Minitrue Diary, March 1, 2020: Big Data on COVID-19, Foreign Epidemic Handling

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 directive was released on March 1, 2020.

  1. Without prior arrangement, do not report information that is likely to trigger public panic involving big data analysis of the numbers and destinations of people who left Wuhan and Hubei, the number of people with whom they have come into close contact, emerging epidemic situation hotspots, and so on. Do not use potentially controversial terms such as "tracking," "categorizing," "locating," "tracing," "routing," and do not report personal information such as names and phone numbers.
  2. Reports on the epidemic and control situations in foreign countries should contain accurate, comprehensive, and objective information, and should not overly criticize or ridicule the "loopholes" or "mistakes" of the countries concerned. Do not make simple comparisons to ’s prevention and control measures, and do not use terms like "copying homework." (March 1, 2020) [Chinese]

Both parts of this order reflect the general push of directives on coverage of the COVID-19 epidemic to "control the temperature" of public opinion on topics including the initial outbreak, the new virus’s prominent early victim whistleblowing doctor Li Wenliang, the prospects for a cure, and the epidemic’s economic impact. The second instruction echoes part of an extensive earlier directive issued on February 26, which also cautioned against potentially inflammatory coverage of other countries’ border restrictions against Chinese citizens. Other earlier directives aimed to avoid stoking international tensions by calling for "low-key" coverage of China’s efforts to obtain protective equipment from abroad "to avoid a public opinion backlash in the countries concerned and consequent obstructions to our overseas procurement work."

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 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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