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75 bps Fed rate hike likely amid a “world of paradox”

In a historic move, the market anticipates that the Federal Funds Rate, the key policy tool of the Federal Reserve will breach the neutral rate of interest…

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In a historic move, the market anticipates that the Federal Funds Rate, the key policy tool of the Federal Reserve will breach the neutral rate of interest with the conclusion of the Fed’s 2-day FOMC meeting later today.

In one of the most eventful years in recent monetary history, the US Fed has already raised rates by 150 basis points (bps) through 2022 and has charted a path for approximately another 200 bps during the remainder of the year.

With Y-o-Y retail inflation surging to a four-decade high of 9.1%, the Fed is widely expected to raise the benchmark overnight interest rate by 75 bps, raising the policy corridor to a target range of 2.25% to 2.50%.

A three-quarters point hike would mark one of the fastest moves in Fed history, from the zero-bound to the neutral rate.

Undoubtedly, we are living in turbulent times. It was barely four months ago, that Fed rates – the central tool of global economic policy were at rock bottom levels. The Fed was still purchasing vast volumes of bonds each month to inject life into the economy amid the covid slowdown.

The neutral rate is that level of interest rate where the economy is neither stimulated nor contracted.  According to Reuters, this is commonly believed to be around 2.4%. It is important to remember that the neutral rate is a bit of a mystery wrapped in guesswork. One can not precisely state where the interest rate inflection point lies that could balance the economy perfectly between expansion to contraction. This is a theoretical rate which can not be observed directly and is estimated using data from previous years.

Surprise, Surprise, it’s 1%?

In its previous meeting, the Federal Reserve surprised markets to the upside by raising rates by 75 bps, the highest increase since 1994.

Given galloping inflation, some market participants expect that the FOMC could continue to accelerate rate hikes, while the monetary policy rhetoric could turn even more hawkish.

As reported in the CME FedWatch Tool, there is a sizable 23.7% likelihood of a 1% hike, which has not been seen since Paul Volcker was Fed Chairman in the 1980s. The latest data also shows that there is a 76.3% probability of a 75 bps increase to the 225 – 250bps range.

Naveen Kulkarni, Chief Investment Officer, Axis Securities, stated that at this stage, markets have largely priced in a 75 bps hike and that an upside surprise may affect the markets negatively, and be seen as “extremely hawkish.”

Runaway Inflation

High consumer inflation in the United States has been at least a decade in the making. Post the 2008 crisis, the Fed reduced rates to 0%, in a bid to stimulate growth. This implies that the price of money is virtually zero, a most unnatural state.

Money pays interest for a good reason. Well, for two reasons. Firstly, when you lend money, the lender is accepting a risk that the borrower may not repay the amount. The lender rightly expects to be compensated for this possibility.

Secondly, the lender is foregoing consumption today, in return for a higher level of consumption tomorrow. Higher is the operative term and implies that the lender should be compensated for the lost opportunity cost today.

However, contrary to this logic, the Federal Reserve, the most powerful economic body in the world, along with other developed country central banks decided to keep rates subdued, i.e., preserved an unnatural state in order to kick-start growth.

Once such unconventional measures have been adopted, the biggest challenge is perhaps to know when to reverse such a stance. Traditional economic theory tells us that interest rate cuts are short-run measures. Although economists can debate what constitutes the short-run, it is unlikely to have been as long as the Fed kept rates subdued.

Coupled with QE, unhealthy levels of low-cost debt built-up in the system, and their primary impact was to inflate asset prices and distort investment rather than drive real growth.

Beginning in late 2016, when the Federal Reserve tried to correct the interest rate path in the economy, monetary authorities were forced to abandon policy normalization towards the end of 2018. The upper limit of the target range remained flat at 2.50% through half of 2019, before the Fed began a gradual descent in 25 bps decrements.

However, come early 2020, fueled by the covid panic, interest rates plunged from 1.75% in February back to the zero-bound, where they had been for nearly a decade before the attempted normalization.

It is important to note that the Federal Reserve found itself in a precarious position at just 2.50%, with debt-fueled household budgets and mounting interest payments, leading to the economy being extremely sensitive to the mildest increases.

