Journalism Becomes A Victim Of China’s New Nationalism

After half a century, significantly few Chinese people have reassessed the justice of this war, Luo Changping posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service. Just like back then, the company of troops didn’t reject the ‘good policy judgments’ of their superiors. After entering the Korean War, the Battle of Lake Changjin was one of the first battles conducted by Chinese soldiers against American and UN forces. The film ‘The Battle at Lake Changjin’ was a major commercial success in China, grossing $633 million in its first week and a half of release.

To depict troops who froze to death in combat as appearing like ice sculptures, Luo Changping, a renowned Chinese blogger, used the word “sand sculptures” (bingdiao-lian) instead of “ice sculptures.” Since then, Chinese officials have jailed Luo, who has 2 million people, solely for his words. On one level, this is another instance of the Chinese government infringing on the right to free expression. On another level, though, it gives an unsettling indication of how the Chinese Communist Party manipulates history.

On October 22, Luo was detained for “infringing against the reputation and respect of heroes and martyrs.” Luo apologized on October 7. Two days later, amid China’s Tiananmen Square demonstrations, he was formally imprisoned on the same accusation. Luo’s statements were also met with a barrage of condemnation from Chinese official media and government channels. According to UN experts on freedom of expression, this right protects speech that may “shock or offend” certain people.

Some Chinese social media users have accused Luo of practicing “historical nihilism,” a phrase established by President Xi Jinping to decry criticism of the Communist Party’s past. Luo’s remarks reflect China’s political elite’s goal of managing the political situation by manipulating the historical narrative. With the tension between the United States and China heating up, it’s worth noting that the Central Military Commission produced a patriotic blockbuster about the Korean War.

Even before Luo’s arrest, crime was being exploited for patriotic purposes. For disputing China’s death toll from the India-China border battle, Qiu Ziming was sentenced to eight months in prison in May. The case of Qiu Ziming demonstrates how China has attempted to criminalize views that are critical of its military efforts. The new criminal charge of “infringing on the reputation and honor of heroes” is based on the People’s Republic of China Law on the Protection of Heroes and Martyrs, passed in 2018.

China’s leadership maintains substantial control over public opinion, and the muzzling of pro-peace voices does not always imply that a new military confrontation will be launched. However, it appears that Chinese residents will have limited opportunity to challenge the government’s pro-war rhetoric or the sad repercussions of war.