A hawkish and well-connected Chinese major-general, Luo Yuan, who last year reportedly recommended turning islands in the East China Sea claimed by both China and Japan into a shooting range, has debuted in China’s enormously popular world of microblogging with the announcement that “we must fight for our beloved fatherland, beloved party, beloved army and beloved people!”
Mr. Luo also wrote in what appeared to be his first post that he had received “permission” (Chinese media reported that it came from the People’s Liberation Army) to set up the account. In the past, members of the military have been barred from opining online, reports said (though some do, including an air force colonel, Dai Xu, who has a microblog).
Some person or persons, possibly high up in the security or propaganda system, seem to have had a change of heart about that general policy, and the man who reportedly said last September that China should cooperate with Taiwan’s military in a “people’s war at sea” – blasting the disputed Diaoyu, or Senkaku, islands “Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” while the Taiwanese could do it “Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday” – is back, and characteristically vocal.
General Luo is believed to be close to the incoming Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and his father, Luo Qingchang, was an early member of the Communist Party and a senior official and intelligence officer, according to Chinese and overseas Web sites. In his post, he wrote that microblogging is “a very important public opinion front. If you don’t speak out, others will, even impersonating your voice to make a din.”
“We will no longer be silent”
Quoting the 20th-century writer Lu Xun (but without attribution), he wrote: “We will no longer be silent. We either die in the silence, we explode in the silence,” a well-known call to speak out. Many conservatives and nationalists in China believe that the microblogs have been largely captured by “liberal” voices and General Luo has said elsewhere that he wanted to offer another voice.
More than 10,000 “likes”
The general, whose début messages have garnered more than 10,000 “likes” (in reality thumbs-up signs) so far, and whose first statement was forwarded nearly 40,000 times over the first three days, gives his views on issues such as North Korea’s recent nuclear test; he said “the North Korea problem is the product of the cold war problem, the main players are the United States and North Korea.”
On Japan: “The hyped radar-locking incident was a Japanese fabrication,” he wrote, referring to Japanese claims that Chinese naval vessels last month locked their weapons radar onto a Japanese destroyer and a helicopter.
General Luo dismissed that, saying the distance between the two vessels at the time of the incident, which he said was about three kilometers (just under two miles), proved it wasn’t true. He said that “those with a little military common sense all know that for firing a missile this is a dead corner,” as it was too close.
The general’s debut has drawn mixed reviews
While the high number of “likes” may indicate support, and certainly his views are popular among some in China, others took the opportunity to challenge him — suggesting that the “very important front” of microblogging might not be an easy one for a hawkish general to occupy.
This post, which called the general on his combat record, was particularly challenging: The writer, who used the name @dongtuqin huohuo, asserted that shortly before the outbreak of war between China and Vietnam in early 1979, Luo Yuan, who had been stationed in Yunnan Province near the border region, was transferred to Beijing.
“Firstly, why were you suddenly sent back to Beijing just before the outbreak of the Sino-Vietnamese war? Secondly, during the Sino-Vietnamese war, countless fighters shed their blood in the struggle, where were you? Was it that your life was more precious than that of the ordinary sons of the people?” the person wrote.
- IHT Rendezvous: Hawkish Chinese General Joins Social Media Fray (rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com)
- China Shifts Ever So Slightly on Debate Over Islands – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Australia’s Kevin Rudd supports US pivot as a ‘response to China’ (chinadailymail.com)