With the onset of Covid, monetary and fiscal intentions fused to an unprecedented degree, with the widespread roll-out of targeted fiscal policies, UBI-style programs and payroll protections.

Combined with supply chain disruptions, first due to country-wide lockdowns and other public health measures, and followed by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, inflation soared and is yet to show any meaningful signs of easing.

In fact, inflation has only accelerated while the Federal Reserve has been attempting to at least reach the neutral rate as a first milestone.

The challenge for the Fed today is that much of the cost-of-living pressures are driven by supply-side forces. Interest rate hikes are largely demand management tools, and in many ways, the current inflationary scenario may be beyond the toolkit of central banks.

The war in Europe, gas prices in the eurozone, broken and inefficient logistics, Black Sea disruptions, extraordinary delays from China due to the zero-covid policy, and a shortage of microchips are some of the key factors dragging down global supply chains.

In fact, Stiglitz and Baker argue that “by making investment more expensive, they (the Fed) may even impede an effective response to supply-side problems,” which may exacerbate supply-side conditions.

Reflecting on the complexity of the situation, Noah Smith, previously an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University, and a popular Bloomberg columnist, infamously tweeted way back in 2017, “Conclusion: NO ONE KNOWS HOW INFLATION WORKS. Macroeconomists need to go back to the drawing board on inflation. Square one.”

The data paradox and recessionary fears

The challenge for the FOMC committee is to avoid a repeat of the 2018 reversal and to avert a possible recession.

The data that the Fed is relying on is both dovish (encouraging growth stimulus) and hawkish (encouraging inflation management), further complicating the situation.

Signals that the economy is robust or overheating:

  • CPI has surged to a four-decade high and has disregarded expectations of a peak, thus far.
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) is widely considered to be a leading indicator of the PPI and recorded a rise of 11.3% on annual basis for the month of June.
  • US Consumer Spending was the strongest among 14 countries, according to McKinsey’s Consumer Pulse Survey published in July 2022.
  • The labour market has remained tight, with the unemployment rate being sub-4% month after month
  • In its most recent report this week, the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a drawdown of over 4 million barrels, nearly four times the projected volumes, adding to bullish sentiments.
  • The ongoing Ukraine-Russia war could drive higher inflation, particularly energy and food goods, pinching the average household.

Signals that the economy is cooling or heading into a recession:

  • US Consumer confidence declined for a third straight month, as per Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index to 95.7 from 98.4 in June 2022.
  • The sister Expectations Index fell from 65.8 in the last study to 65.3, suggesting negative sentiments on short-term income creation, business opportunities and labour market conditions.
  • The International Monetary Fund in its latest estimates cut global growth forecasts to 3.2% and 2.9% in 2022 and 2023, a decline of 0.4% and 0.7% since April, respectively
  • Jobless claims were reported to increase to an 8-month high of 251,000, suggesting that the inflation curve may indeed be flattening.
  • Equities have performed very poorly in the high-interest rate environment, with the S&P 500 having declined 17.7% year-to-date, at the time of writing.
  • Walmart, the largest retailer in the US and a bellwether stock is often seen as a gauge of consumer sentiment. The company’s latest release forecasted that adjusted profits per share could fall by 13% this year, indicating that consumer appetite may be waning. It is important to note that this would be fueled at least in part by rising prices.
  • Although commodity prices remain historically elevated, they have eased post the Ukraine-Russia war as global growth projections have been revised downwards, and supply chains have improved in certain regions. For instance, copper prices have eased by 23.9% in the past 3 months.
  • Mortgage demand fell 6% last week as reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association, registering the lowest level since 2000.
  • With the US yield curve inverting, the markets are preferring to purchase long-term debt rather than near-term debt, signaling a deterioration in near-term expectations. This is often a precursor to a recession.

Fed decision and rate path

The Fed is likely to raise rates by another 75 bps today. Luke Tilley, chief economist at Wilmington Trust, stated that as long as inflation shows “no sign of abating, you are going to have a united front.” However, if inflation does peak, this may lead to diverging opinions between FOMC members.

As the cost of living eases or recessionary conditions worsen, the FOMC members will have to determine the best way forward between keeping rates high to manage supply-side heavy inflation but risk a recession and a downturn in job growth.

