China's TV Economy Program Pulled off Air

April 9, 2008 12:00 am Last Updated: April 9, 2008 12:00 am

On April 2 the China Central Television (CCTV)'s program “Half An Hour For the Economy” broadcasted a scholar's criticism of Chinese authorities' failure to save the stock market. The day after the broadcast, the program was pulled dropped from the schedule without warning and has not returned.

This is the first time the program has been halted without warning since it started broadcasting 18 years ago. Two producers of the program are reportedly under investigation. The incident has triggered a heated debate among Internet users and stock-market investors in mainland China.

In the past three months, the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges have hit record lows. The key stock index, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 20.14 percent in a month, its biggest monthly loss since 1995; it has seen an accumulated decline of 37.63 percent for the first quarter of this year, its largest quarterly loss in 15 years. The Shanghai and Shenzhen 300 Index fell 18.91 percent in March, the highest drop since 2005.

The “Half An Hour For the Economy” program, on CCTV's Economic Channel (Channel 2), broadcasted a show titled “What kind of stock market do we really need?” It included interviews, on the scene of stock market, with some stock market investors who suffered heavy losses, and invited renowned economists to analyze China's current stock market situation.

In the past three months, the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges have hit record lows.

The invited guest, Wu Xiaoqiu, director of the Financial and Securities Institute of Renmin University of China, criticized the Chinese authorities for not going to intervene to rescue the stock market. He also questioned last year's highly raised stamp tax on stock trading that could have suppressed growth of the stock market, while blamed the China Securities Regulatory Commission for failure to act.

Criticizing the way of the Chinese authorities have acted on China's capital markets, Wu said, “Given the fact of such high rate of stamp duty imposed in the country, obviously you [the authorities] are tightly controlling the market management in a market system. If one levies high stamp tax, and at the same time claims to encourage the market development, it is a total lie, I believe. In other words, if, on one hand, you are developing the market vigorously, but on the other hand, all the signs on your policy are the quite opposite, then there is definitely something wrong. I believe it is the policy signs you give out that are problematic.”

However, this daily program, the next day after broadcast, was off the air without any warning. Another two major economics programs “Economic News” and “Analysis of Security Investment” were also suspended.

The incident has triggered strong discontent from stock investors concerned with the Chinese stock market. Many Internet discussion boards and forums in the country strongly criticized the authorities. Some investors predicted that the stock market would plummet next week due to the Economy program's halt, and called upon people to quickly withdraw their investment from the market.