Sat, Aug 29, 2015 - Page 9 News List

China’s party-run media remain silent on market mayhem

By Chris Buckley  /  NY Times News Service, HONG KONG

After China’s stock markets crumpled, prompting a global sell-off, the Chinese-language People’s Daily, mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, had other things on its mind.

There was no mention of the market mayhem on the newspaper’s front page on Tuesday, which 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 dwelt instead on the forthcoming 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II.

The silence continued on Wednesday, when the paper again did not report on the stock market upheavals, although it did have articles about People’s Bank of China decisions and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s (李克強) restatement of confidence in the broader economy, despite the effects of what he called global “market volatility.”

It was a telling sign that, while US 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 David Bandurski, the Web site editor for the University of Hong Kong’s China Media Project who has written extensively on China’s controls on news.

“This is an explosive economic story for China,” he said.

Bandurski noted that in April, the People’s Daily was among the party-run news outlets encouraging investors to buy stocks on the assumption that prices would keep rising, despite occasional hiccups.

“I think people’s memories are long enough that they can remember how this began,” he said. “They were pushing the Kool-Aid,” he said.

The home page of Xinhua news agency was highlighting a report about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) visit to Tibet in 1998, when he was a provincial official in eastern China. On Monday, the 7pm news broadcast on China Central Television, the country’s main TV network, also skipped mention of the plummet in stock prices.

China Digital Times, a Web site which collates leaked, confidential propaganda and censorship directives to Chinese journalists, reported that journalists were told in June 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,” the instructions said, according to Berkeley, California-based China Digital Times.

“Do not exaggerate panic or sadness. Do not use emotionally charged words such as ‘slump,’ ‘spike’ or ‘collapse,’” the instructions said.

Other newspapers and Web sites in China reported on the market turmoil, although often presenting China as an unlikely bystander in a wider global downturn.

Some parts of the Chinese media that are less firmly yoked to echoing the party leadership’s positions voiced rival views of what the government should do about the stock market slump. Some said the government should do more. Others said it was time to quit intervening.

Securities Daily, a leading financial newspaper, seized the opportunity to urge the government to do more to prop up stock prices.

“The slump in the stock markets is destroying what remains of investor confidence, and this problem is profoundly serious,” the newspaper said in a front-page commentary. It called for stronger government measures to shore up stock prices.

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