Sina Weibo

Hawkish PLA general at centre of microblogging storm

General Luo Yuan describes foray into social media as a move to occupy the 'public opinion war zone'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 7:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 10:54pm

A hawkish PLA general, three days after his social networking debut, found himself in the middle of a microblogging storm over a strange post published under his name.

General Luo Yuan described his foray into social media as a move to occupy the “public opinion war zone”.

The post that caused all the trouble read, under his own name: “General Luo Yuan is a scholar as much as he is a soldier. His comments on the North Korea nuclear issue were right on target. The resolutions he proposed also made a lot of sense. He is awesome.”

The Sina Weibo post was preceded by a couple of others in which he suggested that China should impose “moderate sanctions” on North Korea.

The compliments he lavished on himself instantly went viral online, with many bloggers suspecting that he, or members of his staff, had mistakenly published them under his name, when in fact they were intended to be published under different names.

The self-laudatory post was quickly deleted, and a statement was published under Sina’s official military account claiming Luo’s account was hacked.

Many bloggers were not convinced nevertheless, with some even suspecting the Sina military account was also being run by Luo’s team.

Chinese internet icon Lee Kai-fu, a former Google China executive, also joined in on the speculation.

In a Monday morning post titled “Suggestions to Luo Yuan on running weibo,” Lee suggested that Luo make sure he logs in and out on the right accounts when switching from one to another.

“It’s hard to believe a national security expert can be hacked so easily,” said one blogger on weibo.

“If you can’t even safeguard your own account, how can we expect you to safeguard Diaoyu Islands,” another wrote, referring to the uninhibited islets claimed by both China and Japan.

Luo is regarded by many as a hawk among PLA senior officials.

In 2010, he openly suggested China boost defence spending and possibly sell out its stake in US bonds as retaliation against US arms sales to Taiwan, PLA Daily reported. Last year, in an interview with magazine Outlook Weekly, he proposed the establishment of a national coast guard to better safeguard China’s sovereignty in disputed territorial waters.

The general, who only joined Weibo last Friday, declared his own online war in his first post: “I am Luo Yuan. I have opened this account in this critical public opinion warzone [of social media]. It’s time to speak up, or otherwise others will be in your place and may even cause friction or trouble under your name... For our beloved nation, party, army, and people! We must fight.”