China, the world’s second-largest economy, recently took a controversial step by announcing that it would no longer disclose data related to its soaring youth unemployment. Amidst an atmosphere of mounting criticism, this totalitarian government can simply suppress unflattering economic information so that the people do not know the extent of the crisis.
June’s statistics painted a bleak picture for Chinese youth, with a record 21.3% unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 24. To put this in perspective, this is nearly four times the country’s overall unemployment rate. While governments around the world routinely refine and improve their data collection methods, the abrupt suspension by Chinese officials has raised eyebrows.
The Chinese government’s decision to withhold this essential economic indicator has sparked a wave of dissent online. Social media platforms, especially Weibo, the popular microblogging site in China, were abuzz with accusations that officials are merely trying to bury the bad news. One user aptly summed up the sentiment of many by suggesting, “The current data looks very bad, so don’t look at it for now.” The related hashtag on Weibo gathered more than 180 million views, a testament to the topic’s significance among netizens.
While officials claim that the methodology of calculating the youth unemployment rate needs refinement, many critics argue that this is a clear attempt to avoid public scrutiny and criticism. In democracies around the world, the public relies on transparency from their governments to hold them accountable. Cassie Sun, a 24-year-old graduate who has been unemployed for two years, expressed her frustration, saying, “They are lying every day.”
This isn’t just about numbers; it’s about the fundamental right of citizens to be informed. When a government withholds critical data, especially of this magnitude, it undermines public trust and hampers the ability of businesses and individuals to make informed decisions. It also cripples the ability and the motivation of government, business and individuals to actually do something about the problem and measure the progress when attempting to do so.
Sun Xin, a commentator from King’s College London, highlighted the gravity of the situation by stating, “The decision clearly shows that the government is gravely concerned about the current situation of youth unemployment.”
Furthermore, this isn’t an isolated incident. Recent actions by the Chinese government, such as tightening foreign access to certain economic data and unexpectedly halting the release of quarterly GDP data, suggest a concerning pattern of reduced transparency. David Loevinger, a former U.S. Treasury official focused on China, pointed out that this worsening transparency “adds another layer of risk” for investors looking to engage with China’s economy.
This is yet again an illustration of the power and apathy of the Chinese Communist Party, a totalitarian regime. Their decisions a made based on what is best for party members, not what is best for the people of China.