China’s run by Communists who don’t allow protesters.
And yet there’s private ownership, stock markets and investors.
That’s quite a combination, but it seems there’s trouble brewing.
Can Communists run markets and know what the hell they’re doing?
China, it appeared, was setting the pace internationally for economic growth, even reflecting this in its own stock markets – an odd addition to an allegedly Communist system. But then in September 2015 the rate of growth slowed, which hurt the economies of several other countries dependent on the Chinese markets and set off a scramble to sell stocks almost everywhere, especially in China.
Satirists poured on rueful comments. In America cartoonist Peter Lewis drew a bedraggled bull standing sadly in a stock market china shop while a bear tears the place apart. Singapore cartoonist Heng showed China getting into an elevator occupied by Japan, Europe, and everyone else “going down.”
But it was in China itself that, notwithstanding the vigilance of the national censor, the “Great Firewall of China”, gallows humor swept through the social media. Tweets on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, included a joke that an investor thought he had bought at the bottom; then at the basement level farther down; at a dungeon level below that at the earth’s crust; at the hell level below that; only to discover there were eighteen level of hell. And the online Founder Magazine warned that the stock market was only for brave souls and they should be prepared to “go in as a crocodile and come out as a gecko; go in as a python and come out as an earthworm; go in as a BMW and come out as a bicycle.”
Then there was a mock warning that the stock market “rooftop is now closed to prevent accidents”. This did not mean that China was about to follow the example of the crash that preceded America’s Great Depression. Still the humor was uncomfortably reminiscent of that era – and a reminder that China’s Communist leaders might not find it easy to master all the intricacies of the capitalist system.