Ask Mei

Internet humour (part 2)

How are the Chinese making light of the stock market turmoil?

Last week’s circuit breaker saga in the China A-share market provided ample material for the ever growing internet humour that flourishes in the otherwise heavily policed public domain in China. As a sequel to my last column of 2015, I’d like to share with you a few of the funnier jokes I came across that made light of the stock market turmoil.

First of all, if you are among those who have no idea how the shortlived circuit breaker worked (it was withdrawn after just four trading days), here is a brilliant analogy from a young Chinese satirist: “The circuit breaker is like playing a game of poker where you start with Rmb5,000 in your pocket. A few rounds later, you’ve lost everything. Then there is automatically a 15 minute break so you can go to the ATM and take out another Rmb2,000. That’s your daily limit. But you lost that too. The host then would say: ‘Sorry for your bad luck today. Let’s end here and resume tomorrow.’ ”

Most of the punchy jokes appeared last Thursday, when the stock market was shut merely 30 minutes into trading, following a swift 7% fall. One quip had a stockbroker in Xinjiang (in the far northwest of China where first light at this time of year occurs around 10am – owing to China only having one timezone) delightedly telling a colleague: “This is great! Our working day is over even before daybreak. Let’s all go back to bed.”

Thursday’s early closure was also the theme of this joke: “I lost so much money last year in the stock market, so I decided to make an honest living in the new year. I chose to sell lunchboxes outside the stock exchange, targeting both the exchange staff and day-traders. But today before even unloading my stock, I was told that the exchange had closed already and everybody has gone home. It looks like making an honest living is impossible too!”

Another quip was a play on the language used by the stock regulator when it sends out circulars: “Urgent notice! Please stay calm. On Monday we tested the circuit breaker in the afternoon session and today we are testing it in the morning session.” Someone replied: “Now you know the downward market circuit breaker works on both morning and afternoon sessions, when will you test the upward market circuit breaker?”

However, one of the most forwarded jokes online involved a stockbroker catching his wife in the act of cuckolding him with his neighbour. “On Monday, the A-share market closed a couple of hours early. Stock broker Xiaomin came home earlier than usual and found a strange man at his home. Xiaomin’s wife was flustered and said: ‘Our new neighbour Laowang is here to borrow chilli powder.’ On Thursday, Xiaomin came home really early, and caught Laowang knocking on his door to borrow chilli powder again.”

The circuit breaker may have failed to tame the market, but the implication of this joke is that it did have the unintended side-effect of exposing China’s burgeoning number of extra-marital affairs.

A native Chinese who grew up in northeastern China, Mei attended an elite university in Beijing in the late 1980s and graduate school in the US in the early 1990s. Over two decades she has worked in the US, Hong Kong and mainland China, both in the media and with two global investment banks, where she has honed her bicultural perspective. If you’d like to ask her a question, send her an email at [email protected]


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