However, markets are not convinced that the Fed can continue to tighten as intended. Financial cracks are already beginning to emerge, such as the bear market in US stocks, deep trade imbalances and poor consumer sentiment.  

Given the data, policymakers could get pulled in both directions. Greg Daco, the chief economist at EY-Parthenon, noted that the U.S. is in “a world of paradox.”

In this regard, tomorrow’s release of US GDP would be a crucial indicator to follow, having seen a contraction in Q1.

If inflation were to peak in the near term, or the yield curve remains inverted, the Fed will likely be forced to cut rates quickly. Given that debt is much higher than in 2018 due to the pandemic era stimulus, and inflation is at record highs, the decision to substantially unwind policy normalization may prove much more challenging for committee members to embark upon.

The post 75 bps Fed rate hike likely amid a “world of paradox” appeared first on Invezz.

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How Inflation Changes Culture

How Inflation Changes Culture

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via DailyReckoning.com,

The midterm elections are over (no Red Wave), but nothing…

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How Inflation Changes Culture

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via DailyReckoning.com,

The midterm elections are over (no Red Wave), but nothing has changed. In fact, the Biden regime will probably become even more emboldened to pursue destructive economic policies because it will interpret the lack of a Red Wave as some kind of mandate.

Every day seems to be a day of spin, with every regime apologist assuring the public that inflation is getting better. Just look at the wonderful trend line! They point to the latest inflation numbers, which were down a bit from the month prior.

The regime insists that yes, inflation will vex us for a bit more time but will settle down in a few months. Plus, the president is working to fix this! And we know the American people are on board with him since no Red Wave materialized.

But in the footnotes, you’ll find the truth: it was a tiny drop and mostly for technical reasons and the main reason for the drop has already disappeared from the price trends.

Has any political propaganda on this topic ever been this ineffective? It’s truly a joke.

Where’s the Relief Coming From?

The producer price index that came out recently paints a clearer picture. It’s grim. It reveals no softening at all. In fact, it shows that there are plenty of coming price increases. Here is the index by commodities from 2013 to the present.

Remember how last year many people finally came to the conclusion that we had to learn to live with COVID? That was a smart choice because there was no way that the China-style suppression method could work.

Well, here we are now with a preventable inflation pandemic and the realization that we have to learn to live with inflation. Soon we’ll realize that we have to live with recession at the same time.

But what does this mean?

The impact will be felt not just in terms of economics but in culture. Inflation causes a society-wide shortening of time horizons.

True Prosperity

Let’s review some basics. All societies are born desperately poor, fated to live off foraging and just getting by. Prosperity is built through the construction of capital, which is the institution that embodies forward thinking.

To make capital requires the deferral of consumption: you have to give up some today in order to make tools that enable more consumption tomorrow. This means discipline and a future orientation. And it means, above all, savings that can be invested in productive projects. Only through that path can societies grow rich.

A key component of this concerns the stability of the medium of exchange. And not just stability: a currency that rises in value over time incentivizes saving and thus investing for the long term.

The late 19th century provided a good example of this. Under the gold standard, money grew more valuable over time, thus rewarding long-term thinking and instilling that outlook in the culture at large.

Live for Today

Inflation has the opposite effect. It punishes saving. It forces a penalty on economic behavior that is future-oriented. That means also discouraging investment in long-term projects, which is the whole key to building a complex division of labor and causing wealth to emerge from the muck of the state of nature. Every bit of inflation trims back that future orientation.

Hyperinflation utterly wrecks it.

Living for the day becomes the theme. Taking what you can get now is the method and the theme. Grasping and spending. You might as well because the money is only going down in value and goods are in ever shorter supply.

Better to live hard and short and forget the future. Go into debt if possible. Let the devaluation itself pay the price.

The Seeds of Destruction

Once this attitude becomes instilled in a prosperous society, what we call civilization gradually devolves. If inflation persists, this kind of short-term thinking can wreck everything.

This is why inflation is not just about rising prices. It’s about declining prosperity, the punishing of thrift, the discouragement of financial responsibility, and a culture that gradually falls apart.

