China’s main military newspaper told soldiers Friday to ignore Internet gossip and close ranks around the government, in the latest sign of official unease ahead of a leadership transition this year.
The Liberation Army Daily warned that the 10-yearly handover of power, which begins later this year when President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao step down from their Communist Party positions, could threaten China’s stability.
“This is a year of special significance to the party and to national development,” the mouthpiece of the state’s military said in a front-page commentary.
“History has shown that whenever the party and the country are facing a major event, whenever reform and development are at a crucial stage, the ideological struggle tends to become more acute and complex, and factors affecting stability will significantly increase.”
The paper called for tighter controls on Internet and mobile networks in military compounds to allow troops to “resolutely resist the invasion of all kinds of erroneous ideologies… and not be confused by rumours.”
The call followed a surge in groundless online rumours, including about a coup led by security chief Zhou Yongkang, following the March dismissal of rising political star Bo Xilai.
Analysts say the political drama has exposed divisions in the ruling Communist Party as it prepares for a key leadership transition later this year.
China responded by shutting down websites, making a string of arrests and punishing two popular microblogs by barring their users from posting comments to other people’s posts for three days.