Security issues have forced the Chinese military authorities to clamp down on their troops' Internet use. As well as a moratorium on blogging, the 2.3 million military personnel are forbidden from using online dating sites, personal websites, and even visiting real-world Internet cafes. As opposed to those in Second Life, presumably.
The cyber-rules—just one part of a lengthy edict from the Communist Party's Central Military Affairs Commission—are brief, yet to the point. According to AP:
Seeking marriage partners, jobs or making friends through the public media is not permitted.
Going online in local Internet cafes is not permitted.
Opening websites, home pages, blogs and message forums on the Internet is not permitted.
Ah, micromanagment and secrecy, those never-ending passions of the powers that be in China. Any soldiers worried they're never going to find themselves a wife as long as they're dressed in khaki needn't worry, as the Xigaze military sub-command in Tibet is on their case. "(They) held a meeting to discuss the problem of unmarried soldiers and requested some of its units to help them find partners via local civil affairs departments and the women's federation."
Chinese military experts, however, understand the need for turning the online world off to its soldiers. "Some soldiers leaked military secrets when chatting online, for instance, giving away troop locations," said Ni Lexiong, a military expert at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. "Certainly, a large amount of secrets was revealed this way and the regulation has just blocked the hole."
An academic based in Singapore, however, said that the ban was unsurprising. "Cyberspace has been a gray area," said Ho Shu Huang of the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. "This is a tricky issue because it straddles both personal and professional space. The military is a reflection of society and how it responds will be a result of that. So in more closed societies, it is easier for the military to say, 'Don't do anything. Don't talk online. That's that.'"
Although the U.S. has a fairly relaxed policy on social media and Internet use—troops are allowed full access while they are on a tour, it only being forbidden when they are actually out on patrol—although you can't exactly imagine soldiers wanting to faff around with Facebook on their handhelds while they're being shot at. Contrast that with this rather poignant, yet tragic, nugget. Before the clampdown, one of the solders' personal blogs had as its last—sorry, final—post, a poem entitled We Are Still Single.
Perhaps it would be a good idea to remind ourselves just how easy it is to have a foot-mouth interface when mixing intelligence affairs with the Internet.
- The strange case of the MI6 chief, his wife and his Speedos.
- What happened when G.I. Schmo changed his Facebook status to "Banging Doors and Heads in Ramallah."
- Hi! I'm the author of the Defence Manual of Security and I'm making it open source.
Note that all of this has happened to Western democracies. So it's no surprise that military experts on our side of the globe are scathing about the Chinese military's no-surf zone. "(The policy) is regressive in its understanding of technology, regressive in generational attitudes, and regressive in transparency and attitudes we have of leading powers in the 21st century," said Peter Singer, of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution.
Translation: "Aw, c'mon China, we've showed you just what putzes we can be on the intel front, now it's your turn."
But China is too smart for that. Indeed, it is the master of the honey trap—when sexy lady intelligence worker posing as sexy lady, sidles up to some foreigner, either working for a computer firm, in town as part of a trade delegation with, say, his country's Prime Minister, perhaps on a fact-finding mission for the Olympics, chats up the corruptible Western pig, and then pounces. (Have you noticed that they are always British?)
So this is, in essence, why China has stopped its troops from meeting beautiful women online NOW!—because it wrote the book on extracting secrets via pleasurable means.