Minitrue: Misquoting the Classics
The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.
花千芳: Besides yours truly, everyone from lowly government officials to appointed ministers are saying, “If the boss of the global Internet isn’t at Wuzhen right now, then he’s on the way. Otherwise, we’d feel sorry for meeting with everyone.” The determination with which China looks forward to the information age is already the mind of Sima Zhao. (November 21, 2014)
Hua quotes only the first half of a chengyu 成语, a set phrase based on a classical story. Sima Zhao was a general who helped install his older brother on the throne of the kingdom of Wei. As the story goes, the deposed emperor Cao Mao said “the people on the street know what is on Sima Zhao’s mind” (司马昭之心路人皆知), meaning that everyone knew Sima Zhao wanted to rule Wei himself. The chengyu is used to mean that a person’s ambitions or schemes are an open secret. Hua cut out the “open secret” part of the chengyu.
Like allusions to Greek mythology in English, chengyu are often sprinkled into Chinese writing to express a subtle point, to show off the author’s education, or both.
Netizens questioned Hua’s understanding of the chengyu. A story by the WeChat account 深℃–since deleted, but preserved on Phoenix–quotes Hua explaining that it was the netizens who had misunderstood him. “In the end, Sima Zhao’s things were completed,” Hua told 深°C. This is not much of a clarification, since technically, Sima Zhao never met the unspoken goal of becoming emperor (though he did become King of Jin).
“Sima Zhao” (司马昭) is trending on FreeWeibo, an archive of deleted Weibo posts:
王麒摄影师: What kind of “mind” is “Sima Zhao’s mind” exactly? According to the Baseball Shit Times, “As long as you love your country, even if with Simao Zhao’s mind, it’s still positive energy.” (November 23, 2014)
北京酋长: “The cutlassfish knows Sima Zhao’s mind” is talking about a historical tale. (November 22, 2014)
Hua eventually deleted his Weibo post.
Wuzhen had access to the free, un-firewalled Internet during the conference, but the three-day symposium emphasized the Chinese government’s control of the Internet. The Wall Street Journal’s James T. Areddy reports that a nine-point “manifesto” arguing for Beijing’s right to have “sovereignty over the Internet in China” was slipped under the hotel room doors of attendees at midnight. On his blog Fei Chang Dao, William Farris has a point-by-point rebuttal of official claims about China’s “democratic” and “transparent” Internet governance.
Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source.