How not to run a Chinese military affairs account on Sina Weibo

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After firing up his first Weibo post (link in Chinese) last Friday, China’s General Luo Yuan is discovering the unsettling chaos of free expression—particularly that found online.

The good general’s Sina Weibo account.
The good general’s Sina Weibo account.

His typical posts include statements like these:

“Under the leadership of Xi, [We fight] to protect our country’s interests, to punish the country’s traitors, to clean out the corrupt, and to revive the Chinese civilization.”

This is sort of standard fare from one of China’s most vocal commentators on military affairs—Luo appears frequently on China Central Television and used to write a popular blog. He’s known for his hawkish rhetoric, such as on the Diaoyu/Senkakau islands dispute (e.g. he famously recommended that China name its first aircraft carrier “Diaoyu Islands.”)

While the general already has 10,000 “likes,” the responses from Weibo hoi polloi have not all been receptive to his rhetoric, according to Offbeat China:

“How, in a normal country, is an active military officer allowed to openly discuss politics?”

And this one:

“General Luo, welcome to Weibo. Your willingness to communicate is worth some applause, but here are a few questions for you. 1. Is it ‘under the leadership of Xi,’ or ‘under the leadership of the Party led by Xi’? 2. Who are the country’s traitors? Do you have a name list? We netizens are happy to help [if you don’t]. 3. A military officer talking about fighting corruption. It may be effective, but how do you do it? Does this count as the military’s interference in politics?”

This is perhaps why General Luo tried to boost his support by writing flattering comments about himself—using his own account to do so. A post from his account wrote:

“Luo Yuan is a soldier and scholar, and on the North Korea issue, his analysis is right on the money. The recommendations that he puts forth are pragmatic and of high quality! He’s the most popular military affairs pundit on TV!”

Fortunately for the beleaguered Luo, the fleet-fingered Sina Military Weibo channel blogger quickly swooped in with an explanation. The general’s account had been hacked, said the post (link in Chinese), and the hacker had written the glowing posts. (Typical hacker behavior, that.)

But this, too, may have backfired. First of all, a meme have have been born: Weibo users have already grabbed on to the “Luo Yuan is a soldier and a scholar” quote such that many are typing it into the comments sections of Luo’s new posts.

Then there’s the larger problem with the hacking defense. As the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out, Kai-fu Lee—former head of Google China and major Weibo personality—summed it up this way: “If the national security professional can’t even change his password then the people really should be worried.”