Party Pooper

Mao courtesy of Warhol

Mao courtesy of Warhol

Every party needs a pooper. On April 21st the People’s Daily in China boomed that the bull market had “just begun”. Two months later share prices on the Shanghai exchange collapsed by one-third, thereby crushing countless small investors who had bought on margin under the mistaken impression that a rising market was practically guaranteed by the State. Now President Xi’s “China Dream” has turned into a global nightmare sending skittish investors running for cover.

China’s robust economy was good news for over 600 million people who were lifted out of poverty after a torrid four decades of growth that saw the country’s GDP rise 26-fold in 37 years). Now China’s fall is bad news for everyone from small investors to commodity exporters, (“hello Canada!), and to every corporation that’s been jonesing for Chinese consumer demand to fill their coffers. To add to China’s economic troubles, a corruption crackdown has ensnared some of the nation’s high-and-mighty, including more than 100,000—no, it’s not a typo— government officials. And there have been recent reports of shadow-finance companies begging for Beijing to bail them out. In other words, don’t look to China to save the world economy any time soon.

But they say every cloud has a silver lining. What’s bad for Shanghai’s speculators might just be good for…Africa’s elephants and rhinos!

Asian demand for ivory trinkets and for herbal concoctions made of powdered rhino horn have led to the slaughter of these animals on a massive scale. More Chinese with more yuan in their pockets have added fuel to the existing demand. Ivory figurines are status symbols in China and Vietnam and medicines made of powdered rhino horn are believed to relieve hangovers, break a fever, cure cancer, and give flaccid ding-dongs a boost. (At best, these medicines give a placebo effect that could be easily replicated with synthetic rhino horn.) Demand has pushed the price of a kilo of rhino horn to over $65,000. And, in case you were wondering, unlike gullible investors, rhinos don’t voluntarily give up their wealth. Poachers have to immobilize them with a tranquilizer, then hack chunks of their faces off to remove the horn. The animals are left to bleed or suffocate to death.

Even though Chinese stocks are mostly held in domestic hands, the country’s problems are now the world’s problems. Given our symbiotic relationship with the Middle Kingdom, why couldn’t the “world” intervene to stop China’s plunder of African wildlife? Developed countries have been too enthralled by China’s growing economic might, omnivorous demand for raw materials, and easily hurt feelings to seriously question its record on their war on African wildlife or, take your pick, human rights abuses, environmental degradation, rampant corruption, unreliable government data, on-going occupation of Tibet…

Beijing’s policy makers are working hard to smooth out China’s market volatility and to “save face” internationally. On the rhino front, a South African firm called the Rhino Rescue Project has devised a way to save rhinos’ faces. The animal is sedated and then two holes are drilled into its horn which is then filled with a toxic cocktail. Since the horn is dead matter, this does not harm the animal. However, should the horn be consumed by humans it will cause side effects ranging from migraines, vomiting and diarrhea to permanent nerve damage. Hey-ho.

Chinese investors succumbed to the illusion that Beijing would guarantee ever-rising markets and that it was practically their patriotic duty to dump their life savings into equities. Likewise, their superstition about the healing powers of rhino horn powder which has never been scientifically proven. People of China, mark these words of Jewish Confucious Woody Allen: “What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.

China, please leave the elephants and rhinos alone. Thank you and namaste.


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