It is hard for any of us to say sorry, but even more so for a communist regime. However, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense (MND) has done so, purportedly for the first time.
The MND admitted an embarrassing photoshop failure on an official poster celebrating the 68th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). It was an error that drew ridicule from home and abroad, and it occurred shortly before the fanfare surrounding the launch of China’s very first indigenously built aircraft carrier on 26 April.
The celebratory poster depicted a carrier alongside an eclectic and mistaken mix of American and Russian military platforms. Indeed, lifting off from China’s in-service Liaoning carrier was a Russian MiG-35 fighter (apparently not having had to use its landing gear either), an aircraft type not used by China.
Even more bizarre, ploughing through the calm ocean alongside the Liaoning were two San Antonio-class amphibious assault ships operated by the US Navy.
Overhead on the flashy poster a trio of J-10 fighters streaked across a blue sky emblazoned with the message ‘Happy birthday, People’s Liberation Army Navy!’
While the PLAN does operate some J-10s, one would have expected to see carrier-based J-15s operating so far out to sea.
All in all, the PR poster was a massive fail.
A Hong Kong newspaper quoted one critical Chinese netizen who said on the Weibo social media site, ‘This picture shows everyone at the propaganda department is mentally deficient.’
Such was the fuss that the topic came up at an MND press conference on 27 April. Spokesman Yang Yujun commented, ‘We also noticed this problem as you mentioned. We were not meticulous enough in illustrating the image and we suffered from criticism from the internet users.’
He continued, ‘The carelessness was with the editor but the responsibility is on the shoulders of the leadership.’
Indeed, one wonders just how many high-ranking officials will be sent to ‘re-education through labour’ camps to pay for their carelessness. Oh, wait, China supposedly abolished all these camps in 2013 so they might yet be okay.
A reporter asked why the poster had not been removed from circulation, and Yang replied, ‘Criticism of the friends on the internet is more of care and support to us. So we prefer to leave the picture and comments there so they can always remind us that only when we continuously improve and perfect ourselves can we better serve our fans and the military fans.’
The Global Times reported that this was the first time that China’s MND had ever issued a public apology for a work-related error.
Wow! Talk about cracks appearing in the façade!