How the Xicophants cover up China’s economic crisis

Statistics are repackaged in sleight-of-hand sound bites to hide the true cost of the Party’s incompetence

There is hardly a wheel left on China’s economic bandwagon. As it grinds to a halt, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s obsession with raw power and the Communist Party’s mantra of a permanent “struggle” against real or imaginary enemies have wreaked havoc.

Secrecy has replaced sustainability while lies have become economic facts for the Xicophants. 

Official unemployment numbers for those aged between 16 to 24 were at a record high of 21.3% in June. But the real figures could be a staggering 46.6%, according to Zhang Dandan, of the prestigious Peking University.

Again, secrecy and subterfuge are the key ingredients with the Financial Times reporting last week that the Party puts Chinese economists under “intense pressure” to mask the truth.

“The regulator doesn’t want to hear negative comments about the economy in public. They wanted us to interpret bad news [in] a positive light,” an unnamed adviser to China’s central bank told the FT

State of play:

[Xi has] failed to address [China’s] economic problems

Ian Johnson at the Council on Foreign Relations

Smoke and mirrors: Yet China’s state-controlled media did manage to come up with sleight-of-hand sound bites to put a positive spin on the numbers. “Foreign trade grew by 0.4% year-on-year in the first seven months of 2023,” Global Times trumpeted.

Delve deeper: Ballooning local government debt, a meltdown in the property sector, and shrinking consumer spending have left the economy on life-support. 

Between the lines: “Local government debt reached 92 trillion yuan (US$12.8 trillion), or 76% of economic output in 2022, up from 62.2% in 2019,” Reuters reported this week.

Big picture: Ian Johnson, at the Council on Foreign Relations, summed up the mood perfectly. “[Xi has] failed to address economic problems, which have festered and resulted in a slowdown that for many Chinese feels like a full-blown recession,” he said.

The bottom line: “Economic growth numbers can be fudged but ultimately people know what they know – and they know that they have less money in their pockets,” he wrote in a blog post for the New York-based think tank last month.

China Factor comment: In 2021, former premier Li Keqiang warned of the dangers of spiraling unemployment and the threat to “social stability.” Fast forward two years and the situation has reached a crisis point.