Meet the mom-and-pop investors of China’s stock market

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Aly Song/Reuters

The Chinese stock markets were hit by a $2.8 trillion market rout earlier this year that Wall Street analysts say will reverberate through the global economy for months to come.

But in China, it wasn’t the big banks or brokerage firms that absorbed the brunt of the financial shock.

It was the “mum-and-pop” investors: pensioners, students, security guards and electricians, most with limited knowledge of their stock market. They make up 80% of all transactions on the Chinese market.

Reuters photographer Aly Song traveled through Shanghai during the time, capturing the moments of these ordinary Chinese investors as they go about their daily lives.

It’s a surprisingly intimate portrait of a nonexclusive community.

They gather at parks, play cards at the brokerage firm, or rally around a computer screen hitched on a bike to check stocks.

And despite losses in the stock market, many are still optimistic they’ll win it back, or express confidence in the communist party’s directions.

So scroll down to meet a few of these investors, who range from 16 to 90-years-old with occupations just as varied.

Captions and information regarding the traders comes from Reuters and Aly Song.


90-year-old pensioner Wang Cunchun watches news about stocks on TV at his home in Shanghai, July 14, 2015. “Trading stocks is my biggest hobby. I never wanted to make a fortune from stocks. I have 3000 yuan ($470) pension every month”, Wang told Reuters.

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Aly Song/Reuters

When Wang retired from a stationery store he didn’t have much to do. He first invested in stocks in the 1990s. He currently lives with his 60-year-old son in an around 10-square-meter apartment, Wang told Reuters.

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Wang Cunchun, 90, walks back home from a brokerage house in the rain in Shanghai, China, July 23, 2015.
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Aly Song/Reuters

Aly Song


His trading style also reflects his age. A notebook with stock information written down by hand is seen on his desk at home in Shanghai, July 14, 2015.

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His possessions arranged around his desk also give away his age — a magnifying glass and of a pair of glasses, along with medicinal pills and salves around the desk.
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Aly Song/Reuters

16-year-old Qian Yujie is high school student who trades stocks as a hobby and plans to study finance in college. He started off with 2,000 yuan ($315) given to him by his parents when he was 13. He only buys and sells during his days off. While he’s in school, he uses software to sell his stocks automatically once the price hits the number he presets, he told Reuters.

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Qian looks at stock indexes on his desktop during the summer holiday at home in Shanghai, Aug. 27, 2015.
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Aly Song/Reuters

The way stock information is passed around in China is a far cry from Western markets. Here, a paper with stock information written on it is shared by investors during a “street stock salon” in central Shanghai, June 20, 2015.

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Aly Song/Reuters

Investors listen to a man analyzing a chart showing stock trends, at a “street stock salon” in central Shanghai, July 4, 2015 — where nearly anyone can step up to listen.Most of these street analysts don’t have the big-name credentials or lengthy resumes.

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Aly Song/Reuters

Another Investor, Wang Ji, 29, recommends a stock to other investors at a “street stock salon ” in central Shanghai, China, August 29, 2015. It’s a highly social event — if disorganized.Wang told Reuters said he has been trading stocks for about ten years.

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Aly Song/Reuters

Shen Yuxi (left), introduces analysis software to investors at a “street stock salon” in central Shanghai, September 5, 2015. Shen carries a TV screen on his electronic bike to the “salon” every weekends where he sets it up on the wall outside a brokerage house. Shen’s been selling analysis software at “the salon” for more than 10 years, he told Reuters.

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Aly Song/Reuters

Mr. Zhou displays stock analysis software on a computer screen, on the back of an electric bicycle, during a “street stock salon” in central Shanghai, China, September 5, 2015. Zhou told Reuters he’s had seven years experience in trading stocks.

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Aly Song/Reuters

These “street stock salons” pop up everywhere in Shanghai, and in all hours of the day. For at least a decade, an area next to the People’s Square temporarily has transformed itself into a “street stock salon” during weekends, with investors from all over Shanghai coming to gather stock information and learn trading skills from others, Reuters reported.

