My digital artefact document and summarised my experience of trading shares on stock exchanges in China, specifically on those in Hong Kong and Shanghai, by means of a podcast. I utilised a share trading game to prevent risking any capital, and researched my purchases (using a fictional US$1,000,000) through stock exchange databases and the South China Morning Post to locate shares with proven growth and experience the differing investment environment of a communist country. A secondary goal was to actually make some profit on these shares – as indicated below, this was not successful.
Locating shares to purchase for the project, irrespective of whether the share was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK) or the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), required the use of either an English-language newspaper (the South China Morning Post’s finance section) or the use of Google Translate to translate English homonyms into Chinese to find popular stocks. Identifying that this reflects my own lack of experience with both the Mandarin language and the Sinophone world overall through a process of epistemological reflexivity, the final artefact is as such structured around these limitations (Pitard, 2017). Importantly, I was already familiar with the process of share trading – however, the different attitudes and demographic qualities of the investor community in China makes it much more complicated for an outsider (overseas investment limitations imposed by the Communist Party of China notwithstanding).
Similarly, my existing knowledge of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (the brand of Communism that governs the People’s Republic) developed the autoethnography produced as a layered account (Ellis et al., 2011) incorporating elements of a thick description (although I do understand that politics can be fairly dry when speaking in terms of theory, so I kept much of this brief beyond addressing the existence of a free market in a communist country). The thick description was further assisted by my voice-recorded field notes, narrating the process of my purchases – although only 50% or so of the final podcast incorporates these field notes, I found that discussing the political aspect came fairly naturally and as such allowed me to authentically capture the exact moment of an epiphany.
Fascinatingly, my experience of being a non-Chinese speaker overlapped with the experiences of the 6% of personal investors in Shanghai that are illiterate in their first language (that is, Mandarin) – as such, the project incorporated elements of a native ethnography through my own illiteracy in Chinese forcing me to research and use translation/transliteration software. This supports the nature of the project as a means of perfomatively dissenting against a regime; although Denzin (2003) specifically refers to crony capitalism, the same line could be easily adopted in regards to the functional similarities of the PRC’s economy to an oligarchic capitalist system, and its own failed adherence to the tenets of Maoism, specifically the mass line involving all people in the system, rather than the dictatorship of the proletariat espoused by Leninism (Tse-Tung, 1964). Much of my experience has been shaped by a strictly constructivist ontological outlook on politics installed by studying Marxism early in my political life and still possessing the ideology’s disdain for free-market cronyism (Marx & Engels, 1848).
As such, perceiving the PRC’s economy as functionally capitalist reinforced, in my mind, the unfortunate inevitability of capitalism locally when the system is entrenched globally. This formed the central epiphany of the artefact, building on my own negative experiences of supporters of socialism in my own life, with a secondary epiphany of, despite ideological differences, investors in China (particularly in Shanghai) used similar rookie investment strategies to those I used in both Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Denzin, NK 2003 ‘Performing [Auto] Ethnography Politically’, The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, vol. 25, no. 3, pp.257–278, DOI: 10.1080/10714410390225894
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
Marx, K & Engels, F, 1848, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Marxists Internet Archive, accessed 10 September 2018
Pitard, J 2017, ‘A Journey to the Centre of Self: Positioning the Researcher in Autoethnography‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 108-127
Tse-tung, M, 1964, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung – the Little Red Book, People’s Press, accessed 12 September 2018