(TibetanReview.net, Dec29’23) – Rampant youth unemployment and plummeting marriages after three years of stringent zero-Covid policies under President Xi Jinping has derailed the growth engine that China’s economy has been over the preceding three decades or so. And as bad news about the state of the country’s economy continues to pile up, Beijing is seriously tackling the issue – by cracking down on negative commentary about the financial market and other sectors as the authorities seek to boost public confidence.
This month the Weibo account Weibo Finance, which has more than 1.5 million followers, issued an instruction against posting any comments “that bad-mouth the economy”, reported theguardian.com Dec 29.
While this post appears to have since been deleted, Bloomberg has reported that several other finance influencers had been told by Weibo to “avoid crossing red lines” and to post less about the economy.
This is seen to be in keeping with an article published Dec 12 by China’s ministry of state security, saying there was a need to “sing the bright theory of China’s economy”.
In a separate WeChat post, the ministry has said: “Various clichés intended to denigrate China’s economy continue to appear. Their essence is to use false narratives to construct a ‘discourse trap’ and ‘cognitive trap’ of China’s decline, in order to cast doubt on the system and path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Topics that are considered increasingly sensitive in China’s economy are stated to include record high youth unemployment figures (the government stopped publishing this data in August), deflation, the struggling property sector and capital flight.
The report noted that in June, three finance commentators, one of whom had 4.7 million Weibo followers, were blocked by the platform as a punishment for “hyping up the unemployment rate, spreading negative information … [and] smearing the development of the securities market”.
Dan Wang, the chief economist at Hang Seng Bank, has said “the number one sensitive issue now” was foreign investment, because of its links to cross-border capital flows.
He finds that to be a problem because while “we need to conform to the official party line” and “focus on the positive side of the economy, it’s harder to find those bright spots.”