China's Stock Meltdown Hits Low-Income Groups Hardest

July 31, 2015

China's stock market frenzy may have been a financing boon for the many companies launching IPOs in H1 2015, but the recent downturn has been a disaster for the millions of small-scale investors who constitute much of the market.

 

Willy Lam of the Jamestown Foundation has detailed the extent of the malaise for mainland investors, and it doesn't look pretty. The rapid downturn in June wiped a combined total of RMB13.5 trillion off Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges, costing smaller investors - low-income workers, farmers and housewives -  an estimated RMB 420,000 each, according to estimates cited by Lam from the Guangzhou Daily. 

 

Lam puts the blame squarely at the feet of the party-state apparatus, who he says were responsible for making overoptimistic statements about market prospects.

 

Furthermore, he argues that the roaring markets were used by state-owned enterprises (SOE) as a means of refinancing their huge debts and, also, used by individuals within SOEs as a get-rich-quick scheme - Merrill Lynch estimates that major shareholders of corporations (including senior executives) sold 360 billion yuan of stocks in the first five months of 2015, compared with 190 billion in all of 2014. 

 

Mr Lam has been a long-time critic of the Chinese government, so these arguments are to be expected. However, the government's recent treatment of the stock market has seriously tarnished its reform credentials, and raised the question about the true function of the stock market in China. From Lam's comments, at least, it certainly doesn't seem to serve the people. 

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