China’s private sector faces an advance by the state

AN OLD AFFLICTION is settling on China’s entrepreneurial class. It manifests itself in a cold sweat just at the mention of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and a gnawing sensation that it is out of favour with the Communist-run government. Xi Jinping, China’s leader, last month gathered private businessmen to soothe nerves and to offer a comradely cure: to take an “anxiety pill”.

The remedy is a staple of the Chinese socialist lexicon, a phrase doled out to reassure, usually when individual interests appear to butt up against the state. But its use in the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s main mouthpiece, has shot up, as one scholar recently calculated, appearing in 119 headlines since January. (One article with satirical intent, “A Brief History of the Anxiety Pill”, was censored and taken down from WeChat, a messaging app.)

Why so uneasy? The success of the private sector in China is...



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