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.
Strictly delete any reposts, comments, and content related to U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger’s Chinese speech from all platforms, websites, and interactive comment sections, leaving no dead corners. If any are found by the internet management office or reported by internet commentators, they will be dealt with seriously. (May 5, 2020) [Chinese]
On May 4, Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger delivered a speech, in Mandarin, at the University of Virginia, in which he discussed the legacy of China’s May Fourth student movement and the power of populism to resist government censorship and control. He said:
As the May Fourth Movement today marks the inaugural year of its second century, what will its ultimate legacy be? It is a question only the Chinese people themselves can answer. The May Fourth Movement belongs to them. Will the movement’s democratic aspirations remain unfulfilled for another century? Will its core ideas be deleted or distorted through official censorship and disinformation? Will its champions be slandered as “unpatriotic,” “pro-American,” “subversive”? We know the Communist Party will do its best to make it so.
[…] Democratic populism is less about left versus right than top versus bottom. It’s about reminding a few that they need the consent of many to govern. When a privileged few grow too remote and self-interested, populism is what pulls them back or pitches them overboard. It has a kinetic energy. It fueled the Brexit vote of 2015 and President Trump’s election in 2016. It moved the founder of your university to pen a declaration of independence in 1776. It is an admonition to the powerful of this country to remember who they’re supposed to work for: America first.
Wasn’t a similar idea beating in the heart of the May Fourth Movement, too? [Source]
The May Fourth movement was launched by students in 1919 out of anger over the country’s treatment at the hands of foreign powers, and their country’s response, in the wake of World War I. It is widely considered a foundational moment in China’s modern history and a forerunner to the 1989 student protest movement. In recent years, the Communist Party has attempted to appropriate the so-called May Fourth Spirit as a way to rally especially young people around the agenda of the Party and as part of a broader effort to promote historical orthodoxy.
Pottinger, who has worked as a journalist in China and later as a U.S. Marine intelligence officer in Iraq, has helped shape the Trump administration’s combative response to China in recent months, including by focusing attention on Wuhan as the origin of the coronavirus, calling China a “strategic competitor,” and limiting access to U.S. visas for employees of state-run Chinese media.
Chinese state media were quick to attack the speech, saying that Pottinger was “mocked” online and that he didn’t understand the spirit of May Fourth. (The goal of directives like the one above is often not to suppress a story entirely, but instead to ensure the dominance of approved positions voiced by centrally controlled official media.)
[视频]国际锐评：美国政客故意曲解中国“五四精神”没安好心 Sunday cctv evening mess attacks Matt pottinger for his May 4 speech https://t.co/js9J6ybdGN
— Bill Bishop (@niubi) May 10, 2020
Many native Chinese speakers, however, did praise him for his language fluency.
Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. 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.