Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Our Communist Chinese friends
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
The Usual Chinese SuspectsBuying shares didn’t work, so Beijing tries mass arrests.
This screen grab taken from a CCTV footage shows Wang Xiaolu, a financial journalist with the respected business magazine Caijing, confessing on China's main state broadcaster on August 31.PHOTO: CCTV/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Aug. 31, 2015 7:26 p.m. ET
The Chinese government has spent tens of billions of yuan trying to prop up the country’s stock markets, to little or no avail. So it is now resorting to a tactic long favored by authoritarians flummoxed by a free market—shooting the messenger.
Chinese police on the weekend began rounding up the usual suspects, which in this case are journalists, brokers and analysts who have been reporting stock-market news. Naturally, the culprits soon confessed their noncrimes on national television. A reporter for the financial publication Caijing was shown on China Central Television on Monday admitting that he had written an article with “great negative impact on the market.” His offense was reporting that authorities might scale back official share-buying, which is what they soon did. On Sunday China’s Ministry of Public Security announced the arrest of nearly 200 people for spreading rumors about stocks and other incidents.
The hunt for scapegoats to explain bad financial news is a universal political impulse, and sometimes it afflicts Washington too. The difference is that Americans understand that markets have their own psychology and can’t be levitated by artificial infusions of state capital or by raiding newsrooms. Beijing’s failure to comprehend financial markets is directly related to its refusal to give up political control.