BOFIT Viikkokatsaus / BOFIT Weekly 2021/36
Recent crackdowns on speech apply to articles posted online or social media that officials consider to be malicious commentary on China’s financial markets, or present economic policy or economic numbers in a false light. Circulating foreign media reports “falsely” interpreting domestic financial topics is also forbidden. The campaign launched by China’s cyberspace administration will initially last for two months. Its purpose is to promote a good-faith public discussion that encourages healthy economic development. For example, the message service Weibo announced it has closed certain popular accounts that provided investment tips.
Clampdowns on economic news are not new to China. China tightened information flows in response to the 2015 stock market crash. In conjunction with lower economic growth and an enflamed trade war with the United States, reporters in 2018 were told not to report on certain topics. Under an updated law on governance of the online information content ecosystem passed last year, China can block news stories or other content that might negatively affect national solidarity.
China lacks protections for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. According to Freedom House, China gets just nine points out of 100 in its political and civil liberties score (Finland, Sweden and Norway = 100). Internet freedom is the lowest of any of the 65 countries compared. Reporters Without Borders inform that China currently ranks 177th out of 180 countries surveyed, with only Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan having worse press freedom (Norway, Finland and Sweden topped the list).