War hysteria in China has not been this screechy since the 1970s.
The newly appointed supreme leader President Xi Jinping has completely revamped the command structure of the People’s Liberation Army and given the world’s largest military force a central mission: get ready for a war, quickly.
The official communist newspaper, The Global Times, accused Washington of an “insidious strategic plot to make trouble for the Chinese-Japanese relations” in the conflict over the Diaoyudao islands, which Japan also claims and calls the Senkaku islands.
“Under the direct control by the United States, right-wing forces in Japan are using the dispute to challenge China’s sovereignty, and other countries such as the Philippines in the South China Sea region, are provoking us and acting ridiculously,” the newspaper said last week in an unusually harsh commentary stated.
The article stopped short of calling for a direct war with the United States, but it warned that “China must be prepared for war; speed up economic and military preparations required of a military struggle; speed up our nuclear second-strike capabilities; and actively develop overseas strategic and military support bases.”
Last Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington and reiterated the U.S. policy of neutrality in China’s territorial dispute with Japan.
“Although the United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands, we acknowledge they are under the administration of Japan,” she said.
“We oppose any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration, and we urge all parties to take steps to prevent incidents and manage disagreements through peaceful means. … Our alliance with Japan remains the cornerstone of American engagement with the region.”
In response to Mrs. Clinton’s remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang registered his government’s “strong dissatisfaction and resolute objection.”
“The United States bears a historical responsibility that it cannot deny over the Diaoyudao problem,” said the government spokesman, without elaborating.
“These statements [by Mrs. Clinton] are without factual support and without regard to the right and the wrong.”
Propaganda on the Internet
More than 540 million people currently use the Internet in China, but there are also millions of Internet-based “opinion-guiding” agents employed by the Chinese government to control and censor every single Internet forum and portal.
Secretly in the employment of the Chinese government, these censors officially are called “Internet commentators” but popularly known as the “50-Cents Party.” The nickname can be traced to October 2004 when the Hunan provincial Community Party Propaganda Department pioneered the system of paying 50 cents in Chinese yuan per posting to Internet agents hired specifically to write postings that seek to counter every piece the government dislikes.
Based on the Hunan model in 2007, then-Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao issued a directive in creating a massive “Internet commentator army” made up of “comrades who are ideologically resolute, skilled in Internet technology and familiar with the approach and language of the common Internet users.” The job of the agents is to “guide public opinions expressed on the Internet.”
Since then, these diligent 50-Cents Party members have proliferated by the millions at every Internet portal in China’s vast cyberspace, scanning and searching, incognito, for any “negative opinions” to counter. The postings are designs to appear as spontaneous, individual responses.
In reality, these 50-Cents Party members are under the control of Communist Party propaganda apparatus at all levels of government.
In Beijing alone, 1 in 10 residents in the capital city of 20 million are “propaganda workers,” according to the city’s vice mayor and municipal party propaganda chief Lu Wei, who spoke at a Propaganda Workers’ Conference on Jan. 17.
He disclosed that 60,000 professional “propaganda workers” are directly in the employed by the city government and more than 2 million informal collaborators work as the city’s propaganda team, most of them on university campuses and youth-oriented organizations that are most likely Internet-based.
At the conference, the Beijing propaganda chief ordered his propaganda army troops to master the Internet posting skills “in order to create positive energy” by posting Twitter-like messages exalting the Communist Party’s image and achievement, providing “opinion-guidance” on “hot topics” such as corruption, housing, and inequality.
• Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at email@example.com.