Another factor in reducing time horizons is legal instability. This was my first concern when the lockdowns began. Why would anyone start a business if governments can just shut it down on a whim? Why plan for the future when that future can be wrecked by the stroke of a pen?

Many people had assumed that this new path would be short-lived. Surely the politicians would wise up and stop the madness. Surely! Tragically, it got worse and worse. The spending and printing began and ramped up over time. It was a perfect storm of sheer madness, and now we are paying the highest possible price.

The Hinge of History

We need to speak frankly about what’s happening to the global economy. It’s not just about supply chain breakages. Those can be repaired. It’s not just about inflation affecting every country. We are living amidst a fundamental upheaval in the whole world.

The most significant single danger to global prosperity now comes in the form of a devastating and deeply tragic wreckage of the country that was set to lead the world in finance and technology: China.

The WSJ summarizes the current pain:

China in 2021 accounted for 18.1% of global gross domestic product, according to International Monetary Fund data, behind the U.S. at 23.9% but ahead of the 27 members of the European Union at 17.8%. It accounts for almost a third of global manufacturing output, according to United Nations data from 2020. China’s economy expanded modestly at the beginning of the year but data for March and April point to a sharp slowdown.

The trouble there traces to the top. When Xi Jinping locked down Wuhan, the world celebrated him for achieving what no other leader in history had achieved: the eradication of a virus in one country. Even now, he gets accolades for this.

The rest of the world followed, and elites in all countries said that this path was the future.

Going Backwards

Now the virus is on the loose all over the country, and the eradication methods are intensifying. This is crushing economic growth and now threatening genuine economic depression in the country that only a few years ago was seen as the greatest economic engine of the world.

It’s truly the case that Xi Jinping has put his personal pride above the well-being of all people in China. The scientists in the country know that he is wrong about this but no one is in a position to tell him.

We cannot really trust the data coming out of China but officially the rate of infection in that country is one of the lowest in the world. Billions more people need to get the bug and recover in order to have anything close to herd immunity. This means that lockdowns are the way for years to come so long as the present regime remains in power.

American prosperity for decades has relied on: relatively low inflation, fairly stable rules of the game, and widening trade with the world and China in particular. All three are at an end. Yes, it is heartbreaking to watch it all unfold.

I’m not defending China’s human rights abuses. Far from it. But the best way to end these abuses is through engagement, not estrangement.

We all need hope right now but it’s very difficult to find, since we are on a course that is not likely to be fixed for a very long time.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/30/2022 - 19:05

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Mish’s Daily: The Next Stop on This Fierce Bear Market Rally: A Global Recession?

Determining whether we are in a risk-on or risk-off climate is challenging, especially after a fantastic day of gains in every major US index.We should…

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Determining whether we are in a risk-on or risk-off climate is challenging, especially after a fantastic day of gains in every major US index.

We should be in a risk-on environment. The Chinese stock market even rose, with technology and electric vehicles leading, as investors hoped for a more liberal COVID-19 governmental policy. With a gain of 4.4%, the Nasdaq composite, which had been the slacker, led gains among major US indices.

The S&P 500 (represented above by the SPY ETF) also surpassed its 200-day moving average for the first time in seven months. Markets are also approaching critical technical levels, which can accentuate positive or negative data, so keep an eye out tomorrow for PCE, the Fed's favorite inflation gauge.

Regardless of today's market action, there are indications that a global recession is imminent, with part of Europe potentially already in a recession and the US possibly next year. In particular, a rare 20-year recession signal is flashing red.

Global bonds joined US peers in signaling a recession, with a gauge measuring the global yield curve inverting for the first time in at least two decades.

According to Bloomberg Global Aggregate bond sub-indices, the average yield on government debt expiring in 10 years or more has slipped below that on short-term bond yields. On the heels of Fed Chairman Powell's dovish remarks today, the stock market rallied with heavy volume. Yet global bond yields signal a recession ahead.

Market conditions are ripe with profitable trading opportunities. Investors should pay close attention to commodities, currencies, bond yields, and inflation. If the PCE print is higher than expected, one-third or even more of today's gains could be erased quickly. On the flip side, if PCE is lower than expected, stocks might continue to run higher.

