China warns its analysts, reporters against bearish comments on economy: WSJ

Tourists gather in front of the Tiananmen Gate during Labour Day in Beijing.
Tourists gather in front of the Tiananmen Gate during Labour Day in Beijing.PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING - Chinese authorities have issued verbal warnings to commentators whose public remarks on the economy are at odds with the government's bullish statements, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

The "stepped-up censorship" is an effort by Beijing to "quell growing concerns about the country's economic prospects as it experiences a prolonged slowdown in growth," said the Journal in a report on Tuesday (May 3).

To stem what earlier this year was a flood of money leaving the country, Chinese regulators and censors are trying to create a climate dubbed "zhengnengliang," or "positive energy", said the newspaper.

What makes this censorship different is that it targets business reporters and analysts - as opposed to political dissidents - who were previously "relatively unfettered in China in a tacit acknowledgment that a freer flow of information serves economic vitality", said the Journal.

But Beijing, it said, "has moved to reassert control of the country's economic story line after policy stumbles that contributed to selloffs in China's stock markets and its currency last year fed doubts among investors about the government's ability to navigate the slowdown."

The Journal identified one casualty of this new campaign - Lin Caiyi, chief economist at Guotai Junan Securities Co, who had warned about rising corporate debt, a housing glut and the weakening yuan. Ms Lin was given a second warning in recent weeks, the Journal reported, to refrain from making overly bearish remarks about the economy, particularly the currency.