China censors bad economic news amid signs of slower growth

Effect of expanded censorship strategy could more readily cause people to believe rumours about the economy, says professor Zhang Ming of Renmin University
China has long made it clear that reporting on politics, civil society and sensitive historical events is forbidden. Increasingly, it wants to keep negative news about the economy under control, too. A government directive sent to journalists in China on Friday named six economic topics to be “managed,” according to a copy of the order that was reviewed by The New York Times . The list of topics includes, — worse-than-expected data that could show the economy is slowing — local government debt risks. — the impact of the trade war with the United States — signs of declining consumer confidence — the risks of stagflation, or rising prices coupled with slowing economic growth — “Hot-button issues to show the difficulties of people’s lives.” The government’s new directive betrays a mounting anxiety among Chinese leaders that the country could be heading into a growing economic slump. Even before the trade war between the U.S. and China, residents of the world’s second-largest economy were showing signs of keeping a tight grip on their wallets. Industrial profit growth has slowed for four consecutive months, and China’s stock market is near its lowest level in four years.
“It’s possible that the situation is more serious than previously thought or that they want to prevent a panic,” said Zhang Ming, a retired political science professor from Renmin University in Beijing. Mr. Zhang said the effect of the expanded censorship strategy could more readily cause people to believe rumours about the economy. “They are worried about chaos,” he added. “But in barring the media from reporting, things may get more chaotic.”,The directive didn’t appear to affect run-of-mill daily coverage of economic data, which could still be widely found online in China on Friday. Instead, the directive appeared to be aimed at easing the overall tone. The trade war could certainly worsen the economic climate if it lingers, leading to job losses and even weaker consumer sentiment. But China has more deep-seated economic problems. Officials are trying to clean up massive debts accumulated by local governments. Curbing debt could mean slower economic growth, as it deprives borrowers of the funds they would otherwise spend.NYT
Source :  https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-business/china-censors-bad-economic-news-amid-signs-of-slower-growth/article25085756.ece

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