That was the rallying cry of a Chinese military social media newspaper this weekend as Beijing urged public vigilance against US espionage after the launch of a CIA mission center dedicated to China.
Beijing’s propaganda apparatus is now intensifying a years-long campaign, after CIA Director William Burns announced on October 7 that the China Mission Center would respond to what he called “the most significant geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century.” “.
A video by China’s state broadcaster CCTV claimed – without citing sources – that the CIA was recruiting Chinese-speaking agents who understand not only Mandarin but also several languages, including Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hakka and Hokkien.
The clip, which was published Saturday, was widely supported by state media on social media and immediately went viral. On Weibo, China’s heavily censored version of Twitter, a related hashtag became the most trending topic on Saturday and has since racked up more than 280 million views.
Nationalists flocked to the US embassy in China’s official Weibo account, where they left taunting comments describing their proficiency in Chinese dialects and demanding to be recruited.
“What should we do if the CIA is shamelessly recruiting Chinese-speaking agents?” asked Junzhengping, a Weibo account of the People’s Liberation Army Daily, the spokesperson for the Chinese military.
“Foreign enemy forces have worked very hard, and (we) should never drop our vigilance on national security work,” it said in a post Sunday, accusing US intelligence of having more “sinister and unbearable measures” in store. .
“But no cunning fox can beat a good fighter. To ensure national security, we can only trust the people, trust the people,” it added.
Last week, China’s foreign ministry scolded the CIA’s move, calling it “a typical symptom of the Cold War mentality.”
“(The) relevant US agency should see China’s development and China-US relations in an objective and rational light, and stop doing things that are detrimental to mutual trust and cooperation between China-US and China’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” the ministry spokesman said. Zhao Lijian said at a press conference on October 8.
A week’s propaganda press on the news – and the misinformation surrounding it – has made Beijing repeat the well-known story that China’s national security is under serious, constant threat from the United States, and that American spies pose a greater danger to the lives of ordinary people. Chinese than they might think.
Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has launched a series of campaigns in recent years to remind the public of the alleged threat and encourage them to act.
In 2015, China set up a national hotline for citizens to report suspected spies or espionage activities. On April 15, 2016, it marked its first annual National Security Education Day with an avalanche of propaganda, including a comic poster widely displayed in Beijing warning young female officials against dating handsome foreigners — lest they fall for a potential James Bond.
In 2017, the Beijing municipal government began offering rewards of up to half a million yuan ($78,000) to anyone who helps expose a spy.
And for the country’s second National Security Education Day, an online publishing house has released books for schoolchildren to learn how to ensure national security, with games like “find the spy.” The Global Times, a state-run nationalist tabloid, said the books were part of an effort to mobilize students from elementary schools to colleges as “a massive counter-espionage force.”
Around the same time, an unofficial notice circulated on social media, listing eight clear “characteristics” of potential spies — with foreign correspondents, missionaries and NGO employees identified as likely suspects.
But the spy campaigns have not stopped with sowing suspicion against foreigners living in China. They have also been used to attack government critics, social activists, lawyers, journalists, feminists and other outspoken members of the Chinese public.
While Xi supports nationalism and carries out a sweeping crackdown on “Western values” such as democracy, freedom of the press and judicial independence, liberal-leaning voices – which once spread on China’s social media after the country’s economic opening – have been largely silenced by ardent ultra-nationalists.
On social media, liberal commentators are often accused by nationalists of being traitors to their country and labeled as “walking 500k” — meaning they work for foreign spies and are worth a monetary reward when reported to authorities. Their accounts are often attacked by nationalist trolls and reported to censors – then wiped off platforms.
The latest propaganda campaign is likely to further stimulate such political witch-hunts. Given Beijing’s extremely broad and vague definition of “national security,” anyone deemed “unpatriotic” runs the risk of violating it and being reported as a “spy.”