Minitrue Diary, January 2, 2020: Mystery Pneumonia and U.S. Trade

CDT has recently acquired and verified a collection of propaganda directives issued by central Party authorities to state media 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 two directives were released on January 2, 2020.

Regarding the pneumonia of unknown origin that emerged in Wuhan, Hubei, use information released by authoritative departments as the standard, do not write baseless conjecture. If in doubt, direct questions to the National Health Commission to prevent fake news reports from triggering mass panic. (January 2, 2020) [Chinese]

This is the earliest known censorship directive issued to control news about the emerging coronavirus. In late December, a viral pneumonia of unknown origin emerged in Wuhan. As it began to spread, the government acted quickly to censor information and punish whistleblowers who shared news about the virus. The first death in China was reported on January 11. On January 14, a government memo alerted local officials that the virus “is likely to develop into a major public health event,” but the government did not publicly announce the risk until almost a week later, according to an AP report. By that time, close to 3,000 people had been infected. In the past eight months, the disease, now known as COVID-19, has spread throughout the globe, infecting 27 million and killing almost 900,000 people so far.

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Regarding the signing of the “Phase One Agreement” on China-U.S. trade, with no exceptions: do not independently organize reporting, do not allow push notifications without direction, do not republish unfavorable foreign reports. Social media platforms such as Weibo, WeChat, and other forums are not allowed to launch [relevant] special topics or recommendations, etc., without authorization. Unauthorized hyping of this topic is strictly prohibited. (January 2, 2020) [Chinese]

This order was issued in anticipation of the trade deal signed on January 15 amid rising tensions between the two countries on trade and several other issues. The two sides agreed to further open Chinese markets to U.S. goods and protect intellectual property rights, while continuing tariffs on imported Chinese goods. In late August, representatives from both sides held talks to review the first six months of the deal.

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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