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China’s education group releases a cartoon encouraging kids to embrace counterespionage

China’s education group releases a cartoon encouraging kids to embrace counterespionage

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It’s National Security month in China, and the government made a cartoon to remind young children that they, too, can encourage their parents to protect national secrets and be counterspies, as first reported by Quartz.

In a 10-minute video released by the state-run Chinese Society of Education, various kids, all wearing the requisite red scarves of the Chinese Young Pioneers, were asked what they think national security means. One girl says her mom often forgets to turn off the stove, but her dad reminded her enough times, removing that security problem. A boy says his dad is a rich man and can hire bodyguards to ensure his own security.

The next boy, however, tells the class a story about his dad, a Chinese military engineer who was paid by a foreign magazine to send possibly sensitive photos of his factory workplace. With the money, his dad says, he can take the kid to go see pandas at the zoo. It’s a cute idea, but just then, grandpa barges in, holding up a newspaper article about a man arrested and jailed for sending 500 photos of China’s first aircraft carrier to — you guessed it — a foreign magazine. The boy’s dad laughs off the idea of spies, but under grandpa’s pressuring, he rejects the foreign magazine’s requests and even tries to return the money. The magazine threatens legal action, and the loss of the dad’s job, if he doesn’t cooperate.

“Our national treasures aren’t just pandas.”

Like in any good propaganda, though, the true hero of the story is the state. The dad reports the incident to his local national security bureau, and an official promises to protect his career and his family. He’s encouraged to practice counterespionage, and that’s the lesson his kid brings to class for show-and-tell to a round of gasps and awe from his classmates. “Our national treasures aren’t just pandas,” the kid says, eyes burning with passion. “But technology, finance, and others are all national treasures.”

China first passed its counterespionage law in 2014, which lets officials seize any property related to harmful activities and tell individuals to stop behaving in any way that endangers China’s interests. Although National Security Education Day in China usually falls on April 15th, it could be that children’s education on national security was an issue brought up during the Communist Party congress held at the end of October, as it’s an issue embedded in Xi Jinping’s presidency.