27 May 2014

Tea Leaf Nation & Foreign Policy Examine China’s Military Enthusiast Websites

David Wertime, Are China’s Online Military Fanboys Accidentally Aiding Foreign Spies? Chinese state media thinks so. Meet the country’s legions of ‘junmi,” Tea Leaf Nation, Foreign Policy, 27 May 2014.

Major Chinese Internet portals such as SinaTencent, and Netease feature military channels, and there are dozens of independent online communities including Tiexue (literally, “iron and blood”), Supercamp, and Xilu. These sites, which include articles and discussion forums covering everything from military history to popular jokes, allow enthusiasts to exchange photos and information on the latest weaponry, discuss current events, and game out imaginary conflict scenarios.

These forums occupy a curious role in China’s idiosyncratic and constantly expanding online ecosystem. Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College who focuses on China, tells Foreign Policy that junmi sites may also occasionally reveal what the government would prefer stay secret. But, he adds, the government also likely views the forums as useful to showcase Chinese military achievements, and even perhaps for leaking information when the government “wants to preserve some level of uncertainty or plausible deniability.” …