A new propaganda campaign is sweeping through China. The campaign is designed to prevent Chinese citizens from spying for foreign governments.
Like most propaganda, the Chinese campaign is decidedly over-the-top.
Fun subway posters in Beijing reminding returnees that if you have been tricked or coerced by spies into betraying the motherland while overseas in Foreignland, all is not lost. Confess (with sincere repentance!) to relevant authorities and you MIGHT not be investigated further. pic.twitter.com/NiBHAyBCRS
— Jeremiah Jenne (@JeremiahJenne) April 23, 2018
Posters in a Beijing subway are specifically designed to inform citizens of potential warning signs, in an effort to prevent them from being tricked into spying against China. The posters identify redheaded academics, tourists, English teachers, and NGO workers as just some of the suspicious individuals who might tempt Chinese citizens into a life of espionage.
This type of propaganda has become increasingly common in China in recent years. It is all part of an effort to breed distrust of foreign entities, while allowing Chinese officials to create a tighter grip on their citizens. Historically, China has always been concerned about hostile foreign governments. In recent years, multiple attempts have been made to engage citizens in active counter-espionage efforts through cash rewards, classes, and an annual national security awareness day.
Tip-off website set up for Chinese to report foreign spies, or anyone instigating a riot or separatism https://t.co/nHFzaqJl4U
📷A man walks past a cartoon and poster warning Beijing residents about foreign spies pic.twitter.com/2MZGyTd7DK
— AFP news agency (@AFP) April 16, 2018
In April, on National Security Awareness Day, Chinese authorities launched a website in English and Chinese. The site was specifically designed so that citizens could report suspected espionage, warning individuals to “be on alert for friends who wear masks.” Even the country’s ministry of education demanded that national security be a part of the national education curriculum.
“These laws target civil society groups as a threat to national security and attempt to create a cloud of suspicion around cooperation between NGOs and individuals inside and outside of China,” said Frances Eve, a researcher for the advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
— Britt Clennett (@BrittClennett) April 21, 2016
Last year, China broadened its legal definitions of espionage. Now, foreign individuals or organizations can be punished for any behavior deemed to include distorting facts or issuing information that might harm national security.