China Closes Military Related Self-Media Accounts to Prevent Security Leaks

China Closes Military Related Self-Media Accounts to Prevent Security Leaks
Visitors hold their mobile phones in front of exhibits showing People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's first aircraft carrier Liaoning, during an exhibition on China's achievements marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) at the Beijing Exhibition Center, in Beijing, Chinam on Sept. 24, 2019. (Jason Lee/File Photo/Reuters)
Winnie Han

Chinese authorities recently shut down a number of social media accounts belonging to self-media enthusiasts who focus on the military. Analysts believe Beijing is trying to prevent national security leaks amid escalating tensions in the Indo-Pacific.

China’s popular military forum “Super Base Camp” announced it will permanently close four sections discussing military equipment on March 23, including those related to the navy, air force, ground forces, and new concept weapons. Subsequently, WeChat public accounts such as “Sina Military, Crazy Warfare Show,” and Tencent “Military Lecture Hall” were all closed. On March 30, a well-known political and current affairs forum “Cat Eye Observer” was also shut down.

A user on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo lamented, “My favorite self-media hosts have all disappeared from social media. I guess everyone is feeling scared. We should only chat about romance from now on, and avoid all political topics.”

Beijing-based DW News ran an article on April 8, that analyzed why the authorities decided to shut down the military enthusiasts’ accounts. “Numerous signs imply that the recent removals of military-related self-media are likely an order from China’s top levels,” the reporter wrote.

Self-Media Can Indeed Leak Top Secrets

A Weibo account affiliated with the PLA Daily, “Jun Zhengping Studio,” posted an article on March 15 to warn military enthusiasts against “becoming unwitting tools of foreign intelligence agencies.”

Military enthusiasts must maintain a “sense of confidentiality” when posting information, as foreign intelligence agencies are very interested in China’s military developments, the article said.

“Whether it is intentional or unintentional, those who leak classified information on the Internet will do harm to national security and even have consequences as serious as prison terms.”

Several incidents in recent years indicate that the military-related self-media are indeed not careful when they seek to gain more web traffic. Reports on China’s Type 003 aircraft carrier is a case in point.

According to Chinese state media, many military fans posted photos on the Internet of the manufacturer of Type 003 taken at the Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard. The photos made it easy for outsiders to figure out the construction timeline of the aircraft carrier.

A similar incident occurred in 2015. A public security technical reconnaissance agent disclosed that a military enthusiast took photos of military aircraft at the Chengdu Military Airport with his mobile phone and posted them to the Internet. As a result, China’s highly confidential research project on the J-20 stealth fighter, under testing at the time, was leaked out.

CCP Preparing for 100th Anniversary

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP.

Zhuang Rongwen, deputy minister of China’s Propaganda Department and director of the Cyberspace Administration, stressed at a video conference that staff members working on regulating the Internet must ensure that all content “adheres to correct political direction, guiding the public opinion and value orientation in the correct direction.”

Zhuang noted that self-media and new media should be the main targets of disciplinary actions. “The hosts that violate laws and regulations must be severely punished,” he said. “We must achieve full coverage and zero omission in our disciplinary work.”

In addition, according to China’s News Portal NetEase, many self-media hosts received warning messages in January and February this year from their respective social media platforms. They were advised against publishing news articles or commentaries related to major political, economic, military, or diplomatic affairs, so as to “avoid violating relevant laws and the rules of the platform.”

China-Taiwan Tensions Simmer

The Chinese military has been sending its planes into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on a near-daily basis since September last year. On April 12, Taiwan reported the largest daily incursion by China’s air force, when 25 Chinese military aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, entered its ADIZ.

The 25 planes included 14 J-16 fighter jets, four J-10 fighter jets, four H-6K bombers, two anti-submarine warfare planes, and an airborne early warning and control plane according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.

The Chinese Navy has also been busy flexing muscle in the South China Sea. It announced on April 4 that it was conducting drills near Taiwan, and that such exercises will occur regularly. The U.S. Navy’s Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group entered the South China Sea to conduct routine operations on the same day, sending a clear message to China about its intimidating gestures.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 11 said Washington was standing by its commitment to defend Taiwan.

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Blinken explained that the Taiwan Relations Act is a bipartisan commitment that has existed for many years to ensure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself and that the United States has an obligation to sustain peace and security in the Western Pacific.

“We stand behind those commitments. And all I can tell you is it would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo by force,” he declared.