Jul/Aug 2015 EDITORIAL: Riding China’s Wild Roller Coaster

The Mainland Chinese stock market has never been in the spotlight before as it has been this year. Altogether, the story has been splashed across headlines and social media with every rendition of gloom and doom, as trillions of dollars have been lost in capitalization. Many have pointed out the amount lost is more than the combined value of some countries’ whole stock market values.

The media has jumped upon this opportunity to point out the plethora of Achilles’ heels in China’s financial infrastructure, calling for faster financial reform measures that have been hoped for, supported by very subtle insinuations from the central government itself.

Many institutional investors, panicking at the roiling market, have ironically begun to withdraw holdings in Mainland Chinese stocks through the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect. Other investors, though, have aggressively bought the stocks sold off, with the long-term belief that the country’s overall economic growth will counterbalance the operatic nature of the stock market.

Indeed, the Chinese government was criticized for its seemingly desperate attempts to steer the stock market back into stability, undermining their reputation and revealing their own fear of the market. One prevalent critique was that the stock market’s rapid fall from grace was to be expected, as shares were overvalued and inflated, yet there was too much glee at the bull run that the markets were witnessing. It is apparent that though the market has ballooned in size, there are reinforcing measures that they must undertake in the years to come.

However, when the market is succeeding, the media lauded the rising prices and attributed them to the burgeoning economic reforms under Xi Jinping’s leadership. Now however, they are flagging the central government’s actions as hindrances to the country’s financial reform.

Trading has been suspended before in Hong Kong following market crashes, and in other countries across the globe, governments and banks have kept stock markets afloat by rapidly buying shares and slashing interest rates. To criticize China for similar actions (although they could and should have done more to assuage investors’ fears), is more than a bit of schaudenfreude.

The stock market crash does not signify the end of China’s economy. Far from it. Indeed, June and July have seen tremendous ups and downs, but overall it shows gains from here it was just half a year ago. The market reached a high of 5,166, and no one knows how low it may dip. But no one knows either what heights it will soar to again.

Is the stock market drama one of the greatest challenges that Xi’s administration has seen thus far? Definitely. The long-term financial implications from this roller coaster will have a ripple effect for years to come, not in the least in the psyche of investors, but the government’s measures showing that they are paying close attention to the market.

Additionally, the stock market is a minor player in the grand scheme of China’s opening of its economy. If anything, growth has finally slowed down and stabilized, and other sectors of the market are still continuing to grow.

A full-fledged review of stock market reforms is needed, in order to reestablish the faith of institutional and amateur investors alike, but overall, it is important to recall the strides that the Chinese government has already made in order to keep up with its economy.

Anyone claiming an end-all-be-all over the situation will inevitably be proven wrong, although there are sure to be plenty of speedbumps in the proverbial road ahead. Mainland China has made giant strides in regards to financial reform in the past few years, and the current government has made a commitment to continue to do so.

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