- - Thursday, August 14, 2014

A retired Chinese general is fiercely defending a loud, boastful and gaffe-prone admiral who has made himself the most prominent military commentator on national television — and the laughingstock of Chinese Internet forums.

Lt. Gen. Wang Hongguang, deputy commander in chief of the Nanjing Military Region until his retirement in 2012, attacked Chinese Internet users who have mocked Vice Adm. Zhang Zhaozhong of the Chinese National Defense University.

In an article Monday in the xenophobic official newspaper, Global Times, Gen. Wang defended Adm. Zhang for his unconventional, sometimes wacky comments on China Central TV over the years, especially on topics related to the military capabilities of the U.S. and the People’s Liberation Army.

Adm. Zhang’s infamous predictions include that the U.S. military could not take Baghdad in 2003, hours before U.S. troops marched into Saddam Hussein’s palace; that Libyan rebels could not find Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 as the dictator was being dragged out of his hideout; that Chinese seaweed farmers’ nets in the Yellow Sea could deter U.S. nuclear submarines from approaching; that Chinese fishing vessels could destroy the U.S. Navy’s 10,000-ton Zumalt-class destroyer; and that Beijing’s legendary dirty air could misguide incoming American missiles.

Chinese Internet users, or netizens, have savaged the admiral for his insights and his diligence in producing them. That made Gen. Wang very mad.

Titled “Some [Chinese] Netizens Behave Like Bona Fide Slaves [To Foreigners], Know Only How To Denigrate Our Military, Are They Still Chinese?” Gen. Wang’s article attacked those who disagree with Adm. Zhang and himself, casting them as unpatriotic and even hinting that they are treasonous.

“Some netizens pretend to know the military but really have no knowledge at all — they only know how to curse, incapable of reasoning. They are utterly subservient [to foreigners], quick to denigrate any claim by us that we are better than foreigners,” Gen. Wang wrote. “I really doubt whether these people are still Chinese, and why do they hate China so much?”

“[Adm.] Zhang Zhaozhong once said that seaweeds could entangle an enemy submarine’s propellers and polluted air could reduce the effectiveness of enemy missiles’ laser guidance system — those statements are truths proven by facts,” the general wrote.

Adm. Zhang is equally thin-skinned, and his charge of treason against those who mock and disagree with him is legendary, as reported by Inside China in June 2012, when he announced that there were more than 1 million traitors among China’s civilians.

China is a country with fertile soil to produce traitors,” Adm. Zhang told the Global Times on June 7, 2012. “There were over 1 million Chinese traitors during [World War II], but in today’s China, there are more traitors than that number. And some Chinese traitors are foreign agents disguised as our diplomats; some are economic spies; others are military spies. They have all lost the last iota of virtues and conscience by betraying their country for their own selfish interest.”

Adm. Zhang may be influential and well-known, but he is of humble origin from a rural area in northern China. Gen. Wang, however, is a member of China’s “princelings” — the offspring of Communist Party founders and leaders.

Gen. Wang suggests that China’s submarines are better than Japan’s and America’s.

“I urge the Americans not to forget,” he wrote, “one of our older submarines once penetrated the American aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk’s three-layer defense rings in 2007, including the defense ring against underwater nuclear submarines, and suddenly surfaced within 5,000 meters of the Kitty Hawk, which was within a sure-to-hit torpedo attack distance.

“If I may be not so humble for a moment, our military capabilities already reached the world’s leading place in some areas 10 years ago,” Gen. Wang wrote. “I would like to remind the self-satisfied, saber-rattling Americans not to be unaware [of China’s capabilities], or they may be knocked down by our ‘mace’ weapons.”

Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com and on Twitter @Yu_Miles.