CCP manipulates public opinion on China’s Internet

This is interesting. Under Hu the reformer China has created a secret group of online busybodies whose mission is to post comments on the Internet to shape public opinion in favor of the government. I’m giving a longer-than-usual snip because it’s a topic of great interest to mr.

China has formed a special force of undercover online commentators to try to sway public opinion on controversial issues on the Internet, a newspaper said on Thursday.

China has struggled to gain control over the Internet as more and more people gain access to obtain information beyond official sources. The country has nearly 100 million Internet users, according to official figures, and the figure is rising.

A special force of online commentators had already been operating in Suqian city in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu since April, the Southern Weekend said.

Their job was to defend the government when negative comments appeared on Internet bulletin boards and chatrooms, the weekly quoted local officials as saying.

Suqian city’s propaganda department recruited the commentators from among government officials, the weekly said, adding that they must “understand (government) policies, be versed in (political) theories and be politically reliable.”

“They will guide public opinion as ordinary netizens. This is both important and effective,” Ma Zhichun, one of the recruited commentators, was quoted as saying.

Zhan Jiang, dean of journalism at China Youth University for Political Sciences, did not approve of Internet special forces writing anonymously on the Internet.

“It’s okay if they voice their opinions on the government Web sites as officials, but it is suspicious if they do it this way,” Zhan told Reuters. “It’s not good for the natural expression of public opinion.”

But city governments in at least three provinces were recruiting online commentators, the weekly said.

“We are not the first and won’t be the last (to have online commentators). The whole nation is playing the same game,” Ma was quoted as saying.

The Communist Party’s top disciplinary and supervision body trained 127 officials for such jobs last year to “strengthen Internet propaganda on its anti-corruption undertaking,” the weekly said.

Beijing has created a special Internet police force believed responsible for shutting down domestic sites posting politically unacceptable content, blocking some foreign news sites and jailing several people for their online postings.

In March, bulletin boards operated by the country’s most prominent universities were blocked to off-campus Internet users as part of the campaign to strengthen ideological education of college students.

So tell me the truth, are any of the commenters here on the CCP payroll? Just kidding, but it is insidious, not knowing whether the person you’re sparring with on that Chinese BBS is a paid CCP propagandist.

Thanks for the tip, ACB.

The Discussion: 24 Comments

This is nothing new, just visit AOL message boards and chat rooms(the biggest in the country), the same “rumours” (ie, GOP/DNC paid posters this or that) flying around all the time.

May 19, 2005 @ 10:58 am | Comment

It is not illegal but I can guarantee GOP did pay people to post rumours about Kerry in AOL message boards and chat rooms before the 2004 election.

May 19, 2005 @ 11:05 am | Comment

I expect the GOP to do shit like this. But not a God-fearing group like the CCP.

May 19, 2005 @ 11:17 am | Comment

The GOP also distributes GOP-made “News” to various TV stations, which is made to look like news, but it’s as much news as Saturday Night Live’s News skit.

I think a judge has recently ruled that they need to put a disclaimer before showing it.

Long live the propaganda machine

I can’t wait till the democrats get into power and I can start bitchin’ about what they do. 4 years of bush is enough…

May 19, 2005 @ 11:38 am | Comment

Democrats are good, gentle, reasonable people. That’s why they may never return to power. Tragedy.

May 19, 2005 @ 11:45 am | Comment

I have to agree with JR and Laowai – this is a common practice here in the States as well. And on a huge scale – what was the name of that “journalist” the White House paid to pimp its educational policies.

The difference is that in addition to having paid Government commentors, the PRC is also censoring opposing views.

May 19, 2005 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

Correct Lisa, and what the GOP’s doing is not, I suspect, a formalized process as it is with the CCP. With the GOP it’s zealous operatives and maybe some PR agencies and fanatics from Focus on the Family and other quasi-grassroots organizations. It’s not a taxpayer-funded operation.

May 19, 2005 @ 12:13 pm | Comment

Well, in the case of that fellow…er, Anderson…what was his name, dang it?! It was a taxpayer funded operation – the money came from the White House, as I understand it. So I’m a little hesitant to dismiss the possibility out of hand that they may have a more organized effort.

May 19, 2005 @ 12:38 pm | Comment

Good point, Lisa. To hell with both of them (the GOP and the CCP).

May 19, 2005 @ 2:04 pm | Comment

This type of thing has already been done by big companies already. A couple of years ago I watched a news report where a teenager admitted he was being paid by a company to write positive comments and reviews of their products on websites.

This seems to be an offshoot of marketing where companies would pay hip, attractive people (not me!) to used their products in public places like drinking a new beer in a pub.

