The Birth of a Party Line

It starts early. When the most recent Wikileaks dump broke, most of the folks in China news circles were focused on its supposed revelations about China’s support (or lack thereof) for North Korea. As the story has cooled, of course, most people have returned to earth, reminded that these cables represent the diplomatic equivalent to water-cooler gossip. But the Chinese government was, needless to say, paying close attention, and yesterday the Global Times ran an op-ed that betrays just how threatened they are by the idea of Wikileaks, even if the egg is on America’s face this go-round.

(Probably, I don’t need to remind anyone that the Global Times is state-owned and shares management and connections and sometimes editorials with the People’s Daily).

Check it out (emphasis mine):

It seems that the exposure is bringing WikiLeaks praise and applause by embarrassing the world’s most powerful country. But questions are raised when one takes a closer look at the website. How long will a website committed to whistle blowing on the US government be tolerated?

WikiLeaks, since this summer, has embarrassed Uncle Sam several times. This July it released some 90,000 documents on the US-led Afghanistan War. This week a further 250,000 US diplomatic documents were made public, creating a “9/11 of world diplomacy.”

But it is worth noticing that most of the materials that were exposed are sensational in nature, yet minor pieces of information, and the negative effects their release can pretty much be mitigated by some remedial work.

The US State Department has condemned the WikiLeaks release, which seems only to have increased the credibility of the website. WikiLeaks claims that it has a large number of volunteers working all over the world with access to confidential information for free. The powerful and ubiquitous CIA has not been able to identify the source of the sudden leakage of diplomatic secrets. It sounds more or less unconvincing. Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is still on the run, despite his high public profile.

Is there some tacit understanding between the website and the US government? It may be worth asking. And what does it mean to other countries that are on the radar screen of WikiLeaks?

If granted real authority, once WikiLeaks sets its sights on other countries, the fallout could be drastic. Leaked information could severely damage the social stability of nations that are not able to handle the release of so much sensitive information.

An information tsunami is flooding every country, but different countries have different abilities to control and absorb it.

Developed countries, especially the US, dominate the global flow of information at the moment.

Countries like China, despite their rising status in the information world, must have a line of defense against a hurtful information campaign.

It’s not exactly a subtle point that they’re making, but let me make it explicit anyway: ‘Wikileaks is a US-funded propaganda tool that they’re planning to use to destroy China.’

Aside from it being paranoid and decidedly unfounded, this makes a lot of sense. Wikileaks has garnered some credibility, and the US’s response has indicated to people that their documents are, in fact, real. So when, inevitably, they get around to releasing Chinese internal documents, people are going to believe in their validity.

Internationally, China doesn’t seem to care much about what anyone thinks, but internally, you can see the preemptive strikes happening right now for revelations about China Wikileaks might release months or years down the road. The Chinese media has been instructed not to report on the leaks anymore, and China-related leak stories are being scrubbed from the internet. Moreover, by tying Wikilinks into their ongoing narrative about Western imperialism, US aggression, and anti-China forces, they’re assuring whatever they can’t scrub — and whatever leaks through in the future — is discredited.

Moreover, they’ve taken a page out of the Fox News spin handbook and, in the absence of any hard evidence there are ties between the US government and Wikileaks, they’re playing the question game. “Is there some tacit understanding between the website and the US government? It may be worth asking.” They’re not claiming anything, you see, just asking the question. Planting the idea. It is cowardly, even for spin, but it’s also effective.

I haven’t seen this line of thinking elsewhere in the Chinese media yet, but I haven’t been looking too closely, and it’s only a matter of time anyway. It seems to be a sign that the government is learning; in a new age when information can’t be completely blocked out, it’s safer to sully the name of anyone who might, potentially, release “harmful” information.

“Finding Home” Update

Thanks to even more generosity, we passed the $5,000 mark on our documentary project today, which assures that we will get funding. How much is still up to you, though. $5,000 is the absolute minimum I think we can work with, and making the film for that little is going to force us to give up some of the things we’d like to do. So please, if you haven’t already, make a pledge today. And if you have, send that link to some friends! Thank you.

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0 thoughts on “The Birth of a Party Line”

  1. The other prong of this strategy is the mass arrest of domestic hackers (a percentage of whom would be criminal hack for profit types). Forewarned by US cable gate is forearmed. It would be dead risky business, but there has to be an Assange clone out there.

    Also, I can’t help but note that if this was a PRC cablegate, the western media, its political community and most of the bridgeblog community would be beside themselves with joy. Sort of shows up the parasitic and craven status of most the major US news outlets. Feeding frenzy on wiki materials, while condemming the messenger….anarchist, anti-christ, blah blah blah.

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  2. The thing with wikileaks is that the stuff in there only represents what the US diplomats THINK of the situation. It doesn’t necessarily represent the full truth although the diplomats are likely to be a lot closer to the truth than other non-insiders.

    I think it would be far more interesting to see more Wikileak like documents coming from not the US government, but from other nations as well. For example, it would be a lot more interesting to see what the leaked internal memos of the Chinese governments are like in regards to foreign and domestic policy.

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  3. My personal curiosity aside, nations (china included) are justified to be fearful of the potential destructive power of wikileaks if any government gets to control Assange. Hence you don’t only see China, but pretty much every country condemning and trying to discredit wikileaks.

    With the current technology it’s quite easy to broadcast any information to rest of the world. China may ban twitter and filter through the GFW but it cannot stop all information from traveling from one person to the masses. To me wikileaks is just the beginning. Governments will be forced to either become more transparent or a lot more heavy handed when it comes to information security (much more likely). However it will only take one disgruntled government employee and a site like Wikileaks to start the fireworks. I say a site like Wikileaks because even if Wikileaks goes down I am sure similar sites will pop up.

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  4. nations (china included) are justified to be fearful of the potential destructive power of wikileaks if any government gets to control Assange.

    You sort of miss the point of the whole wikileaks enterprise, LOLZ.

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  5. The one thing the Chinese Government has yet to learn through all the paranoia is that free flow of information is so much easier to make into believable propaganda.
    90% of free information is truthful, the other 10% is propaganda yet people believe 99% of it due to the notion of ‘freedom’.
    This makes Fox News are much more powerful tool than anything coming from China right now.

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