Minitrue: Adopt Unified Approach on Taiwan

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.

Coverage of ’s inauguration must, without exception, adopt a unified approach with authoritative media. Do not use unauthorized sources. All related harmful political information must be immediately deleted. [Chinese]

Taiwan inaugurated its first female president Tsai Ing-wen on Friday amid growing cross-strait tension and warnings from China that any ensuing regional conflict would be blamed on Taiwan and its new government. AFP reports that coverage of the inauguration by Chinese state media was scant and related search terms were temporarily blocked on social media. Mainland websites that carry audio-visual news services were also prohibited from publishing content beyond what has already been covered by government news work units.

In her inauguration address, Tsai pledged to work with China to maintain peaceful relations but avoided directly mentioning the 1992 Consensus that there is “One China” but different interpretations of what that means. AP’s Johnson Lai and Ralph Jennings report:

Tsai said in her speech that she respected the “joint acknowledgements and understandings” reached between the sides at a landmark 1992 meeting seen by China as underpinning all subsequent contacts and agreements.

However, Tsai made no explicit mention of the concept that Taiwan is a part of China. Beijing claims the self-governing island as its own territory and says failing to endorse the one-China principle would destabilize relations.

In Beijing, the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office issued a statement noting Tsai’s reference to the 1992 meeting, but saying she had taken an “ambiguous stance” over the nature of the relationship between the sides.

Her failure to explicitly endorse what China calls the “’92 consensus” embodying the principle of one-China, or to offer a “specific proposal to ensure the peaceful and stable development of relations between the sides” had left the question unanswered, the office said. [Source]

Quartz’s Zheping Huang writes that Tsai’s stance has angered patriotic netizens in China, who took to the comments section of Taiwan Formosa TV’s inauguration live-stream to vent anti-independence views. This echoed a similar incident that occurred following Tsai’s election victory in January, during which a group of Chinese internet users inundated Tsai’s Facebook page with thousands of messages opposing Taiwanese independence.

In her speech, Tsai also called on China to “set aside the baggage of history” in the interest of both parties, J.R. Wu and Faith Hung at Reuters report:

Tsai, Taiwan’s first woman president, said Taiwan would play a responsible role and be a “staunch guardian of peace” with China.

“Cross-Strait relations have become an integral part of building regional peace and collective security,” she told thousands outside the presidential office.

“The two governing parties across the Strait must set aside the baggage of history and engage in positive dialogue for the benefit of the people on both sides.” [Source]

Observers believe neither side would risk seriously damaging bilateral relations in light of economic troubles in both Taiwan and China. From New York Times’ Austin Ramsy:

Many observers expect cross-strait ties to deteriorate during Ms. Tsai’s tenure. But they note that both China and Taiwan face slowing economies and other domestic issues, giving them incentives to avoid serious damage to their relationship.

“I think we’re going to have sort of a cold peace for a while,” said Bonnie S. Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

[…] Ms. Tsai’s priority will be bolstering Taiwan’s economy, which has contracted for three consecutive quarters. Exports have fallen for 15 straight months. [Source]

In a separate post, Ramsy writes that several Chinese news sources mistakenly reported that a panda, given by China during Taiwan’s previous government, had died on the same day as Tsai’s inauguration. Taipei Zoo, where the panda is located, has since rebutted the rumor, publishing a photo of it alive and well with a selection of recent newspapers. Meanwhile, Jonathan Sullivan and Emily Rauhala posted on Twitter that some media coverage displayed misplaced priorities:

真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. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.