Tea Leaf Nation

China’s Web Users Find NYSE Shutdown Hilarious

With Chinese stocks nosediving, the halt to trading on America's major stock platform hits close to home.

<> on December 4, 2013 in New York City.
<> on December 4, 2013 in New York City.

Chinese investors have had their eyes glued to the Shanghai Stock Exchange for weeks. After a year-long meteoric rise, the stock market there, long-assumed to be in bubble territory, seems to have finally burst, losing a quarter of its value in the past three weeks and wiping out the savings accounts of many small-time investors who jumped on the bull market bandwagon in recent months.

Perhaps the last news they expected to hear, on midnight July 8, Beijing time, was that the New York Stock Exchange — a major exchange platform for a U.S. equity market that in recent years has been healthy, wealthy, and wise, at least compared to China’s volatile market — had abruptly halted trading. Within 30 minutes, word was already beginning to spread on the Chinese Internet, and jokes about the unexpected shutdown came pouring in on China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo. By and large, the jests were not mean-spirited, seeming to flow not out of schadenfreude but rather from an almost comical sense of whiplash. And the digs at government authorities were directed not at the United States, but largely at the Chinese government’s inability to control its own free-falling stock market despite a panoply of emergency measures to stem the bleeding.

“When America says stop, it just stops?” wrote one user in a popular comment. “That’s niubi,” which roughly translates as “freaking awesome.” Another wrote, “Is this an attempt to give the China Securities Regulatory Commission [CSRC] a free lesson?” referring to the frequently maligned Chinese organization that regulates the country’s markets. “CSRC, learn something please!” joked another.

Stateside, the possibility that this was a cyberattack quickly occurred to many; though officials denied finding any signs of a virtual attack, Bloomberg reported that cybersecurity stocks had surged in the wake of the shutdown. One user expressed frustration at previous knee-jerk reactions among some in the United States to point fingers at China for cyberattacks, writing, “Hillary is going to blame China again” — referring to the Democratic Party presidential candidate and former secretary of state, who made headlines in both China and United States for her recent statement that China hacks “into everything that doesn’t move.” But as it turns out, some Chinese users also wondered if China might be involved. One posted a fox emoji and queried, “I wonder if our comrades did this?” Another began, “Could it be…” but didn’t finish, writing instead, “No, forget it, I’m thinking too much.”

But most comments wound their way back to the domestic nosedive currently plaguing Chinese investors. And a number of Weibo users took the opportunity to laugh away some stress while offering a lighthearted solution for China’s stock woes: “Just pull the plug!”

Photo credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is a journalist covering China from Washington. She was previously an assistant editor and contributing reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @BethanyAllenEbr

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