Welcome to Foreign Policy’s China Brief. This week: China’s stock market undercuts public confidence as the Spring Festival holiday begins, 9 billion trips expected within China as holiday travel commences, and a democracy blogger receives a significant prison sentence.
Spring Festival holiday in China commences on Saturday—an annual celebration of the Lunar New Year. China’s stock market is expected to have a weeklong suspension of trading during the holiday to potentially offer some relief from a record third straight year of losses. Despite the government’s pledges to stabilize stocks, public skepticism grows, leading to a decline in economic confidence. This undermines the authorities’ ability to address bigger problems, such as the property market crisis.
The government’s response to the market slide includes blaming “malicious forces” and “criminal gangs” and reviving campaigns against short sellers. Additionally, Chinese state media has taken on an optimistic tone, evoking online pushback and an unexpected enthusiasm for the United States by Chinese investors.
As for Spring Festival travel, an estimated 9 billion individual trips are predicted this year, nearly double the number from last year. This period may also lead to a rise in COVID-19 cases, although the government effectively stopped issuing statistics in November 2022.
In other news, Chinese democracy blogger Yang Hengjun, with Australian citizenship, has been issued a suspended death sentence by a Chinese court, leading to potential disruptions in Australia’s relations with China.
China has one of the longest histories of writing in the world, and the deciphering of a previously unreadable ancient Roman Herculaneum scroll using machine learning opens up exciting possibilities for Chinese history.