China’s Information War

Nowhere has China been more aggressive in its war for control of the coronavirus narrative than it has been at home.

Among journalists and social critics in China, the 404 error code, which announces that the content on a webpage is no longer available, has become a badge of honor. “At this point, if you haven’t had a 404 under your belt, can you even call yourself a journalist?” a Chinese reporter, who requested anonymity, jokingly asked me.

However, the crackdown on reports out of Wuhan was even more aggressive against ordinary users of social media.

On January 24, a resident posted that nurses at a Hubei province hospital were running low on masks and protective goggles. Soon after that post was removed, another internet user reposted it and commented: “Sina employees—I’m begging you to stop deleting accounts. Weibo is an effective way to offer help. Only when we are aware of what frontline people need can we help them.”

Only minutes later, the post was taken down. The user’s account has since vanished.

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