Weibo, a company associated with the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, has banned a trio of finance sector social media influencers from Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, after they allegedly commented negatively on the state of a stock market that’s seen as much as 25 percent of its value wiped out since the beginning of 2023 and poor unemployment data.
Bloomberg reported on June 26 that Weibo had banned Wu Xiaobo, one of the influencers—a persona followed by 4.7 million accounts—for having “attacked and undermined” government policy by spreading “negative and harmful information.”
Wu was banned with two other writers that Bloomberg said “weren’t fully named.”
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“His recent posts have been deleted, making it unclear what triggered the ban,” the article stated, noting that Wu is an author for Caixin Global and a book publisher for a company close to the communist regime, Tencent Holdings.
Wu may have begun something of a fall from grace.
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Although English-language information about the man is sparse, a 2018 article published by Australia China Business Circle, a publication that reads like a United Front Work Department messaging outlet, called Wu “China’s No.1 Financial Mastermind” during an announcement about a New Year’s Day speech.
Although the mainland’s core stock indexes such as the Hang Seng Index and the Hang Seng Tech Index opened the year with greater than 15 percent gains after President Xi Jinping eliminated Zero-COVID in December, both indexes closed May down 20 and 26 percent from their 2023 highs respectively.
June has been a month with a flurry of activity from some of the biggest names in the West making their first trips to Mainland China since the pandemic began, such as JP Morgan chief, Jamie Dimon, and Tesla CEO and Twitter owner Elon Musk.
Accompanying the business sector has also been a rash of diplomatic activity, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveling to Beijing to meet with Xi personally while Chinese Premier Li Qiang made his first trip outside of China since his appointment following Xi’s third term, landing in NATO member Germany where Li met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Bloomberg commented that the censorship against Wu and his unidentified peers is “likely to increase concern among foreign investors about access to independent information on Chinese companies and the economy at a time when the investing outlook is deteriorating.”
The comment is notable in light of a number of reshuffles at the highest executive levels of major China-based corporations that are also notoriously close to the Communist Party.
On June 20, Reuters reported that CEO and Chairman of Alibaba, Daniel Zhang, was stepping down, but would remain with the company as a member of its cloud computing unit.
The company’s share price peaked at roughly $320 in October of 2020 before rapidly and steadily falling to a low of $58 by October of 2022.
Alibaba shareholders have yet to see a recovery as a January pump above $120 has reverted since to a low of $77.77 posted in May.
In May, Forbes reported that JD.com CEO Xu Lei was forced to step down after only a year at the helm, a major loss of face for a man “who had once been regarded as heir apparent” to former founder Richard Liu.
JD.com has faced a similar fate to Alibaba in the markets, falling from a February of 2021 high above $108 to a May low of $31.57.
Notably, the company traded at just over $68 after Xu took the helm. But JD followed the rest of the equities market down in the October slump, bottoming above $33.
On June 26, the CEO of JD’s shipping arm, JD Logistics, Yu Yui, stepped down from his position citing “health reasons,” South China Morning Post reported based on Hong Kong market filings.
Yu is only 41-years-old.
2022 was also one of the worst years ever for the Chinese yuan, a currency that is generally not traded on the Forex markets because the Communist Party’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, fixes the USD conversion rate.
Nonetheless, it fell from a low of 6.3 yuan for one USD in February and March before posting a high above 7.27 yuan in September.
Although the pair retreated back to the 6.7 yuan level by January, the situation has once again become unstable, trading at time of writing at approximately 7.21 yuan.
In reporting on Wu’s ban, Financial Times stated the government was “reprising a crackdown on financial sector commentators,” citing a 2021 event when the Cyberspace Administration of China, a CCP-linked organ, embarked on a Party rhetoric-laden “special rectification” campaign.
“The internet regulator [was] clamping down on market sceptics and those who voice pessimistic opinions about the Chinese economy — as well as misinformation and malfeasance radiating from financial news services and social media accounts,” FT reported at the time.
The move would have been equivalent to if the Biden Administration were to call on Twitter to censor pundits and finance influencers for criticizing the state of the markets and the Federal Reserve’s policy during last year’s market correction that saw the major indexes lose nearly 40 percent.
Such a move wouldn’t be unprecedented.
The “Twitter Files” released by Musk to journalists after his acquisition of the company in November of 2022 showed that the federal government had used its authority to require the previous ownership and management team to censor nearly any and all voices critical of its Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdown measures and vaccine passport social credit system.