The Chinese military has told its propagandists to steer clear of US election coverage to ensure so their reports are not “misread as taking sides” in the presidential race, according to a military source. Unlike other Chinese outlets, all traditional and social media platforms controlled by the People’s Liberation Army, including its mouthpiece the PLA Daily, have offered no coverage of US President Donald Trump’s coronavirus infection and the first US presidential debate. A military source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that since late September many orders had come from the “top” telling military propagandists to “strictly avoid US election topics”. “It is a strict order for everyone to follow. Not only serving members of the armed forces, but also retired personnel, military experts and think tanks were told to strictly observe the new directive,” the source said. “We must resolutely avoid making inappropriate remarks that might cause more disturbance to [China-US relations]. “We represent the Chinese military. Of course we need to be very prudent. We are not a tabloid newspaper.” A second military source confirmed that the directive had been distributed to propaganda units in recent weeks. The source, who also asked not to be identified, said “China-bashing is expected to become a very prominent part” of the US elections. “We certainly need to be very careful in our reporting, so not to give them any more ammunition [to attack us].” The PLA propaganda units were asked “not to comment on Trump or [Democratic candidate] Joe Biden’s election campaign. Discussions on the ‘Yiwu Index’ and ‘October surprise’ should be avoided too,” the second source said. Yiwu is a manufacturing centre in eastern China that is a source of flags, hats and banners for campaigns, with some analysts using sales of products for each candidate as a predictor of the election result. Hong Kong military commentator Song Zhongping said “China has shown that it is not interested in interfering in the US elections”. “There are different views about Trump in the US media, and actually the same is true for Chinese media where different media outlets have different views,” Song said. In their first presidential debate last week, neither Trump or Biden made China-bashing the central focus of their messages to American voters but mainland observers have suggested that Trump’sinfection will give him renewed ammunition to attack China, which he has blamed for failing to contain the coronavirus in the first place. The coronavirus pandemic has already killed more than 200,000 Americans and more than 1 million people worldwide.