Information Warfare: Cannot Kill The Messenger

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June 3,2008: Japan recently backed away from plans to use Japanese Air Force transports to carry earthquake aid to China. Instead, the aid will be moved, a bit more slowly, via commercial transports. The reason for the switch was a widespread backlash in China against the landing of a Japanese Air Force aircraft in China. This backlash got started on the Internet, where there has been a strong anti-Japanese attitude on Chinese language message boards ever since, well, ever since such message boards were created.

The government, of course, never made any effort to restrain the general unpopularity of the Japanese occupation (from the late 19th century to 1945), which killed over 20 million Chinese, and did lesser harm to hundreds of millions. But before the Internet came along, the government could largely control public manifestations of the general dislike of Japan and things Japanese. This was important, because in the last two decades, Japanese firms have invested billions of dollars in China. The government does not want to disrupt that kind of economic cooperation. But in the last decade, the Internet has become another form of mass media, and largely beyond government control.

There are thousands of government employees who monitor the Chinese language Internet, and try to control what goes on. But even the government admits that, complete control is out of reach. If some issue crops up on the Chinese language Internet, and gathers a large following, the government is forced to deal with the issue, and not try and shut down the message. So when the public got wind of the Japanese aid coming in Japanese Air Force aircraft, a popular opposition to this quickly developed on the Internet. The government advised the Japanese to go commercial, and keep the airplanes with the rising sun logo at home.

 


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