Incredible: leaked directive for 50-centers re. Taiwan

A reader tipped me off to China Digital Times’ translation of a leaked internal memo instructing China’s Internet commenters how to counter the influence of Taiwanese democracy and guide the public on this issue. Absolutely priceless. Here are the specific guidelines:

(1) To the extent possible make America the target of criticism. Play down the existence of Taiwan.

(2) Do not directly confront [the idea of] democracy; rather, frame the argument in terms of “what kind of system can truly implement democracy.”

(3) To the extent possible, choose various examples in Western countries of violence and unreasonable circumstances to explain how democracy is not well-suited to capitalism.

(4) 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 [on other countries] Western values.

(5) Use the bloody and tear-stained history of a [once] weak people [i.e., China] to stir up pro-Party and patriotic emotions.

(6) Increase the exposure that positive developments inside China receive; further accommodate the work of maintaining [social] stability.

My personal favorite is No. 5 — China as perpetual victim. How many times a day does the antiCNN clique turn to that one?

In all seriousness, this reads like a laundry list of what my site’s trolls do, to the letter. Even those I don’t think are 50-centers, like yourfriend. In fact, was there any reason to issue these guidelines to begin with? I think they’re already common knowledge among those assigned to make mischief in blog and portal comments.


Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 109 Comments

To 97:
“What alternative party would you suggest?”
—you are right, currently there is no alternative. It’s a chicken/egg conundrum courtesy of the CCP. In order for there to be a viable alternative, the CCP would have to allow for the existence of a viable alternative first. Along that line of reasoning, you would correctly conclude that, in the CCP’s current system of governance, there is no way of accurately assessing the people’s approval of, and preference for, …itself.

“30 years is a long time – they are similar in name only.”
—30 years is 30 years. The time difference between 1979 and 1949 is exactly the same as the time difference between 1981 and today. But you’re right, things do change a lot in 30 years. 30 years ago China barely was starting out with a free-market economy. Today she’s pretty good at it. Maybe 30 years from now she’ll be pretty good at some form of democracy as well.

“Meanwhile, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea have all excelled with authoritarian governments.”
—and 2 out of those 3 have moved away from authoritarian systems…without falling into the abyss. I was being unclear in #95. There is no point arguing about whether China with a new free market and a new democratic government in 1979 would end up in 2011 with a similar situation as the CHina with a free market and authoritarian system (ie the current China). That’s water under bridge. It’s moving forward from here that matters. My impression is that the only claim of legitimacy the CCP has is an understanding to the people that growth will be maintained, such that those who haven’t yet gotten rich in the last 30 years might yet still do so. So from here onward with a free market economy, I would be interested to know whether Chinese people felt that a CCP one party authoritarian system was an essential prerequisite for continued growth.

July 5, 2011 @ 2:02 pm | Comment

My impression is that most Chinese people don’t object to the lack of democracy per se, but to an overall lack of fairness and to the growing inequality.

If the CCP could ensure basic fairness for all (no hukou, no princelings, no American-style collusion between money and power) then it will stay in power forever.

It will be with us in one form or the other for the rest of our lives anyhow. Even Russia still has a communist party (they hold 11% of the seats in the State Duma).

July 5, 2011 @ 3:59 pm | Comment

To RP:
I can’t say one way or another whether Chinese people object to a lack of democracy or not, since they’ve yet to be systematically asked. It is quite plausible that they would want more fairness and equality…but the fact that they would want more suggests they aren’t getting enough of it with the current system. Does that mean they would want “democracy” instead? Tough to say. Does that mean they might go for something other than the status quo, if that “something” existed? I wonder.

I also imagine that if a government can provide all that people want, it too would stay in power forever. But looking no further than corruption and nepotism, in a one-party system you would be counting solely on people’s inherent “goodness” to steer clear of those things. Compared to the current iteration, the CCP would require, from top to bottom, a whole new batch of inherently “better people”. That’s a tall order.

In the face of alternatives, who knows if the CCP would endure. But the question for me is whether it can stay in power, as opposed to whether it would continue to exist.

July 6, 2011 @ 3:26 am | Comment

Jiang Zemin is dead, at least that’s what news reports in HK are saying. There’ve been fake reports of his death before, but this one looks real.

July 6, 2011 @ 7:40 pm | Comment

Xinhua now says it was a rumour. Hard to know what to think.

July 7, 2011 @ 7:11 pm | Comment

Hard to know what to think.

Cui bono?

July 8, 2011 @ 6:25 am | Comment

A year or two ago, it could have helped Li Keqiang, reportedly Hu Jintao’s candidate for his own succession. Xi Jinping is said to have been Jiang Zemin’s candidate. But a short-lived rumor doesn’t look likely to be useful to either side. But the future careers of the two have most probably been decided long ago. Could be aimed at some lower-ranking candidates, though.

July 8, 2011 @ 4:44 pm | Comment

Fènqing and 50-centers have indeed mostly barged their way into comment boxes with canned sound-bytes in hand–and rarely address the ideas in a given news article with any coherence. Their repetitiousness and self-righteous indignation make for very dull reading. “Party si, Yanqui no.”

July 14, 2011 @ 7:44 am | Comment

Oh no, they got our internal memo! A 50 center here and I’d like to earn my paid. Promotion is coming up too..opps another internal leak.

So what if there is a memo for our 50 centers and why are you so surprised there is? Isn’t it expected? Do you mean to tell me that you think we are hired because we can work independently with minimum supervision? The government is supervising 600 million net users in China think about it. So yeah, we do get memos, and they instruct us how to repel the western evils. On top of the list is, of course, democracy and that in itself is surprising?

August 13, 2011 @ 9:46 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.