11/06/2018, 13.41
CHINA
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Chinese economists banned from travelling to US on ‘national security' grounds

by Wang Zhicheng

Economist Sheng Hong, and his colleague, Jiang Hao, were stopped at the airport. Another colleague, Zhang Shuguang, was denied an exit visa. They were supposed to go to Harvard for a symposium marking 40 years since Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms. All three belong to the Unirule institute of Economy, a liberal think tank.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Chinese authorities have banned some economists from travelling to the US to take part in a symposium on "national security" grounds.

Sheng Hong (picture 1), Jiang Hao, and Zhang Shuguang, respectively executive director and economists at the Unirule Institute of Economics, were blocked from going to Harvard University, which had organised a symposium to mark the 40th anniversary of China’s economic liberalisation introduced by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.

Last week, Sheng wrote a scorching opinion piece published by the Financial Times Chinese-language website warning that Beijing was at risk of abandoning Deng’s reform policy of free markets and open trade, which would lead to conflict with the West.

Sheng and Jiao were stopped at the airport last Saturday; Zhang did not receive a visa. The three are members of the Unirule Institute of Economics, a think tank known for its independent and liberal views, as well as its support for free markets and critical views of government support the state-owned enterprises.

Interviewed yesterday by RFA, Sheng said that the policeman who stopped him could not explain the reason for the ban.

Since then he wrote to President Xi Jinping asking how his participation in the symposium could threaten national security, but has not yet received an answer.

Ironically, just yesterday, Xi defended globalisation and openness between states at the China International Import Expo meeting in Shanghai, promising reforms but without specifying their timing.

Founded in 1993 by economist Mao Yushi, Unirule has long been a thorn for Xi’s administration. In January 2017, online censors shut down its website and deleted the social media accounts of several of its members.

The authorities have also tried to get the think tank evicted from its offices and revoke it business licence to cut off its funding.

China’s economy suffers from overproduction and a giant state industrial sector that does not operate according to market principles and needs state funds to cover its deficits.

The private sector, which generates more than 60 per cent of China’s wealth, does not enjoy the same benefits, aid and loans from the state.

At the beginning of his mandate, Xi Jinping seemed determined to reform the economy, but later, perhaps because of resistance among top officials, became reluctant to change, and turned against liberal ideas and the intellectuals who support them.

Other Chinese economists were also invited to the Harvard Symposium, but they declined citing "difficulties", a euphemism for government pressures.

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