The new year traditionally offers a window for an upbeat economic mood in China, falling between the Communist Party’s annual economic work conference in December – the usual arena to inject support for growth and the private sector – and the celebratory Spring Festival, typically in late January or early February.
But this new year feels a bit different.
Only 10 days after the annual central economic work conference, which this year set a modestly supportive policy tone and emphasised economic growth for 2024, Chinese regulators churned out draft rules to restrict spending that drives much of the gaming revenue for technology companies.
The move immediately raised fears of the sorts of industrial clampdowns the market has seen in other sectors, triggering a global sell-off in China’s tech stocks and wiping out billions of dollars of value.
In response, the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), the gaming regulator behind the rules, said it would improve the regulations and “seriously study” the feedback it had received.
The regulator then sacked Feng Shixin, a long-serving official and publication bureau chief at the NPPA, sources told the South China Morning Post.
Feng was expected to stay on in a different position, but that post has not yet been confirmed, another government source told the Post.
But according to observers, the government’s vague and mixed messages have generated widespread uncertainty about Beijing’s priorities, making it even harder to restore near-term business confidence.