Minitrue Diary, January 10 2020: GDP Revisions, Girls’ Education Charity Scandal, Trade Deal, Economic Census

CDT has recently acquired and verified a collection of directives issued by central Party authorities to at the beginning of this year. These directives were issued on an almost daily basis in early 2020, and we will be posting them over the coming weeks. The following five directives were released on January 10, 2020.

In accordance with unified arrangments, all regions shall centrally publish a fourth quarter national economic survey announcement between January 10-16, and shall centrally release revised regional 2018 numbers: Tianjin, Hebei, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Shandong, etc. regions may have significant revisions. You must be sure of the correct direction for reports, use data from the official website and WeChat of the Statistics Bureau for interpretation, and do not hype sensitive topics. (January 10, 2020) [Chinese]

Caixin reported on January 22 that 14 provincial-level governments, nearly half the total, “revised down their 2018 gross domestic product (GDP), as a result of the latest economic census amid a central crackdown on statistics fraud.” 22 predicted lower growth for 2020. China announced national growth of 6% in Q4 2019, and 6.1% for the year as a whole. Xinhua greeted this as “a milestone for China and world economy,” and “a solid step toward the target of doubling [China’s] 2010 GDP by 2020, an important part of the nation’s goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects for its 1.4 billion population.” Analysts predicted continued steady growth.

China’s GDP shrank by 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic inflicting the country’s first economic contraction since the end of the Cultural Revolution. Forecasts have improved in light of China’s subsequent recovery, however, with predictions for growth in 2020 now between around 2-3%. China is “the only major economy expected to grow this year,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Cheng reported late last month, noting skepticism about the accuracy of the figures and questions about the rebound’s sustainability. “Even so,” he commented, “the recovery under way is enough to make daily life in China feel significantly better than in much of the West.”

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The official Weibo and Wechat public accounts of the All China Women’s Federation and Women’s Voice, and the official Weibo account of All China Women’s News, will publish relevant information and a brief comment on the All China Women’s Federation’s announcement of refunds through Alipay to some donors to the “Spring Buds Student Assistance” project. Starting from 6 p.m., if reporting on this, please strictly repost in accordance with the standard set by content published by these authoritative sources. Do not alter headlines without authorization; do not send pop-up alerts; keep tabs on posts and comments; do not independently newsgather or edit; do not extrapolate, interpret, or comment without authorization; do not draw sensationalist connections with past events; strengthen content inspection of interactive sections; do not hype; do not set up special topic pages. Please strictly manage opportunistic questioning or attacks on our philanthropic and poverty alleviation efforts, attacks on the All-China Women’s Federation or “Spring Buds Student Assistance” program, and other harmful messages. (January 10, 2020) [Chinese]

If reporting on the rectification and reform of the All-China Women’s Federation “Spring Buds Student Assistance” program and the conclusion of the investigation into the same, follow authoritative information from the Federation as standard, and downplay the story; do not alter headlines without authorization; and do not comment on or hype the issue. Reinforce management of posts and comment threads. Do not draw connections or put together special features; do not opportunistically question or attack our philanthropic and poverty alleviation efforts; promptly clean up extreme and negative messages and harmful speech. (January 10, 2020) [Chinese]

The Spring Bud Project, a joint effort by the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) and the China Children and Teenagers’ Fund (CCTF) to promote girls’ , celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. According to a CCTF report marking the occasion, “the project has raised a total of 2.118 billion yuan (US $298.3 million) from 27.84 million social donations, funded more than 3.69 million impoverished girls to return to school, built 1,811 Spring Bud schools and compiled 2.17 million safety manuals for school girls.”

In late December, public anger erupted over news that the program had also been supporting boys in impoverished areas. The CCTF explained that the decision had been based on local teachers’ recommendations, and promised greater transparency in the future. The response failed to satisfy some critics, who argued that donors who had prioritized a rare female-focused education charity should have this priority respected. Subsequent censorship stoked the backlash: SupChina’s Jiayun Feng highlighted a disgruntled Weibo user’s sardonic query, “does it cost money to remove trending topics and censor comments? Is the money coming from donations?

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Regarding the “Phase One Agreement” on the China-U.S. trade struggle, with no exceptions: do not independently organize reporting without direction, do not allow push notifications without direction, do not republish foreign reports. Social media platforms such as Weibo, WeChat, Tieba, and other forums are not allowed to launch [relevant] special topics or recommendations, etc., without authorization. You must strictly manage influential online accounts. Consult the above requests, do not hype [this topic]. (January 10, 2020) [Chinese]

This directive governs coverage ahead of the trade deal signed on January 15, which included agreements on technology and IP protection, trade imbalance, and currency manipulation. Writing at The Washington Post the following week, the University of Kansas’ Jiakun Jack Zhang observed that “Chinese state-run media have been in damage control mode to spin these as ‘deepening reforms’ — not concessions.” hailed the agreement as a victory, inaccurately describing it as “the biggest deal anyone has ever seen,” but it was described elsewhere as “incomplete” and misguided. Amid the ongoing pandemic and deterioration of broader Sino-U.S. relations, a six-month progress review was postponed last month, with China’s promised purchases of U.S. goods lagging well behind schedule.

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Regarding the release of the Fourth National Economic Census Communiqué, do not hype or draw connections to the widening gap between north and south, friction between China and the U.S. on trade, or similar issues. (January 10, 2020) [Chinese]

The Communiqué, published on November 20 last year, outlined the state of China’s economy in 2018, offering “an essential survey of China’s national conditions and strength after socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered into a new era. It is a complete ‘physical inspection’ of China’s national economy during the course that China is securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and embarking on a journey to fully build a modernized socialist China.” A regional breakdown is included in the final part of the Communiqué, grouping province-level areas into Eastern, Central, and Western, rather than north versus south.

真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.

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