Leaked internal directives from Chinese Communist Party (CCP) provincial authorities to Internet commentators issued in the past week highlight fears in Beijing of the potentially “negative” impact of closer contact with democratic Taiwan.
The leaked memo, posted by the China Digital Times on Friday last week, instructs Internet commentators in China to exercise caution when discussing sensitive matters such as Taiwan and the US.
“In order to circumscribe the influence of Taiwanese democracy, in order to progress further in the work of guiding public opinion, and in accordance with the requirements established by higher authorities to ‘be strategic, be skilled,’ we hope that Internet commentators conscientiously study the mindset of netizens, grasp international developments, and better perform the work of being an Internet commentator,” the notice says.
This call for caution is followed by a series of guidelines that Chinese Internet commentators are encouraged to follow.
“To the extent possible, make the US the target of criticism and play down the existence of Taiwan,” the first instruction says.
“Do not directly confront [the idea of] democracy; rather, frame the argument in terms of ‘what kind of system can truly implement democracy,’” the directives say.
To the extent possible, Internet commentators are encouraged to “choose various examples in Western countries of violence and unreasonable circumstances to explain how democracy is not well-suited to capitalism.”
“Use America’s and other countries’ interference in international affairs to explain how Western democracy is actually an invasion of other countries and [how the West] is forcibly pushing Western values [on other countries],” the memo says.
To stir up pro-CCP and patriotic emotions, commentators are also instructed to “use the bloody and tear-stained history of a [once] weak people [ie, China] to stir up pro-Party and patriotic emotions.”
Lastly, commentators are encouraged to increase exposure to “positive developments inside China” and to “further accommodate the work of maintaining [social] stability.”
In addition to the directives, a “very long list of keywords” are currently banned on Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media platforms, which counts more than 140 million users. Some of the banned keywords included Ai Weiwei (艾未未), the artist who was released from jail last week, and “Ai Wei” (艾未), “Wei Wei” (未未), “Ai” (艾), “Wei” (未), “future” (未來), which are characters similar to Weiwei, as well as nicknames for Ai, such as “Fatty Ai” (艾胖子), “fatty” (胖子) and “Half Moon Son” (月半子).
The China Digital Times, a fully online publication offered in both Chinese and English, is run by the Counter-Power Lab out of the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. It receives financial support from the Catherine MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy, among others. The publication did not mention how it obtained the leaked instructions.