The roulette game all started in the fall of 2014, about 2 years after Chairman Xi Jinping came to power and became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China.
Xi Jinping had campaigned for socialist economic reform, including a sweeping anti-corruption drive, cutting excess production capacity, tightening of housing credit, and clamping down on gaming in Macau. Public feedback was initially positive. However, largely as a result of those policies, Beijing was facing an increasingly grim economic growth outlook which was the worst in more than two decades*. Manufacturing activity in China slowed along with the global economy and the construction sector stagnated.
In late 2014, the light bulb came on – someone in the higher echelon ranks thought the stock market could be a penicillin to the economic and social malaise. The stock market is easily accessible to the public and can serve to fill/occupy their free time. A rising stock market provides a desirable savings vehicle (as opposed to low yield bonds), enables listed companies to raise capital and invest, while local governments and banks can piggy-back on the taxes and fees generated.
As reported by China Daily Asia on September 5, 2014:
“State-run media in China are trying to do something the securities industry has failed to accomplish for much of the past three years: get the world’s biggest population to buy more stocks.
The Xinhua News Agency published at least eight articles this week advocating equity investing after similar stories appeared in the People’s Daily newspaper and on State-run television last month, part of what Everbright Securities Co said is an increased government push to bolster the market. Authorities have also cut trading fees, made it cheaper to open new accounts and organized investor presentations by the biggest listed banks…”1
1 “State media campaign aimed at getting investors to buy equities” China Daily Asia (September 5, 2014).
The banks started margin lending, a practice that’s has been prohibited since 2007.
The results speaks for themselves: