Tea Leaf Nation

The Chinese Military's Awkward New Recruitment Video

The U.S. Navy is partly to thank (or blame).

It's a sign of the apocalypse -- or just trouble finding recruits. On July 27, China's Ministry of Defense promoted on its homepage a video showing members of its armed forces, collectively called the People's Liberation Army (PLA), dancing to "Little Apple," a popular Chinese love song created by two music producers who call themselves the "Chopstick Brothers."

The video, which was featured just days before the August 1 anniversary of the PLA's founding, is a good-natured but somewhat awkward affair. Perhaps to showcase the collective might of the PLA, soldiers from seemingly every branch of the Chinese armed forces dance to the tune, interspersed with cutaways of fighter jets performing barrel rolls and firing missiles, soldiers lifting weights, sailors operating a submersible, tanks firing ordinance, and what looks like a member of the special forces firing on a paper target in the outline of a human being. Threaded through the video are clunky words of encouragement that read as if they were straight out of a Communist Party-run newspaper, such as this gem: "Every youth once had a dream that shone forth the glory of their struggle." A number of the cutaways appear to have been cribbed from other sources. Here's the video:

 

 

The clip, from central Shaanxi province, is among dozens of regional entrants in a nationwide competition by a PLA evidently eager for fresh bodies. Nationwide recruitment statistics are difficult to come by, but a June 2014 article in the liberal Beijing News paraphrased a city official as saying the number of eligible recruits from the capital was shrinking. By Chinese law, men are required to serve in the military after reaching age 18 -- unless they go to college. China's growing ranks of college students and graduates have the option to serve for two years, but it's voluntary; and these are the people the PLA now says it hopes to attract. That's why, according to the Beijing News article, requirements for this year's recruiting season, which ends September 30, were relaxed, while payments to soldiers sent into service and financial aid for discharged military personnel were sweetened. Even tattoos -- once taboo in the PLA -- have now been allowed, if they are small.

To some extent, Chinese fans of the video have the U.S. military to thank. According to state-run Xinhua News Agency, Chang Chao, an officer who helped generate the idea for the featured video, inspiration came from a popular September 2012 clip in which members of the 22nd Company at the Annapolis-based United States Naval Academy dance to hit K-pop single Gangnam Style. But there's an evident enthusiasm gap between the two efforts, perhaps because, according to Chang, participants only had two nights to rehearse. At least their struggle to go viral is a glorious one.

 

YouTube/Fair Use

Tea Leaf Nation

Exclusive: Hackers Infiltrate Chinese TV Station

Messages denouncing the "Communist Party bandits" parade across Chinese televisions in Wenzhou.

This story has been updated.

Friday evening television viewers in Wenzhou, a city in eastern Zhejiang province, saw their normal programming interrupted by anti-Communist Party messages.

One message, emblazoned across the top of the screen, declared, "Damn the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpieces: China Central Television, Peoples' Daily" -- the first a broadcaster, the latter a newspaper, and both generally acknowledged to toe the party line -- as well as "the Propaganda Department and the State Radio and Film Administration," both agencies that exercise government censorship. Another message, placed in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, called for the release of Wang Bingzhang, a pro-democracy activist who has been detained in China since 2003, and declared that "the Communist bandits are the real criminals." Yet another message read, "Friends, do not cooperate with Communist devils." The message on the image above says, "Why is Liu Xiaobo of Charter 8 in prison, Communist bandits your words are just unadorned farts, you know the people know that everything you say are just farts." Liu is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Chinese dissident; Charter 08 was a manifesto calling for constitutional reform. (Wenzhou Television could not be immediately reached for comment.)

Just before 7:30 p.m. on Friday, posts began flooding Chinese social media saying that "something weird" was happening with Wenzhou TV. Users began posting photos of the messages, which appeared superimposed over regular evening programming; after the programming cut out, only the text was left, floating over black screens. Would-be TV viewers turned to Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform, in confusion, asking other users what was happening to their usual evening programming. "What is going on?" asked one woman in Wenzhou. "Suddenly the channels are just gone; the screen keeps repeating this same content." The user also posted photos of a succession of anti-Party messages parading across her blank TV screen. At 9:30 p.m., about two hours after photos of the hackers' messages began swirling online, the official Weibo account of a Wenzhou media service provider began posting instructions for how to get rid of the troubling messages. "Remove and then re-insert the smart card from your set-top box; the black text should then go away."

Censors immediately leapt to action, deleting photos of the hackers' messages and related messages. The search term "Wenzhou TV station hacked" is currently blocked on Weibo due to "relevant regulations." Initial mainland China news reports about the hacking appeared briefly online, only to be quickly pulled. Censors also deleted a Weibo post by an editor at state-owned Xinhua News Agency's international division, which described the hacking as a "fierce" attack.

The group whose logo appears on the hacked TV screen calls itself the Anti-Communist Party Hackers; on Twitter, they have claimed to have successfully attacked many other Communist Party websites. In an email response after the attack, the group denied responsibility, claiming instead that it was the work of "friendly forces" in the fight against the Communist Party. 

In an email interview in late June, representatives claiming to be from the Anti-Communist Party Hackers said they usually execute their attacks late at night, "because the website's managers are off work," and that the attacks usually last "for a few hours or the entire night." They declined to comment on their background, their hacking process, or the number of people involved in their operations. In their email interview, the group also said that "so far the Communist Party has been powerless to stop us." With this new and very high-profile attack attributed to them, that may change. 

An FP employee contributed reporting.

freeweibo.com/Fair Use