No word on Black Monday in China's official media

Investors monitor stock data on an electronic board at a securities brokerage house in Beijing, China, on Aug 26, 2015.
Investors monitor stock data on an electronic board at a securities brokerage house in Beijing, China, on Aug 26, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

HONG KONG • After China's stock markets crumpled, prompting a global sell-off this week, there was no mention of the market mayhem in the People's Daily, the Communist Party's newspaper.

Its front page on Tuesday featured a report about economic development in Tibet. Indeed, there was not a single reference to the stock markets throughout the entire 24 pages of the paper, which dwelled instead on the forthcoming 70th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II.

The silence was a telling sign that, while Republican aspirants to the White House have upbraided Beijing over the stock market turmoil, China's leaders were sticking to their habit of staying above the public fray when policies turn sour.

"My hunch would be that they're really not about to stomach another wave of more open reporting by the Chinese media," said Mr David Bandurski, the website editor for the China Media Project, based at the University of Hong Kong.

"This is an explosive economic story for China," said Mr Bandurski, who has written extensively on China's controls on news. He noted that in April, People's Daily was among the party-run news outlets encouraging investors to buy stocks.

On Monday, the 7pm news bulletin on state broadcaster CCTV also did not mention the price plunge.

China Digital Times, which collates leaked, confidential propaganda and censorship directives to Chinese journalists, reported that in June they were told to keep coverage of the stock markets strictly in line with official rules intended to deter pessimism or panic.

"Do not conduct in-depth analysis, and do not speculate on or assess the direction of the market," said the instructions, according to US-based China Digital Times. "Do not exaggerate panic or sadness. Do not use emotionally charged words such as 'slump', 'spike' or 'collapse'."

Some Chinese media outlets that are less firmly yoked to echoing the party leadership's positions voiced rival views of what the government should do about the market slump. Securities Daily, a leading financial newspaper, seized the opportunity to urge the government to do more to prop up stock prices.

However, The Economic Information Daily, a newspaper issued by Xinhua, argued that the government should retreat from trying to shore up the stock markets. Instead, it said, policymakers need to focus on improving economic conditions, such as making it easier for businesses to attract loans and investment.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'No word on Black Monday in China's official media'. Print Edition | Subscribe