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Lu Hai looks at a screen displaying a stock analysis software — a computer on the back of an electric bicycle, during a “street stock salon” in central Shanghai, Sept. 5, 2015.
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Aly Song/Reuters

It reflects the motley crew of investors behind China’s stock market. Gao Haibao, a 55-year-old electrician, started trading stock in the 1990s. He uses smartphones and computers to trade stocks from home.

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Gao Haibao (C), checks stock information on his mobile phone as he takes a break from dancing, part of his daily routine, at a park near his home in Shanghai, July 23, 2015.
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Aly Song/Reuters

He never seems to stop. He is captured here looking at stock information on his mobile phone as he climbs the stairs to his apartment in Shanghai, July 23, 2015.

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Aly Song/Reuters

Du Mingpeng, 50, is a jewelry store security guard and investor who started trading stocks because he wanted to make some more money for his family, on top of his salary. With about $4,700 as his capital, he has made $25,204 from trading stocks. Now even though the market doesn’t look great, he still believes with his experience he won’t lose money, he told Reuters.

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Du Mingpeng’s face is seen reflected on his electric bike’s rearview mirror, as he talks to his friend outside a brokerage house in Shanghai, China, July 22, 2015.
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Aly Song/Reuters

Wu Lin’an advises an investor on current trends in China’s stock market during a “street stock salon.” Wu considers himself a senior player in stock investment, and believes and advises others that the Chinese Communist Party will save the stock market and make people rich, Reuters reported.

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Wu (2nd, left), in central Shanghai Aug 29, 2015.
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Aly Song/Reuters

But aside from the street salons…

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Yue Banghai checks on his laptop on the back of his electric bike at a “street stock salon” in central Shanghai, Sept. 5, 2015.
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Aly Song/Reuters

There are also brokerage houses — air-conditioned buildings often used as gathering places.

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Investors play cards during a mid-day break at a brokerage house in Shanghai, July 8, 2015.
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Aly Song/Reuters

Investors’ water bottles stand on a shelf at the corner of a brokerage house in Shanghai, August 31, 2015. Most are a mish mash of reused pickle jars filled with tea or water.

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Winning isn’t guaranteed. This year, among the most turbulent in China’s financial history, its stock markets more than doubled in the six months to May, only to crash amid concerns that growth in the country, which makes everything from cars to steel, is slowing faster than previously thought.
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Aly Song/Reuters

Many investors have come back full of optimism, despite losing a large amount on the stock market rout. Earlier this year, Wang Fugui earned and lost a big sum of money on the stock market which he believes was the value of “a Mercedes car,” he told Reuters.

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Wang Fugui, wearing a gold ring and a bracelet, leans on a window at a smoking area of a brokerage house in Shanghai, Sept. 7, 2015.
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Aly Song/Reuters

73-year-old investor, Tang Youyu has lost over half of his money in the stock market but still hopes to win it back someday. He enjoys the atmosphere and the company of friends at the brokerage house.

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Tang wears a cowboy hat and sunglasses as he stands in front of an electronic board at a brokerage house in Shanghai, July 13, 2015.
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Aly Song/Reuters

Some are in it just for the money, others to help buy a meal. Then there are those who trade for fun or to spend time among friends.

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Investors smoke as they look at an electronic board displaying stock information through windows in a smoking area of a brokerage house in Shanghai, Sept. 7, 2015.
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Aly Song/Reuters

An investor’s bottle with a communist party symbol stands in between old-fashioned computer monitors showing stock information, at a brokerage house in Shanghai, July 22, 2015.

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The Chinese characters on the bottle reads, “To commemorate the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.”
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Aly Song/Reuters

Tang Weiguo takes a nap on chairs during a mid-day break at a brokerage house in Shanghai, China, June 16, 2015. Retirees gather in brokerage houses dotted around China to enjoy some company and savor the air conditioning on hot days.

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Aly Song/Reuters

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