Military affairs have recently become a censored topic within the Great Firewall—communist China’s sophisticated internet censorship system, amid the tightened control over speech and information on social media platforms.
On March 30, several official accounts that cover military affairs on Chinese social media platform WeChat were suspended on the same day. Among them was the Jiangwutang account run by WeChat’s parent company Tencent and Sina Military, operated by Sina, another dominant social media platform.
On March 23, one of the most influential military forums in China, cjdby.net, closed pages that allowed users to discuss military weapons and developments in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), citing problems in previous posts and content management.
The abrupt suspension does not offer any further notice or explanation, so the tumult of gossip, surmise, and suspicion that followed was not surprising. Subscribers said on Zhihu, China’s largest online Q&A forum, that they felt lost over the block of their favorite forums and complained about the money they had paid for access. At the same time, they wondered why Tencent banned its official military account on its own platform.
“The order [of the ban] is probably from high-level officials,” a Beijing-based DW News analyzed in the report on Apr. 8. The report indicated that the party has embarked on a massive crackdown to curb social media content on politics, and is now spreading to the military.
Social media accounts that produce original content independently, run by individuals or companies are popular on platforms for bloggers including Tencent’s WeChat, and Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
The strengthened censorship on military affairs discussion came after a warning on the PLA’s official Weibo account, Junzhengping Studio.
A commentary posted on March 15 cautioned that Chinese military enthusiasts could be used as a “tool” by foreign intelligence agencies to leak military secrets.
It implied that agencies from other countries use the discussion on military affairs or weapons to analyze the regime’s military developments, imposing a threat to national security.
In January, the regime’s internet regulation and control agency, Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), expanded the range of subjects that require “news information permission.” The credential is required for any commentary or analysis on topics the party deems as sentive, which covers politics, the military, diplomacy, economics, education, judicial matters, and health.
The CAC instructed all social media platforms to prioritize “keeping the correct direction of public opinion” during its annual meeting on Jan. 29. The CAC director said they would “let supervision and management grow teeth, so they will teach those who get out of line.” Attendees of the meeting include representatives from Tencent, Sina Weibo, and other popular social media platforms.
Also, the Maoyan Kanren Forum, a more liberal current affairs and politics forum, abruptly closed on March 30.