Information Warfare: China Trips Over Its Own Propaganda


October 29, 2015: A Chinese army magazine recently ran some pictures showing some very impressive camouflage uniforms and implied that these were worn by Chinese soldiers (the faces were concealed by the camouflage). When the photos got onto the Internet and went international it was quickly revealed that the people shown were not soldiers and the camouflage outfits were developed for hunters in the West, not soldiers in East Asia. It is unclear if the mistake was deliberate or simply sloppiness. There’s a lot of both going around these days.

For example in early 2015 it was discovered that a recruiting poster for the Taiwanese Army (encouraging conscripts or civilians to become career soldiers) had incorrectly used a picture of Chinese Army soldiers. The Taiwanese officer seeking a photo for the poster had searched online for a something showing Taiwanese soldiers in combat uniforms and quickly (without looking closely or reading the caption) grabbed one showing Chinese Army soldiers. This fooled most, but not all, people who saw the poster. The error was reported to army headquarters and they confirmed that these were not Taiwanese soldiers in some new combat uniform. Chinese troops have been wearing several generations of new camouflage uniforms since the 1990s. The Chinese troops also now wear helmets similar to those used by Taiwanese and American troops, along with similar protective vests.

Similar mistakes have happened in the West, with photos or video or Russian warships being mistaken for American ones. But such a mistake in Taiwan is more meaningful because China claims Taiwan is a province of China that has managed to maintain its independence since the communist took over China in the late 1940s. China blames the United States for this and generally ignores the fact that most Taiwanese do not want to be part of China, just like the Chinese majority in Singapore. While China recognizes the independence of Singapore, it insists it will eventually get Taiwan back. After all, their soldiers look so similar.

Meanwhile in China the government has been heavily publicizing the fact that Chinese troops were finally getting modern weapons and gear. Thus the uncertainty if the military magazine editors were taken in by government propaganda or really thought that the pictures were of some new Chinese Army development project.



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