China’s broadest plans for economic reform since at least the 1990s circulated on Internet bulletin boards hours before their official release, in a reprise of challenges authorities have had with early data publication.
Photographs of most of the Communist Party leadership’s blueprint for the next decade appeared on the web and in instant messages on Nov. 15, sparking the biggest rally in Chinese stocks in a month. At least some of the papers on the Internet proved accurate, according to a comparison by Bloomberg.
The incident underscores the rising power of electronic media in China, despite government efforts to control the Internet. While it took seven days for China to release detailed results of Communist Party plenums in 2003 and 2008, this time they were officially disseminated three days after the end of the gathering presided over by President Xi Jinping -- suggesting the photos might have triggered an early publication.
“An investigation is likely,” said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The government is “super-serious about sticking to their own routine, so they must have been very angry for somebody jumping the gun.”
The State Council Information Office, the news office of China’s cabinet, didn’t immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
China has jailed several people for leaking economic data in recent years. A former Guosen Securities Co. analyst was sentenced last year to six months in prison with one year of probation, the Beijing News reported at the time. China announced in 2011 that it was jailing two officials from the People’s Bank of China and statistics bureau for leaking classified economic data.
The Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.7 percent on Nov. 15 and extended gains today, advancing 1.4 percent as of 1:07 p.m. local time.
The reforms are the biggest since the late 1990s, when Premier Zhu Rongji’s shake-up of state industries cost millions of jobs, according to Shen Jianguang, an economist at Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd. in Hong Kong. UBS AG called the document “a sweeping reform plan,” while noting that the impact from the population-control change would probably be limited.
“The authorities have good reasons to suspect that the people who have released it prematurely might have profit in mind,” Lam said.