The First Cyber Shot in a Chinese Jasmine Spring

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Joel Harding


On 30 March 2012 we saw a group, Anonymous China, stand up a twitter account (@AnonymousChina) and begin web defacements on Chinese government sites, according to this article on

On the @AnonymousChina twitter page you can get the links to the .cn sites that have been defaced. Good music, too! “Teenage Wasteland”.

On the surface, this is a blatant attempt at ‘whipping up the people’.  Perhaps too blatant and perhaps too English.  I don’t, not for a second, believe it’s really Anonymous. I didn’t before, now I’m not so sure.

This is written in English. Chinese students are required to study English in school for six years but their level of interest in mastering language is typical of most students, negligible. When I toured China one year ago I ran into some young Chinese who were practically excited beyond belief to practice their English on me. 

They were not good, not at all, but they were aching to communicate with an American. No politics were discussed but they were obviously very curious about me, why I was there and what America was like.

I just had a very good friend, a PSYOP/MISO expert, just jump ship from the commercial sector and went to DARPA. Previously he was involved in some classified PSYOP work….  DARPA is doing long term research, however, so there’s zero chance they were involved with this effort.  What it says to me, however, is that there is an interest in doing this type of operation in the long term and this shows incredible promise.

Incredibly, a Special Forces friend is absolutely astounded that PSYOP might be working in cyberspace, but in my opinion it’s just another means of communicating the message and reaching the people. In the graduate level IO course I’m teaching I have a MISO/PSYOP expert come in and brief the class, let’s see what he says.

Nobody else in the IO Community seems to be picking up on this, I’m the first as far as I can tell, in the unclassified world.  I sent this out to an IO group in addition to the Cyberloop, no responses yet.  There are a number of PSYOP experts on the IO list, we shall see.

This does not look like a US military action against China, that is certain.  Whoever put the message together seems to be dumbing down the message to aid in translation.  It’s almost as if it’s intended for an American or English audience but nobody in their right mind would or should do that.

I didn’t spend a heckuva lot of time analyzing what the message was, guessing at the intended audience.  Perhaps it is a blatant attempt to send a message to the PRC saying “we can reach out and touch you and cause internal problems, so listen up!” 

During my quick readover I detected almost deliberate attempts to not use advanced or sophisticated language; as a former editor I detected unwieldy word or phrase substitutions. The wordsmith/writer in me thought a few of the phrases were jerky and didn’t quite flow.

Now, almost certainly the CIA is not behind this. I actually had someone from @AnonymousChina (or so they say) contact me.  On their Twitter page are tweets from LulzSec Reborn and others I recognize. Hmmm, perhaps. Unfortunately much of the tweets are in French and it will take me too long to translate, my French is too rusty and I don’t have time to play detective. 

Certainly the attitude of the person who contacted me was typically haughty, we shall see.  I’ve pinged them in return, let’s see if they have any interest at all in getting their story out. Apparently the only paragraph he cared about was the paragraph previous to this, they didn’t bother to read ‘apparently’ as ‘perhaps’.

I’m about to ping a friend of mine who works in the Chinese Foreign Propaganda field, see what he thinks.  Yes, in China.  Maybe I should ping a few friends over there, a few in the Public Diplomacy field, as well. But I repeat myself…

We live in interesting times.  While I have ZERO evidence let me run this scenario past you.  We, the US, are really ticked about Chinese theft of US corporate Intellectual Pproperty (IP) by ‘China’. 

We’ve sent them this message countless times, ‘please stop’.  What we fail to do is to communicate the ‘or else’ piece.  What if someone were to have communicated ‘you’re not stopping, so watch what happens on March 30th’…

Isn’t this “Shadow Warfare” great?

Cross-posted from To Inform is to Influence

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