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Economists are struggling to put China’s epic $7 trillion stock crash in perspective. The best size and scope may be that, since 2021, the market has lost the combined gross domestic product of Japan and France.

And that’s not even the worst news emanating from Asia’s biggest economy. No, the reference here isn’t to Chinese deflation deepening at the fastest pace in decades. Or that “China Evergrande” is trending again. The reference is to the war that Xi Jinping’s inner circle seems to be waging against bad news itself.

In recent week, the state security ministry has reportedly made clear Beijing is on the lookout for those disseminating negative views on China’s economic and market prospects. This chilling warning not to “denigrate China’s economy” via “false narratives” is Mao Zedong, not Adam Smith. And it raises troubling questions as China’s influence soars.

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