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China's Bull Market Suddenly in Peril

Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- A pair of President Donald Trump’s tweets rocked Chinese stocks and currency on Monday, but for most of the nation’s media outlets, nothing happened at all.

More than 14 hours after Trump’s threat to raise tariffs on Chinese goods up-ended global markets, few Chinese news outlets have reported them. From the official Xinhua News Agency to the more market-oriented Caixin and the typically belligerent Global Times, there was little information on what sent the nation’s stocks to their biggest loss since 2016 and caused the sharpest yuan weakening in three years.

Posts and stories about Trump’s twin pronouncements were deleted from Weibo, according to Weiboscope, a project backed by the University of Hong Kong that tallies deleted posts and censored words on the Twitter-like service. And several users reported that attempts to post screenshots of the American leader’s tweets to Tencent’s WeChat were blocked.

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the nation’s media operators, from Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s ubiquitous WeChat to Weibo Corp. Trump’s declaration may have caught Beijing by surprise, particularly as sensitive trade negotiations reach a critical juncture. Bloomberg reported earlier that top leaders are considering delaying Premier Liu He’s trip to Washington this week. Chinese officials said Monday a delegation would still travel to the U.S., but declined to say whether He would join them. Representatives for Weibo and Tencent didn’t respond to requests for comment.

On Chinese search engine Baidu, the top news about the American president earlier Monday pertained either to his call with Russian President Vladimir Putin or a subsequent tweet about the Mueller report. The news blackout left some investors scrambling to make sense of the market turmoil: traders asked openly why stocks were tumbling on several WeChat groups dedicated to investment ideas.

Still, savvier social media users have always found a way to convey the news. Many likened Trump to Thanos -- the intergalactic villain in the Avengers series -- as the U.S. President wiped out Chinese stocks with a snap of his fingers.

(Updates with details on censorship from the third paragraph.)

--With assistance from Lulu Yilun Chen, Gao Yuan and Alfred Cang.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Xiaoqing Pi in Beijing at xpi1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeffrey Black at jblack25@bloomberg.net, James Mayger

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