Wednesday, November 17, 2010

State Secrets and Paranoia

We all try to keep secrets from time to time. But in China keeping secrets is a national policy that is the responsibility of every citizen. It's surprising to outsiders what is considered a state secret in China. And this is serious business: many dissidents have been jailed for "revealing state secrets."

I happened to come across a message announcing that all employees of the Jilin Provincial Grain Exchange would be organized to study the revised national law on state secrets. A google search shows that all government organs were carrying out such activities in September of this year.

The purpose was to "seriously implement the 'PRC preservation of state secrets law,' strengthen security secrecy consciousness, raise secrecy quality capability, spread the firm establishment of security concept and secrecy legal concept to all officials, protect national security and interests."

Staff were instructed to design flexible, eye-catching propaganda and put it in prominent positions on the exchange's web site.

Another web site carried a list of 22 pithy slogans, such as "Warmly welcome the revised PRC preservation of secrets law," "The national interest is above all, the responsibility of keeping secrets is weightier than Mt. Tai," "Keeping secrets is preserving security, promoting development," "Do a good job on keeping secrets, studying propaganda is priority and the base for everything else."

And this is not just for officials: "Keeping the party’s and the state’s secrets is each citizen’s legal obligation."

And some paranoia: "Strengthen secret-keeping consciousness, strengthen consciousness of the enemy."

Who do you suppose is the enemy? A strange anonymous posting on a Chinese electronic bulletin board provides a window into the kind of paranoia and strategems that drive the secret-keeping strategy:

"Is someone inquiring about the layout of China’s agricultural fields? This is a state secret! The person inquiring is sinister!! If you know the layout of agricultural fields, you could then use satellite imagery to estimate China’s grain production!! American grain merchants could use that to raise grain prices and threaten China’s grain security!!! Guard against traitors!! Guard against spies!!"

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