China Underground > China Finance > How China’s Internet Censorship Masks the Depth of Poverty Issues

How China’s Internet Censorship Masks the Depth of Poverty Issues

Last Updated on 2023/12/29

The Economic Divide and Digital Censorship: China’s Dual Battle.

Recent developments in China have highlighted the issue of poverty and the government’s response to information dissemination. An economist’s revelation that nearly 1 billion people in China live on less than $300 a month has sparked significant online discussion and subsequent censorship efforts.

A hashtag on Weibo, a prominent microblogging platform in China, became a focal point for discussions about income inequality. It stated that “964 million people” survive on a monthly income of approximately 2,000 Chinese yuan ($280). However, this online discourse was quickly suppressed, with the hashtag reaching the top of Weibo’s trending page before being removed.

Li Xunlei, the chief economist at Zhongtai Securities, published an article highlighting these poverty statistics. Despite evident economic stress in various sectors, Beijing has not announced a significant stimulus package for post-pandemic economic recovery. Prominent property companies like Evergrande and Country Garden have defaulted on their debts, with limited government intervention.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has focused on “common prosperity” to improve income distribution, but the government’s censorship efforts underscore its sensitivity to discussions about economic performance. Such issues are closely tied to Xi’s legitimacy and authority.

Searches for the removed hashtag on Weibo were met with a notice stating non-compliance with “relevant laws, regulations, and policies.” This approach is typical in preventing popular topics from spreading among Weibo’s 600 million active monthly users. The Ministry of State Security has reinforced this stance by advising against negative discussions about the economy.

Li’s article referenced a 2021 study by the China Institute of Income Distribution at Beijing Normal University, placing the number of people living on less than 2,000 yuan monthly at around 70% of the population. Despite acknowledging challenges, Li expressed optimism about China’s economic growth potential under effective governance.

In 2020, Wang Haiyuan and Meng Fanqiang discussed poverty in China, citing then-Premier Li Keqiang‘s statement about 600 million Chinese living on less than 1,000 yuan a month. They highlighted the ongoing issues of a large population, limited resources, and uneven development.

At the end of 2020, President Xi Jinping declared victory over absolute poverty in China, defined as living on 2,300 yuan a year. He stated that 99 million people were lifted out of poverty, a claim that received minimal attention at the time.

Source: Newsweek

Topics: Impact of censorship on poverty discussions in China, Analysis of economic data and government response in China, Role of social media in highlighting poverty in China, Understanding China’s economic strategy amidst rising poverty, The reality of poverty statistics versus government censorship in China, Chinese economist’s take on poverty and economic growth, How China’s government handles sensitive economic information

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