Gallows Humor: The Dark Jokes of Weibo as China's Stock Market Tanked

The unintentionally comedic consequences of China's economic slowdown.


Investors examine a stock display at a brokerage house in Shanghai. (Aly Song/Reuters)

The Shanghai Composite Index hit a 43 month-low on September 26 to below 2,000, a stomach-churning fall from around 6,000 points in 2007, and investors seem to want to dull their pain with large doses of dark humor.

@金融圈绝密档案 tweets on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter, "A popular way to dis people these days is to say 'How come you are as stupid as someone who invests in the stock market?'" Sina's Finance Channel (@ 新浪财经) goes for the deadpan, "Greece may be in dire straits, but analysts believe that investment opportunities in the Greek stock market is better than the Chinese market." [1]

Fan Wei (@范炜), a media analyst, tweets another popular joke, "Bought at the bottom and thought that was the floor, but didn't know there was a basement below. Bought at the basement level, but didn't know there was a dungeon below. Bought at the dungeon level, didn't know there was the earth's crust below. Bought at the earth's crust level, but didn't know there was a hell below. Bought at the hell level, but didn't know there were [expletive] eighteen levels of hell." [2]

At the 18th level of hell? Don't celebrate just yet. @大学生讲坛 tweets, "A stock market investor asks Hades, 'What level of hell is this?' Hades replies, 'The 18th.' The investor tears up out of happiness, 'Finally I've managed to buy at the bottom!' Hades looks at him with a smile, 'Don't you know that hell has IPOed and expanded to 36 levels?'" [3]

China's retail investors complain about poor regulation, systematic fraud and rampant insider trading. Shi Shusi (@ 石述思), a social critic, tweeted, "China's lottery is a legal casino, and China's stock market is a legal slaughterhouse." [4] Many agree with Shi that China's stock market is where those with privilege and access take the lunch money of the little guys. @Antares2046 quips, "Gotta have a place for legal money laundering." [5]

@金融圈绝密档案 is more direct in his attacks, "The symptom of the market is wild fluctuation and sharp rises and falls-like a financial black hole it sucks dry retail investors' hard-earned money, like a meat grinder it crushes retail investors' confidence. Market interference from the authorities twisted supply and demand and valuation standards, and allowed so many crappy companies to come to market. Interference from the authorities has become the cancer of the stock market!" [6]

Cancer or not, China's stock market is highly sensitive to changes in government policies. By the close of business on September 27, the Shanghai Composite rose 2.6% on speculations that the CSRC may introduce new policies to save the market ahead of the 18th Communist Party Congress.

But what if the CSRC decides that upcoming occasions should be commemorated with the stock market index? Qiu Yugang (@ 裘聿), editor of a tech magazine, tweets, "I heard that the stock market may fall to 1,949 points to celebrate National Day, and then to 1,921 points to herald the start of the 18th Party Congress, and then fall to 1,818.55, to celebrate the birthday of Marx." [7] (For those not good with dates, the People's Republic was founded in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party was founded in 1921 and Karl was born on May 5, 1818.)

No matter what happens to the index in the coming days, the Founder Magazine (@创业家杂志) concludes that "no stock is suitable for retail investors," and brave souls should be prepared to "go in as a crocodile and come out a gecko; go in as a python and come out an earthworm; go in as a BMW and come out a bicycle."

Consider yourself warned.

This post was produced in collaboration with Tea Leaf Nation.