May 19, 2005 @ 3:02 pm | Comment

“Their job was to defend the government when negative comments appeared on Internet bulletin boards ”

This news is very positive for China. If CCP hire someone to defend his position, it means CCP feels that his position can be defended by reasoning. Also, to enable a debate, CCP will allow some dissident opinion to stay as long as the post does not call for CCP removal.

Willing to manipulate public opinion by reasoning is a big step from simple suppression.

May 19, 2005 @ 5:59 pm | Comment

Well, that is an interesting way of looking at the situation, I must admit. Next the CCP spokespeople should identify themselves. Then I will really believe they are trying to engage in a genuine dialog…

May 19, 2005 @ 6:30 pm | Comment

Steve always has an interesting perspectivve on China’s Grand Old Party — he loves everything they do. (Don’t get me wrong Steve, I always enjoy your comments.)

If CCP hire someone to defend his position, it means CCP feels that his position can be defended by reasoning.

I see it a bit differently. If they were confident and secure in their reasoning, they wouldn’t need to hire a secret group to defend them using surreptitious and misleading methods. It’s a move of paranopia and insecurity, and it reeks of deception. Just as it does when the GOP pays its secret shills to defend Bush’s indefensible policies like No Child Left Behind (aka No Rioch Child Left Behind).

May 19, 2005 @ 6:54 pm | Comment

The BBC were accused of planting two agitators in the croud at an opposiont meet prior to the Biritsh elections.

That is about a million times worse than the CCP or the GOP because until recently we all ‘knew’ that the BBC was above politics.

Soemthing really stinks in the world when this is the norm, maybe we should have let it end during Cuba.


If the CCP wanted to argue their messagem they should have done it in an unscripted debate, not in secret.

This is like planting favorable comments on your own blog.

May 19, 2005 @ 11:42 pm | Comment

By the way, ACB, great expose on Dashan on your blog mate. Loved it.

Have always hated him.

May 20, 2005 @ 5:15 am | Comment

Is it possible for once to criticize CCP without idiotic parallels with GOP? Are you really comparing CCP and GOP? Aren’t you able to comment what’s going on in a despotic country without passing the ball to a democratic country field?
Richard, this isn’t serious.
And, if chinese CCP commenters are really working I would be very surprised not to find some of them in this comment section.

May 20, 2005 @ 7:41 am | Comment

This is something where the GOP has been caught red-handed — using paid operatives pretending to be objective journalists to manipulate public opinion on very specific issues. I don’t think I copmpare the GOP and the CCP very often; I despise both, but they are very different. In this instance, their tactics are nbearly identical, however, and a comparison is fair. If, as ACB says above, the BBC has done the same, then that comparison is fair as well.

May 20, 2005 @ 7:57 am | Comment

Another thing.
In US there are no “dissenting opinions” because there are no “official opinions”. There are only “different opinions”: this is called democracy.
In China there are no “dissenting opinions” because there are only “official opinions” and “different opinions” are forbidden: this is called dictatorship.
And now… for another smart comparison CCP-GOP! Who’s the first?

May 20, 2005 @ 8:02 am | Comment

Please use a name when you comment so readers know how you are. And please don’t put words in people’s mouths. No one said the CCP and the GOP are one and the same. They both used paid operatives to infiltrate the Internet subversively. Period. Your point above is really foolish. We live in a democracy, still, and there’s no comparison with China’s system. The only comparison one can make is that today’s GOP is prone to censorship and repressive tactics, but not nearly on a scale comparable to the CCP. And no one ever said otherwise.

May 20, 2005 @ 8:12 am | Comment

It’s quite amusing — my own comments appear to be infiltrated with bloodthirsty GOPers lately, eagerly trying to pick fights with “moonbats.” As your hero would say, Bring ’em on.

May 20, 2005 @ 8:13 am | Comment

“A Chinese city has called for officials to admit to any extra-marital affairs they may be having. ”

From today BBC news, the CCP does sound more and more like the GOP. =)

May 20, 2005 @ 9:17 am | Comment

“And, if chinese CCP commenters are really working I would be very surprised not to find some of them in this comment section.”


ccp apologists use the same tactics in “their” bbs, accusing those who have different opinions are sponsored by CIA and anti-china organizations

May 20, 2005 @ 6:47 pm | Comment

Apologies for not noticing that you’d posted on this already, Richard.

Quite interesting discussion on the comparisons between different factions in western democracies using similar techniques. I agree with the anon. poster that it’s ridiculous to turn this into an attack on the Republicans … not because they are innocent of this, but because pretty much everyone is doing it. So it shouldn’t be taken as a “CCP is just as bad as the GOP” argument, but rather a discussion of the interesting ways in which the CCP is trying to modernise its propaganda techniques, learning from foreign examples.

May 24, 2005 @ 8:02 pm | Comment

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