It is crucial to proceed with caution, as there is the potential for significant volatility in the coming weeks and months. We believe this ferocious bear market rally still has some legs – but don't wait too long to make your move, or your portfolio might get clawed quickly. If you are looking to capitalize on this ferocious bear market rally, our team can help your trading to protect your portfolio while allowing you to benefit from bullish trends.

Rob Quinn, our Chief Strategy Consultant, can provide more information about our trading and Mish's Premium Trading Service. Click here to learn more about Mish's Premium trading service with a complimentary one-on-one consultation.

"I grew my money tree and so can you!" - Mish Schneider

Get your copy of Plant Your Money Tree: A Guide to Growing Your Wealth and a special bonus here.


Follow Mish on Twitter @marketminute for stock picks and more. Follow Mish on Instagram (mishschneider) for daily morning videos. To see updated media clips, click here.

Mish in the Media

Read Mish's latest article for CMC Markets, titled "Can the Commodity Super-Cycle Persist into 2023?".

Mish talks stagflation in her interview by Dale Pinkert during the F.A.C.E. webinar.

Watch Mish's appearance on Business First AM here.

Mish hosted the Monday, November 28 edition of StockCharts TV's Your Daily Five, where she covered some of the Modern Family. She also discusses the long bonds and gold with levels to clear or, fail.


ETF Summary

  • S&P 500 (SPY): 402 is support and resistance at 411.
  • Russell 2000 (IWM): 183 support; 191 resistance.
  • Dow (DIA): 342 support; 349 support.
  • Nasdaq (QQQ): 288 support; 302 resistance.
  • KRE (Regional Banks): 62 support; 66 resistance.
  • SMH (Semiconductors): 223 support; 232 resistance.
  • IYT (Transportation): 230 support; 237 resistance.
  • IBB (Biotechnology): 133 support; 139 resistance.
  • XRT (Retail): 64 support; 70 resistance.


Mish Schneider

MarketGauge.com

Director of Trading Research and Education


Wade Dawson

MarketGauge.com

Portfolio Manager

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Protests in China are not rare — but the current unrest is significant

Comparisons have been made to the 1989 demonstrations that led to the Tiananmen Square massacre. An expert on Chinese protests explains why that it half…

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Protesters march along a street in Beijing on Nov. 28, 2022. Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

Street protests across China have evoked memories of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations that were brutally quashed in 1989. Indeed, foreign media have suggested the current unrest sweeping cities across China is unlike anything seen in the country since that time.

The implication is that protest in China is a rarity. Meanwhile, the Nov. 30, 2022, death of Jiang Zemin – the leader brought in after the bloody crackdown on 1989 – gives further reason to reflect on how China has changed since the Tiananmen Square massacre, and how Communist party leaders might react to unrest now.

But how uncommon are these recent public actions? And how do they compare with the massive weekslong demonstrations of 1989?

Having written extensively on protest in China, I can attest that protests in China are not at all uncommon – but that doesn’t make what is happening now any less significant. Alongside similarities between the current street actions and more typical protests of recent years, there are also parallels between the demonstrations today and those in 1989. Yet differences in China’s international status and domestic leadership reduce the chances for liberal democratic transformation now.

Not so unusual, but still unique

The current protests are ostensibly about the Chinese government’s strict “zero COVID” policies. They were triggered by a deadly fire in the northwestern city of Urumqi on Nov. 24, with some residents blaming lockdown rules for hampering rescue efforts. Unrest has since spread to multiple cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.

The specifics are unique to the pandemic. But in many respects, what we are seeing is not new or unusual – protests, in general, are not rare in China.

In fact, from 1990 through the present, popular protests have been more frequent and widespread in China than they were in the years leading up to the Tiananmen Square-centered demonstrations.

According to Chinese government statistics, the yearly count of domestic “mass incidents” or “public order disturbances” – euphemisms used to refer to everything from organized crime to street protests – rose from 5,000 to 10,000 in the early 1990s to 60,000 to 100,000 by the early 2000s.

Despite the lack of official numbers since 2006 – which ceased to be published after that year – verbal statements by Chinese officials and research by scholars and nongovernment organizations estimate the number of yearly protests to have remained in the high tens-of-thousands.

