Let there be no more doubt about it. China is currently the dominant, driving force behind global markets.
And for irrefutable proof of that, look to the images the financial press is using to illustrate the latest global meltdown.
There was a time when the stock image used by news outlets for a global market crash was a floor trader on Wall Street (almost always a man) perhaps with his head in his hands, or with a kind of despair on his face that suggests he has lost a lot of money. Like this AP photo:
Consider the way the latest global market seizure is being portrayed by some of the world’s pre-eminent financial news services.
There’s a common theme in the pictures currently adorning those websites this morning: Random Chinese people looking very worried.
Take The Financial Times today:
Or The Economist, which uses this AFP shot to continue the ancient tradition of anonymous-back-of-person’s-head-looking-at-screen-with-red-on-it, only in China.
Even the website of The Wall Street Journal, that bastion of American business, is not (currently) leading with an image of the NYSE, despite the fact that the US market fell sharply overnight.
Images like this one from Getty Images are everywhere this week:
Or this one from AP:
To be clear, the old images of Wall Street traders are still being used in some places. And perhaps it shouldn’t be that surprising that the world’s finance press is using a lot of Chinese images to illustrate an unfolding crisis that is clearly Chinese in origin.
But it does feel strangely significant, like the passing of the torch in the way financial markets are covered, if not how they actually operate.
Over the past decade, citizens of China have embraced the stockmarket with fervour, which is at odds with the fact that the country remains, at least officially, communist. It’s the first time really Chinese investors feel the sharemarket rollercoaster in its full force.
And in previous eras, images of Chinese citizens reactions to crises (economic or otherwise) were relatively hard to come by.
To put it more simply, in 2015, random Chinese person looking worried is the new Wall Street guy looking worried
And that’s arguably a good thing. The images being used almost always feature ordinary Chinese folk, which is a more honest portrayal of who is affected the most than what has been used in the past.
By contrast, the use of New York Stock Exchange Floor traders to illustrate previous market crashes was always a bit misleading.
Not much actual trading takes place on America’s most historic stock exchange, which is located, literally, on Wall Street. It is mostly done by computers. This reality prompted the US website Marketwatch to declare last year it would no longer use images of floor traders in its reporting on market crashes.
It seems that is what is slowly beginning to happen the world over.