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China’s Anti-Spy Propaganda Irks Parents

The Chinese government has launched a major counter-espionage social media campaign targeting minors. Platforms like Douyin, WeChat and Xiaohongshu are flooded with spy-related videos and cartoons. Some resurrect decades-old materials urging students to monitor their family members. Many Chinese parents worry this propaganda will warp their children’s minds. The messaging portrays everyone as a potential spy – friends, lovers, job recruiters, etc. Clips advise vigilance against honey traps and bribes.

On July 1st, a revised Counter-Espionage Law took effect. The law was heavily publicized. One 2017 cartoon now recirculating tells students to watch their family for suspicious behavior on weekends and to report their behavior to authorities.

Some parents have privately expressed alarm over the counter-espionage program, saying that it promotes suspicion, destroys trust and relationships, and harms children’s mental health. In an interview by Radio Free Asia, a schoolteacher reported that one student’s parent had said that the campaign brainwashes kids to see even their relatives as hostile, stirring family conflicts. Another parent was reminded of the reporting and antagonism between people seen during China’s Cultural Revolution. The teacher added that the mentality of self-protection risks spawning new social problems.

Source: Radio Free Asia, August 17, 2023