Minitrue Diary, January 14, 2020: Higher Education, Dutch Chip-makers, WHO & Coronavirus

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 four directives were released on January 14, 2020.

In the next few days, the Ministry of Education will announce its Recommendation on Pilot Reform Program to Recruit Students in Basic Subjects to Select Institutes of Higher Education (the "Strong Base Plan"). If covering this, follow information released by authoritative offices as the standard; do not produce extensive reports, do not hype state-of-the-art and software, intelligent technology, new materials, cutting-edge manufacture and national security and other key fields related to recruiting students and training personnel; do not hype the scope of pilot schools; do not question the timing of the announcement or the provincial quotas for the program; do not bring up the schools' previous [ability to] recruit students independently. Promptly clean up extreme and negative messages and harmful speech. (January 14, 2020) [Chinese]

On January 14, the Ministry of Education released the Recommendation on Pilot Reform Program to Recruit Students in Basic Subjects to Select Institutes of Higher Education.

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1. Do not republish foreign media reports concerning China's importation of Dutch photolithography machines.

2. Please safely handle news related to China informing the WHO about the Wuhan pneumonia epidemic, in accordance with the content and low-key tone of official information. (January 14, 2020) [Chinese]

In January, it was reported that the Trump administration tried to block the Netherlands from selling chip-making equipment to China. Alexandra Alper, Toby Sterling, and Stephen Nellis of Reuters reported:

The high-level push, which has not previously been reported, demonstrates the importance the White House places on preventing China from getting hold of a machine required to make the world’s fastest microprocessors. It also shows the challenges facing the U.S. government’s largely unilateral efforts to stem the flow of advanced technology to China.

The U.S. campaign began in 2018, after the Dutch government gave semiconductor equipment company ASML, the global leader in a critical chip-making process known as lithography, a license to sell its most advanced machine to a Chinese customer, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Over the following months, U.S officials examined whether they could block the sale outright and held at least four rounds of talks with Dutch officials, three sources told Reuters. [Source]

On January 14, the WHO publicly offered conflicting information about the newly emergent novel coronavirus, issuing a tweet citing a report provided by the Chinese government that there was no evidence that the virus was passed through human-to-human transmission. The same day, at a public briefing, a WHO official stated the opposite. The WHO later faced a barrage of criticism from many, notably Donald Trump, that they had acquiesced to the Chinese government in their initial reporting on the virus, leading to a delayed global response. From Julian Borger at The Guardian:

The WHO also provided ammunition to its detractors when, on 14 January, it put out a tweet citing preliminary Chinese studies finding “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”.

It was issued on the same day the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove (a US immunologist) gave a press briefing in Geneva warning of precisely the opposite – the potential for rapid spread. Concerned that her briefing conflicted with the initial Chinese findings, a middle-ranking official told the social media team to put out a tweet to balance the Van Kerkhove briefing. In so doing, the WHO exposed itself to the charge of contributing to an air of complacency. But the tweet was factually true and does not appear to have been part of a deliberate strategy.

Again and again, the events of January reflected the difficulties Tedros and his organisation faced in negotiating a path between two hostile superpowers, and the egos of their leaders, without any independent powers to enforce compliance and information sharing. [Source]

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Disable posting, commenting, and all other interactive functions on all platforms (including third-party platform accounts) from January 15 at 12:00 p.m. until January 16 at 12:00 p.m. If you are unable to do so, you must file a report with the editor-in-chief stating the reasons why, and assign staff to monitor the platform during this period. (January 14, 2020) [Chinese]

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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