An association affiliated with the Education Ministry recently aired a cartoon on its website, in a bid to drum national security concepts into elementary school students.
Wrapped like a public interest announcement, the content of the video is eerily reminiscent of the recrimination and mud-slinging during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, even among family members, that wrought havoc across the nation for many years.
The cartoon, sponsored by the Chinese Society of Education, is about how a pupil learns about national security when his father, a technician at a military institute, would have been goaded by handsome honorarium into divulging confidential R&D information, had it not been for the grandfather’s repeated warnings.
The kid’s father finally decides to turn himself in to the national security bureau after being intimidated by “foreign spies”, who used to approach him under the cloak of inviting contributions to a military magazine.
The technician, having been given a lenient warning and a nolle prosequi – formal notice that he won’t be prosecuted, is allowed to return home and keep his job.
At the end of the video, students are urged to report to any suspicious activity by people, even in their own families, that may be involved in espionage or theft of national secrets. The number of a national security reporting hotline, 12339, was also shown.
The video is part of a nationwide education campaign to promote national security awareness on campuses.
During the Cultural Revolution, all pupils were called “little red guards” and told to keep an eye on their parents, relatives, friends and classmates and report any “counter-revolutionary” thoughts or crimes.
Scenes like a son reviling or even assaulting his own father during public gatherings to condemn betrayers of the party and socialism were common during the tumultuous final decade of Mao’s one-man rule.
In July 2015, China’s legislature passed a new National Security Law, which enshrined the ruling status of the Chinese Communist Party and criminalised a slew of actions deemed detrimental to national security, including spreading false information and failure to fend off infiltration of “malicious” thoughts from the West. The law has given enforcers, notably the national security apparatus, almost carte-blanche powers to combat activities that “endangers the nation”.