The China Digital Times reports on some strict instructions from the Chinese communist government to media outlets on how to cover the Chinese stock market collapse. Among other things, reporters were instructed not to refer to it as a “collapse.”
The list of instructions issued to radio and TV stations, in both English and Chinese, read as follows:
- Necessary coverage of the stock market must be completely balanced, objective, and rational. Do not join the chorus of the bull or bear market. Rationally lead market expectations to prevent inappropriate reports from causing the market to spike or crash.
- Without exception, discontinue discussions, expert interviews, and on-site live coverage. Do not conduct in-depth analysis, and do not speculate on or assess the direction of the market. Do not exaggerate panic or sadness. Do not use emotionally charged words such as “slump,” “spike,” or “collapse.”
- Strictly report according to information released by the China Securities Regulatory Commission. Resolutely avoid promulgating false information.
- Programs on securities must be produced and broadcast by the broadcast organization. Do not rent or transfer time slots, do not broadcast programs produced by consulting organizations, and do not embark on commercial ventures with consulting organizations.
The Hong Kong Free Press adds that the government also commanded that “there should be no interviews with experts, no live on-site coverage, and reports should be ‘rationally lead’ in order to prevent and spike or crash in the market.”
Observers will debate how much of a role tight media controls played in arresting (figuratively) the market slide, before the government felt obliged to begin arresting (literally) panicked investors. Economics is always about the flow of data. The Chinese government wouldn’t be the first to think they could control outputs by managing data inputs; pundits in the Western world have long argued that downturns, and even recessionary economies, are a matter of public attitude as firm, underlying fiscal realities.
The U.S. media has been trying to keep the economy afloat, writing favorably about President Obama’s “recoveries” that never live up to their billing, just as they will manufacture doom and gloom stories about, for example, the previously unsuspected dark side of full employment under a Republican administration. China merely took it to the next level, along with freezing the market itself, and for the moment those tactics seem to have been effective.