In the west, when the stock market rises, it’s a bull, and when it falls, it’s a bear. China, so the joke goes, does not have bulls and bears: it has pig markets. Premier Zhu Rongji uses editorials in the People’s Daily to sing the praises of share investment or condemn speculation. Official comments can set the market’s course for months. Think Alan Greenspan and add attitude. The joke is that Zhu’s surname sounds like the Chinese word for pig.
Laugh? Western analysts tend to despair. If it’s not direct government interference, then it’s corruption. And when it’s not corruption, then it’s frustrating policy-making. Stock markets are, the other joke goes, the country’s only legal form of gambling. Such cynicism used to be well founded. But not anymore. With the right institutions in place, corruption is down, investment is up, and the government is behaving.