — and subsequently wiped from platforms.

The newest propaganda drive is prone to additional spur such political witch hunts. Given Beijing’s extraordinarily broad and imprecise definition of “national security,” anybody deemed “unpatriotic” is liable to infringing it and being reported as a “spy.”

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