30 September 2023

Analysis: Different titles used for Chinese Navy staff Wu Tong (吴桐)

Our investigation shows it is not uncommon for Chinese military personnel to act as reporters or commentators at military-related events and programs. Record says Wu has been working for the Navy for over a decade.


A set of three screenshot images of a woman appearing on CCTV-7, China Central Television’s national defense military channel, has been widely shared on the internet last week, which showed the woman named Wu Tong (吴桐) having three different titles in each broadcast — “记者” (reporter), “海军海南舰班长” (squad leader on the Chinese Navy ship Hainan) and “操舵兵” (helmsperson).

On Aug. 2, for example, a Twitter user wrote, when translated to English, “Didn’t even find extras?” suggesting that she is an actor or a military staff who is acting in different roles on camera. The tweet has 600 retweets and over 1,920 likes at the time of writing.

Similar claims with the same set of images appeared on other social media including Facebook and Weibo.

Some Hong Kong media such as New Monday plus and HK01, as well as Taiwanese media FTV News, also discussed the internet images and wondered about the inconsistency in her titles without any investigation. The Instagram post and Facebook post from New Monday plus have more than 10,000 engagements.

Annie Lab looked into the images and found the original video of each CCTV-7 program. We can confirm that these screenshots are authentic and the three different titles were indeed used in each broadcast.

The one showing Wu Tong with the title “记者” (reporter) can be viewed on CCTV 7’s Weibo account. Wu appears 13 seconds into the video and talks about the Type 726 Air Cushion Landing Craft loaded into Hainan, a Chinese landing helicopter dock ship.

The other two images were taken from CCTV-7 news programs aired in 2021.

The one showing Wu with the title “操舵兵” (helmsperson) was part of a CCTV special on Dec. 3, 2021 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (she appears at 35:27). Meanwhile, Wu was called “班长” (squad leader) in a morning news program on April 25, 2021 (1:51).

According to her self-introduction in the CCTV special program, Wu has been part of the helmsperson squad for almost 10 years and became the squad leader in 2021.

Our investigation shows this is not the first time Wu has assumed the role of a military reporter throughout her navy career. For example, she was a radio announcer on another Chinese navy ship Jinggang Shan in 2013 and a commentator at the open day event on Jinggang Shan in 2018.

Annie Lab compiled a list of Wu’s appearances we found online below:

Date Post Source
Aug. 2, 2022 “Reporter” on CCTV-7* CCTV-7 Weibo (0:15)
Dec. 3, 2021 “Helmsperson”* CCTV-7 program for the CCP 100th anniversary (32:27)
May 31, 2021 Awardee of the third-class citation for merit (三等功) People’s Liberation Army Navy
April 21, 2021 “Squad Leader” on Hainan* CCTV-7 morning news (1:51)
July 31, 2018 Guide at the International Military Competition 2018 Voice of the Strait Weibo
March 10, 2017
  • Helmsperson
  • First female navy member to drive small boats for independent search and rescue mission
March 14, 2016 Helmsperson of Zhangbai Shan People’s Liberation Army Daily
Dec. 3, 2013
  • Radio announcer on Jinggang Shan
  • First Class Sailor (上等兵)
June 28, 2013
  • Youngest representative in the 17th Communist Youth League of China Conference
  • Crew member of Jinggang Shan
Sina Military

*Mentioned in the viral posts

We also found that it is not uncommon for Chinese military personnel to act as reporters or commentators at military-related events and programs.

It appears there is training in writing and photography soldiers can go through to become “兵记者” (military reporters) as well.

Some people with military experience would also join the media industry in China.

Xinhua News People’s Liberation Army branch former director and military journalist Jia Yong described himself as both a soldier and a reporter.

Other examples are CCTV-7 news anchors Zhou Lei and Ren Ziming who both belong to the military. Central Television established a military department and created this dedicated channel in 2019.

Annie Lab reached out to the Chinese Navy and CCTV for further clarification multiple times but we have not heard back from them yet.