Weibo bars Chinese economist after he suggests $423b fertility fund

The ban, imposed on Jan, 12 2021, will last two weeks. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A high-profile Chinese economist has been banned from posting on the Weibo social media platform after drawing controversy over suggestions that the central bank set up a 2 trillion yuan (S$423 billion) fertility fund to encourage people to have more babies.

The Weibo account of Mr Ren Zeping, a former chief economist for debt-laden property giant China Evergrande Group, where he has 3.6 million followers, carries a notice saying that "due to violations of related laws and regulations, the user is currently banned from posting".

It did not elaborate on what particular law or regulation he was deemed to have violated. The birthrate in the world's most populous country has been a concern of authorities for generations.

The ban, imposed on Wednesday (Jan 12), will last two weeks, according to the state-run Securities Times newspaper, citing unidentified sources.

Mr Ren this week published two essays suggesting that the "most pragmatic and most effective" way to increase China's plunging birth rate would be for the central bank to print 2 trillion yuan for a fertility fund to be distributed as monthly cash payments for every child.

Mr Ren wrote that if the central bank followed his suggestion, China could add 50 million births over the next decade, pushing its birth rate above the replacement rate and preventing a decrease in the overall population.

Mr Ren did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For decades, China imposed a strict one child policy to limit population growth.

The birth rate in 2020 dropped to a record-low of 8.52 births per 1,000 people, or below 1 per cent, official statistics showed last November and in May, the government announced that married couples may have up to three children in a bid to boost births.

Mr Ren's essays, originally published on his WeChat account and reposted to Weibo where they drew widespread discussion, were no longer available on either platform on Thursday.

His WeChat account, however, remains active although he did not post anything new after the Weibo ban.

The Securities Times also reported that the Weibo ban did not apply to other social media platforms.

No stranger to controversy, Mr Ren began his career as an economist with the research arm of China's State Council, or Cabinet. He rose to fame for accurately predicting the peak and crash of China's stock market in 2015.

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