In China, people often say that peacetime is the worst time for a soldier. General Luo Yuan, however, is a lucky one. He has the chance to get a taste of battlefield on Sina Weibo, China’s leading microblogging service.
On February 21, high-ranking Chinese military officer Luo Yuan, major general and vice president of China’s Strategic Culture Promotion Association, opened a personal Weibo account. The account was soon verified by Sina, meaning that the account was truly opened and managed by Luo Yuan himself. His appearance on what is now China’s most active social media platform didn’t go unnoticed. But instead of welcomes, he has been showered with bitter questions and criticism – the peacetime general jumped into a war of words with netizens.
His very first Weibo post went like this:
“I’m Luo Yuan. After being approved, I’m allowed to open a Weibo account. Weibo is a very important front of public opinions. If you don’t speak out, others will, and they will even pretend to be you and voice noises. Many use [Weibo] to attack and spread rumors. We can no longer be silent, for you either explode in silence, or die in it. For our beloved country, beloved Party, beloved army, beloved people, we should fight!”
Apparently, general Luo sees Weibo as a “front” where he needs to break silent and fight: “Under the leadership of Xi, [We fight] to protect our country’s interests, to punish the country’s traitors, to clean out the corrupt, and to revive the Chinese civilization.”
As of now, only 8 Weibo posts are left on Luo’s homepage. Among the 8 posts, two are greetings to Chinese netizens: one (translated above) is to show his determination to “fight” and the other is to briefly express his willingness to communicate. Another two Weibo posts are on Diaoyu Islands and how the Chinese government should manage its relationship with Japan. And all of the rest 4 Weibo posts are on the recent nuclear test in North Korea, its negative impact on China, and how China should react.
Instead of being excited about a top military officer showing up on Weibo and sharing views on possible strategies, Chinese netizens denounced Luo’s attempt to get the hang of Weibo: “How, in a normal country, is an active military officer allowed to openly discuss politics?”
Luo’s choice of words has been the primary target of criticism. Netizen 徐昕, a law professional as his Weibo profile describes, asked: “General Luo, welcome to Weibo. Your willingness to communicate is worth some applause, but here are a few questions for you. 1. Is it “under the leadership of Xi”, or “under the leadership of the Party led by Xi”? 2. Who are the country’s traitors? Do you have a name list? We netizens are happy to help [if you don’t]. 3. A military officer talking about fighting corruption. It may be effective, but how do you do it? Does this count as the military’s interference in politics? 4. Why [you put] beloved people behind beloved country, beloved Party and beloved army?”
This is just the beginning, the highlight is when netizens started to question Luo’s credentials as a general and his family wealth.
Luo Qingchang, Luo Yuan’s father, used to be in charge of China’s intelligence bodies. Weibo rumor goes that Luo was an ordinary solider in Yunan province (bordering Vietnam) back in 1978, but was transferred back to Beijing in early 1979. Later that year, Sino-Vietnamese war started. If this is true, it surely isn’t something that a general would want to brag about.
The digging went on. Two of the 6 brothers of Luo’s family are found to be generals, including Luo Yuan himself. Luo’s family is also rumored to have close ties with Warom group, a mining equipment company, and Savills, an international real estate management company.
Till now, in the eyes of many Chinese netizens on Weibo, Luo Yuan himself is exactly the “traitor” and “the corrupt” that he swears to “clean out” and “punish.”
The story got yet another twist when earlier today, Luo was caught to sing praises for himself: “General Luo Yuan is a soldier but also a scholar. His analysis of the North Korean problems is spot on. His suggestions are very reasonable and show his expertise. His comments on strategies are the most popular on TV.”
Just as netizens on Weibo were about to conclude that Luo was finally edged by netizens to insanity, Sina Millitary channel stood up in Luo’s defense and announced that Luo’s Weibo account has been hacked, and that all the self-praising remarks were not from Luo himself.
Not only did netizens not believe the clarification, they even further made fun of Luo: “In my opinion, if general Luo cannot even protect his own Weibo account, it’s simply bullshit that he is capable of protecting our country.”
Judging from the development so far, Luo’s hope to win over public favor has been crashed completely. Weibo continues to show Chinese officials that the war of public opinions isn’t one that’s easy to fight. Luo is not the first nor the last to be defeated in the battlefield of China’s social media.