China's school children take stock
New programme at school teaches students how to play the stock market.
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2007 19:09 GMT

Students were quick to understand the
new lessons on how to invest

Hoping to get rich quick, an increasing number of China's citizens have turned to the stock market.

Tony Cheng, Al Jazeera's correspondent in China, travelled to a school in the country's north east, where children as young as 12 are being taught to invest in their future.

Students at an elementary school in Shenyang are being taught how to play the stock market. A new programme is designed to teach them how to be a stockbroker.

Asked by Al Jazeera how his "investments" were going, Ding Chuan, a student at the Wen Hua Lu Elementary School, said his stocks had climbed to 20,000 yuan.

In video

Watch Tony Cheng's full report here

"Next year I want to be a millionaire," he said.

Xiu Shu Jun, the school's headmistress, who introduced the class to the students, told Al Jazeera she wanted her pupils to have an understanding of skills she knows they will be using later in life.

"We decided to do it because we wanted to give the children something more realistic and practical for national education," she said.

The students have been quick to understand the new lessons - buying, selling and how to get the latest information.

The "glorious" rich

But stock trading goes against almost every principle of Chairman Mao, who led the Chinese Communist party to victory during China's civil war, and he would probably be horrified to know that today there are more registered stock traders in China than there are members of the Communist party.

China has 90 million registered share traders, while the party has, by comparison, 60 million registered members.

These days, many in China are happier to observe the words of Deng Xiaoping, a reformist who later led the party but who never held official office. He said that "to be rich is to be glorious".

In Beijing, the trading houses are packed out, but not with the type of people usually thought of as being stockbrokers.

Instead, they are filled with day traders, individuals buying and selling in a single day and mostly investing their savings, who want to profit from the 130 per cent growth that China's markets have seen in the past year.

With the rapid expansion of China's economy, many see investing in the stock market as a safe bet. Not all of them understand that the market, especially one as volatile as China's stock market, can go down as well as up.

Many individuals who lose money on the market cannot really afford to do so.

While Al Jazeera was filming, the markets dropped and one man had to be escorted out by security, cursing as he went.

The government worries that, should the markets crash, this could happen on a much grander scale.

Dr Shen Ming Gao, an analyst with Citibank, said: "The government is of course worried about social stability, if so many inexperienced, retail investors invest in the market, then when the market corrects it will create some risks for those people."

Ironically, the largest communist nation in the world appears to have become obsessed by  a very capitalist pastime.

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