This article was published originally on 12 May in the PLA Daily
Since ancient times, those who won people’s minds won all under heaven. Now, the main battleground to contend for people’s minds has shifted towards the Internet.
Mao Zedong said: “Whenever you want to overthrow a regime, you must first create public opinion, you must first do ideological work. This is the case with the revolutionary class, it is also the case with the counterrevolutionary class.” The collapse of a regime often begins in the ideological area, the loss of the ideological area is the most dangerous loss. If a military defence line is not stable, it will break down after one blow, if the ideological defence line is not stable, it will fall of its own accord, even without a blow, “political upheaval and regime change might happen in a single night”.
The online ideological struggle may no have gunfire and smoke, but it is full of “the blood and gore of civilizations”, it essentially is an opposition between two kinds of systems and two kinds of value views, and is a life-and-death contest between the enemy and ourselves. Foreign forces use this convenient tool of the Internet to build “value traps”, implement a “cultural cold war”, and foster “a fifth column”, befouling leaders, vilifying heroes, mocking the system and attacks against the army may be said to have reached a state of unbridled brazenness, making the Internet into “concession” to peddle Western ideology. The former director of the Central Documentary Research Centre Pang Xianzhi hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that: “whoever talks about Marxism or talks about revolutionary traditions is said to be ‘Leftist’, and is not allowed to hold their heads high. Even the people’s democratic dictatorship is made into a ‘Leftist’ thing by some people. Whoever criticizes mistaken words, is crowned with a hat of “Cultural Revolutionary Mass Criticism”, and attacked.”
What is regrettable and distressing is that, in the face of enemies “massing great armies” and launching savage attacks, some Party members and cadres “love to stroke their own feathers”, and act as “enlightened gentlemen”, they do not dare to stand up and fight with their banners flying clearly; there are also some people’s whose backsides aren’t sitting straight, they “eat the Communist Party’s rice, and then smash the Communist Party’s pot”, they rashly criticize Party media for “hitting people with a big ideological stick”. In reality, however, some Western countries are wielding the big ideological stick, and don’t even try and cover this up a little bit; in carrying out “invisible propaganda”, they are more energetic, more adept and less concerned about means than anyone else. Western anti-China forces deliberately provoke ideological conflict, they want to muddy the water, make us confuse our own position, and bind our own hands and feet, lose the online battlefield, lose discourse power and lose people’s hearts.
A sober analysis of the phenomenon of “slagging off China” and the “black-bellied army”, shows they are absolutely not purely played up by commerce, they are absolutely not purely emotional rants, they are absolutely not pure accumulations of contradictions, but they are planned and driven by “black hands” behind the scenes. A trick they often use is first to pick up a “magnifying class” to pick out splinters, and infinitely magnify negative matters, and then pick up an “oil drum” to add fuel to the flames, resulting in the detonation of public opinion, and so the tearing apart of Chinese cultural traditions, the tearing apart of social consensus, the tearing apart of the relationship between the Party and the masses, and between the Army and the people, in a bid to “overthrow China” through the Internet. Countless facts demonstrate that using colour revolutions to control the fate of other countries and overthrow other countries’ regimes, has become the primary method of these Western countries, because there is nothing more cheap, more concealed and more effective than that.
“To destroy someone’s polity, you must first upset their military. To upset their military, you must first sow doubt in their minds.” On this battlefield of the Internet, Western hostile forces are not only contending with us for the people’s hearts, they are also contending for soldiers’ hearts, they are making the military into a focus point of westernization and separation, vainly attempting to replace “red genes” with “political change genes”, to let the army change its nature and its colour, and become separated from the Party’s leadership. Think carefully, in these countries dragged downstream by “colour revolutions”, there were troops who, at the moment of calamity, were bogged down in an awkward situation of “not being able to deploy their strength”? As an armed organization to implement the political tasks of the Party, our Army must both firmly safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests on the tangible traditional battlefield, and must firmly defend ideological security and political security on the intangible, online battlefield.
It is especially necessary to soberly consider that some Western military powers have brought online struggle into their national strategies and military strategies, and have committed to forge new kinds of online fighting forces. From the first use of strategic psychological warfare in the 2003 Iraq war to the establishment of “special media forces” in 2006, and the emergence of “network-centric warfare” in 2007, the US Army has engaged in several waves of network warfare theory renewal and tests in actual combat. In January of this year, the UK army decided to establish a “77th Brigade” of 1500 people, to “use social media to engage in psychological warfare. On 2 February, “Le Monde” in France reported that in the face of the “terrible influence” of “Muslim Countries” against the West, the French Army had established an online anti-terrorism body. On 23 April, the newly appointed US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter announced the Department of Defence’s new network operations strategy report, which for the first time made deterrence into a key component of online strategy.
In the present and future periods, it will be difficult to fundamentally change the situation of Western monopolization of online hegemony, and its occupancy of the superior position in online information dissemination. The circumstances of online struggle are grave, complex and long-term, it is still generally the case that the enemy is strong and we are weak, the enemy is attacking and we are defending. Are we “mid-stream water” or is “the current flowing East”; are we “silent lambs” or are we “valiant warriors”, a time has come to choose, and a time where we must counterattack firmly. The “main force” must be brought onto the “main battlefield”. Only if our Army keeps close pace and stands in the front ranks, and counterattacks well, will it be possible to defend “online sovereignty” and build an “online Great Wall”!