Exceptional measures: The Shanghai stock market crash and the future of the Chinese economy

31-08-2015

This summer has been a dramatic one for China's stocks markets, with most indices registering losses of more than 40 % from their annual high. European markets have also suffered, and many observers across the globe are now nervously focused on the Asian giant whose economy drove so many other countries' in recent years. Yet the real economic significance of the drama in China may not stem from its bourses' losses; those who lost money on China's stock market are only a small percentage of its citizens, and many are simply shaving their precipitous profits, rather than facing calamitous losses. A more significant economic outcome may result from the Chinese government's efforts to intervene in its stocks markets. The measures adopted by Beijing since the sell-off began – in some cases, measures that were quickly abandoned – would be unthinkable in a fully market economy. Many measures largely contradict the government's commitments to open and transparent financial exchanges. As the liquidity that a slowing Chinese economy badly requires is frozen, it could be Beijing's heavy-handed involvement in local markets – and not their pared prices – that determines the economic fallout from the summer losses.

This summer has been a dramatic one for China's stocks markets, with most indices registering losses of more than 40 % from their annual high. European markets have also suffered, and many observers across the globe are now nervously focused on the Asian giant whose economy drove so many other countries' in recent years. Yet the real economic significance of the drama in China may not stem from its bourses' losses; those who lost money on China's stock market are only a small percentage of its citizens, and many are simply shaving their precipitous profits, rather than facing calamitous losses. A more significant economic outcome may result from the Chinese government's efforts to intervene in its stocks markets. The measures adopted by Beijing since the sell-off began – in some cases, measures that were quickly abandoned – would be unthinkable in a fully market economy. Many measures largely contradict the government's commitments to open and transparent financial exchanges. As the liquidity that a slowing Chinese economy badly requires is frozen, it could be Beijing's heavy-handed involvement in local markets – and not their pared prices – that determines the economic fallout from the summer losses.