China game seeks to up soft power
A VIDEO game backed by China's military that lets players fight enemy forces in islands disputed between Beijing and Tokyo was set for release yesterday.
Glorious Mission Online, China's answer to Call Of Duty, marks the 86th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
The game, an online version of an earlier first-person shooter used by the PLA to train troops, features the East China Sea islands known as Diaoyu by Beijing and Senkaku by Tokyo.
Tensions have been mounting over the islands, which are claimed by China but controlled by Japan. Beijing's vessels regularly sail into the disputed waters and, according to the state media, tell Japanese ships they are encroaching on its territory.
According to a press release for the game, "players...will fight alongside Chinese armed forces and use weapons to tell the Japanese that 'Japan must return our stolen territory'."
Images from the game's website are labelled "Guard the Diaoyu islands", and a trailer posted online features shots of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
It also shows planes taking off from a computer-generated version of China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which went into service last year.
The game became available at 5pm yesterday, and its designers, Giant Interactive Group, who developed it jointly with the PLA, said millions of users had already registered to play.
Giant cooperated closely with the PLA while working on the game to ensure that weapons looked authentic and soldiers' voices were accurate, said company vice-president Gu Wen.
"Our relationship with the military is like the relationship between the United States Army and Hollywood," he said.
The release comes at a time of increased fears over the PLA's expansion among China's neighbours - Beijing is also in dispute with several countries in the South China Sea.
On Wednesday, President Xi Jinping called for China to bolster its maritime forces while using peaceful means to settle disagreements.
While discussing a road map to becoming a maritime power with the Political Bureau, Mr Xi said: "We love peace and will remain on a path of peaceful development, but that doesn't mean giving up our rights, especially (those) involving the nation's core interests."
But Mr Gu linked the game with attempts by the PLA to present itself as more transparent, including inviting foreign media to tour military bases, to boost its image abroad.
"It's about soft power," he said. "In Western games, the PLA is always the enemy. This is the first game where it is on the good side."
AFP, CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK