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China’s Comic Turn To National Security

China, MSS, Comics

According to China’s state-run Global Times, “National security is the foundation of national rejuvenation.” These and other gems can be read in an article on the Global Times website timed to coincide with (jokes apart), the release of the first “national security themed comic series adapted from real life espionage cases.”

Yes, China is now using comics to push the party-state’s idea of national security. And according to Global Times, it flows from the view that “bright coloured pictures with an intriguing plot … is particularly appealing to younger generations and can better improve public awareness of the importance of national security”.

More to the point, it shows a degree of paranoia within the party-state after the CIA revealed plans to rebuild its espionage networks within China. It may have strengthened Xi Jinping’s view that national security cannot be left to security and intelligence agencies alone. It must involve the entire population and the younger the better. For some time, the Ministry of State Security (MSS), the country’s central intelligence agency, has been urging nationwide vigilance against espionage, encouraging citizens to remain alert to suspicious behaviour.

Atul Aneja, Editor of India Narrative, an online news portal, says that “The MSS realises that young China is gripped by an online digital culture. It is thus making a conscious effort to communicate with young people on digital platforms such as WeChat to seek information about foreigners and foreign spies. It is also using digital platforms to achieve three other objectives: first to instill a sense of nationalism, second to breed a culture of distrust of foreigners so that young people are not smitten by the soft power of the West and third to convey the impression China is modernising using modern information technology. This enhances the party-state legitimacy.”

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That is the context fo the release of an online comic series “Shenyin Special Investigation Squad,” which follows special agents working undercover to expose the “black hands” orchestrating espionage activities. (http://en.people.cn/n3/2024/0226/c90000-20137060.html )

Soon to release on CCTV in the same comic format is “Riding the Winds and Breaking the Waves”, a 40-episode financial espionage drama set in the 1930s. It follows the transformation of a bank clerk into a “revolutionary financier” at a time of intense national upheaval and churn.

“The overall initiative is to prepare young people for a long confrontation with the West in the digital age. That China is encircled by foreign enemies with the narrative of China’s era of humiliation by the West,” says Aneja.