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 three directives were released on February 12, 2020.
Regarding propaganda reports on the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic, please firmly hold to the following items:
- Reports on external support and purchases of prevention and control material by Chinese people and diaspora abroad should be low-key. Report cautiously on donations and quantities, and especially do not play up our global mobilization of prevention and control material procurement to avoid a public opinion backlash in the countries concerned and consequent obstructions to our overseas procurement work.
- In reports on the medical team supporting Hubei, there should not be too many flags, banners, slogans etc. onscreen.
- Be sure not to play up or magnify people’s current difficulties, particularly donations to groups for the elderly, which could lead to secondary waves of public sentiment.
- Regarding notices issued in parts of Jiangsu encouraging workers from other regions to go home, local governments are rectifying the situation. Do not further hype. (February 12, 2020) [Chinese]
Several other directives issued to control early coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak had focused on portrayal of donations and supplies from elsewhere in China, including Hong Kong, and from abroad. One, issued the previous day, had also warned against an excess of flags. The situation in Jiangsu referred to in the final section is one example of broader difficulties faced by migrant workers, many of whom found themselves unwelcome and under pressure amid the fight to contain the coronavirus.
Please note, with regard to public interest ads and announcements involving epidemic prevention and control: some phrases like "storming the stronghold" and "pre-emptive strike" etc. are inconsistent with the current wording (examples of which include "people’s war," "blocking action," "total war"). In addition, when experts remind people not to take medication on their own initiative, it is inappropriate to use the phrase "no medicine can cure" [the disease]. (February 12, 2020) [Chinese]
A directive issued on February 6 had stipulated that reports on the epidemic should "no longer use warfare-related terms and expressions," but this prohibition appears to have been abandoned following Xi Jinping’s subsequent declaration of a "people’s war" against the virus.
Increase positive interpretations of the current price situation, avoid strengthening expectations of further price increases, and avoid formulations like "hitting the highest prices in years," "rises exceeding expectations," "inflation rearing its head," and so on. Promptly deal with malicious hyping of harmful information. (February 12, 2020) [Chinese]
The coronavirus epidemic contributed to sharp food price increases, compounding affordability issues already stoked by swine fever. Food prices have long been linked to political unrest: they were widely cited as a major factor in the "Arab Spring" uprisings across the Middle East in 2011, which helped shape the CCP’s current strategy for ensuring its own survival.
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.