When protests turn political

This is not to say the recent multi-city protests are unsurprising or insignificant. To the contrary, the current media spotlight is, I believe, well-deserved.

Nearly all the thousands of protests appearing every year in the post-Tiananmen Square period have been localized and focused on specific material issues. They occur, for example, when villagers feel they are unfairly compensated for land acquisitions, when private sector workers are not paid, or when residents suffer from environmental degradation caused by waste incinerators.

In contrast, the anti-lockdown protests have emerged in numerous cities – reporting by CNN suggests there have been at least 23 demonstrations in 17 cities. They are also all focused on the same issue: COVID-19 restrictions. Moreover, they are targeted at central Party leaders and official government policy.

For the the closest parallels in terms of size of protest, one has to go back to the late 1990s and early 2000s.

From 1998 to 2002, tens of thousands of state-owned enterprise workers in at least 10 Chinese provinces demonstrated against layoffs and enforced early retirements. And in 1999, roughly 10,000 members of the now-banned spiritual movement Falun Gong amassed in central Beijing to protest their suppression and demand legal recognition.

But these protests were directed at issues that specifically affected only these groups and did not critique China’s top political leaders or system as a whole.

The only post-1989 examples of overt collective political dissent – that is, public action calling for fundamental change to the mainland’s Chinese Communist Party-led political system – have been exceedingly small and transpired off the streets. In 1998, activists formed the China Democracy Party, declaring it a new political party to usher in liberal democratic multi-party governance. Though the party persisted openly for roughly six months, establishing a national committee and branches in 24 provinces and cities, its leaders ultimately were arrested and the party driven underground.

A decade later, a group of intellectuals led by writer Liu Xiaobo posted online a manifesto called “Charter 08” advocating for liberal democratic political reform. Liu, who later received the Nobel Peace Prize, was jailed as a result. He remained in prison until his death, from untreated cancer, in 2017.

And while the massive and sustained protests in Hong Kong over the past decade exemplify political dissent, protesters’ demands have remained confined to political reform in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

Calls for change and for Xi to go

So how much do the current anti-lockdown protests resemble the demonstrations that shook the regime in the spring of 1989?

Both have involved urban residents from various walks of life, including university students and blue-collar workers.

And in each case, the demands of protesters have been mixed. They include specific material complaints: In 1989, it was the impacts of inflation; in 2022, it is the effects of lockdowns and incessant PCR testing.

But they also include broader calls for political liberalization, such as freedom of expression.

A giant white statue with arm aloft stand above 100s of people.
The Goddess of Democracy stood as a symbol of protest during the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. David Turnley/Getty Images

Indeed in some ways, the protesters of 2022 are being more pointed in their political demands. Those on the streets of at least two major cities have called on President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party to step down. Demonstrators in 1989 refrained from such system-threatening rhetoric.

That reflects the changing political realities of China then and now. In early 1989, Party leadership clearly was split, with more reform-oriented leaders such as Zhao Ziyang perceived as sharing the activists’ vision for change. As such, demonstrators saw a way of achieving their aims within the communist system and without a wholesale change in leadership.

The contrast with today is stark: Xi has a firm grip on the party. Even if Xi were to miraculously step down, there is no clear opposition leader or faction to replace him. And if the party were to fall, the resultant political void is more likely to bring chaos than orderly political transformation.

Yet if the Chinese Communist Party is a different entity now than it was in 1989, its response to unrest shares some traits. Central authorities in 1989 blamed the protests on foreign “black hands” seeking to destabilize China. The same accusations have been raised in online posts now.

In fact, the government response to recent protests follows a pattern that has played out time and again in post-1989 protests. There is little to no official media coverage of the protests or acknowledgment by central Chinese Communist Party leaders. At the same time, local authorities attempt to identify and punish protest leaders while treating regular participants as well-intended and non-threatening. Central criticism – and possible sanction – of local officials portrayed as violating national policies follows. Meanwhile, there are moves to at least partially address protester grievances.

It is a messy and inefficient way to respond to public concerns – but it has become the norm since 1989.

Teresa Wright does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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