Analysis: China’s propaganda machine is intensifying its ‘people’s war’ to catch CIA spies

That was the rallying cry of a Chinese language army 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 Middle would counter what he known as “crucial geopolitical menace we face within the twenty first century.”

A video by Chinese language state broadcaster CCTV claimed — with out citing sources — the CIA was recruiting Chinese language-speaking brokers who perceive not solely Mandarin, but in addition varied tongues together with Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hakka and Hokkien.
The clip, revealed 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 language dialects and demanding to be recruited.

“What ought to we do when the CIA is blatantly recruiting Chinese language-speaking brokers?” requested Junzhengping, a Weibo account run by the Folks’s Liberation Military Day by day, the Chinese language army’s mouthpiece.

“Overseas hostile forces have been working very laborious, and (we) ought to by no means drop our guard on nationwide safety work,” it mentioned in a post on Sunday, accusing the US intelligence service of getting extra “sinister and insufferable measures” up its sleeve.

“However no crafty fox can beat a great hunter. To safeguard nationwide safety, we will solely belief the folks, depend on the folks,” it added.

Final week, the Chinese language Overseas Ministry railed on the CIA’s transfer, which it known as “a typical symptom of the Chilly Conflict mentality.”

“(The) related US company ought to view China’s growth and China-US relations in an goal and rational gentle, and cease doing issues detrimental to mutual belief and cooperation between China and the US and China’s sovereignty, safety and growth pursuits,” 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 menace from the USA, and that American spies are a much bigger hazard to the lives of extraordinary Chinese language folks than they could assume.

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

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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 Nationwide Safety Training 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 one million yuan ($78,000) for anybody who helps expose a spy.

And for the nation’s second Nationwide Safety Training Day, an internet publishing home issued books for schoolchildren to learn to safeguard nationwide safety, containing video games like “discover the spy.” The International Instances, 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 “an enormous counter-spy drive.”

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 employees recognized as seemingly suspects.

However the spy-catching campaigns haven’t stopped at planting suspicion on foreigners dwelling in China. They’ve additionally been used to focus on authorities critics, social activists, legal professionals, journalists, feminists and different outspoken members of the Chinese language 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 language social media following the nation’s financial opening — have been principally 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 price a money reward upon being reported to authorities. Their accounts are regularly attacked by nationalist trolls and reported to censors — and subsequently wiped from platforms.

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

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