Black swan statue at Bei­jing shop­ping mall ruf­fles some feath­ers

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - Con­tact the writer at williamhen­nelly@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com Wil­liam Hen­nelly NEWYORK JOUR­NAL

When it comes to the fi­nan­cial world, a “black swan event” usu­ally is not cause for cel­e­bra­tion.

The con­cept came out of the 2007 book The Black Swan: The Im­pact of the Highly Im­prob­a­ble by Nas­sim Ni­cholas Taleb, a risk an­a­lyst and for­mer trader, and it was ap­plied to the 2008 global fi­nan­cial crisis. Black swan events are un­fore­seen oc­cur­rences that have tu­mul­tuous ram­i­fi­ca­tions.

The catalyst for the black swan fi­nan­cial event of 2008 was a high de­fault rate in the sub­prime home-mort­gage sec­tor in the US, which in turn took down many busi­nesses hold­ing that debt and its de­riv­a­tives thereof.

Taleb ar­gues that if a bro­ken sys­tem is al­lowed to fail, as it did in 2008, it ac­tu­ally strength­ens the sys­tem against catas­tro­phe in the fu­ture.

So that his­tory may have been why a black swan — a spray-painted bronze sculp­ture by Chi­nese artist Guo Jian — had a short stint in a fancy Bei­jing shop­ping mall this week.

The bird it­self prob­a­bly wouldn’t have caused a stir in the Sea­sons Place Shop­ping Cen­tre, as it placidly sat across from fash­ion­able stores such as Ermenegildo Zegna and Bot­tega Veneta.

No, this one was all about lo­ca­tion.

The swan was perched across from the of­fices of the China Se­cu­ri­ties Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion (CSRC), which over­sees China’s stock mar­kets.

Me­dia re­ports show sev­eral men in suits plac­ing a black cloth over the sleek statute and haul­ing it away, leav­ing a bar­ren stone slab.

“I don’t know who was of­fended by my sculp­ture,” Guo told Agence France Presse. “I have no fi­nan­cial knowl­edge and do not in­vest in the stock mar­ket ei­ther.”

He said the work was in­spired by origami. “I wanted to show the mys­te­ri­ous­ness and fragility of the bird.

“As an artist, I try to ex­press my thoughts on hu­man lives, from womb to tomb, in my work.”

Guo said he didn’t know where the sculp­ture was taken.

It was pre­vi­ously dis­played at an ex­hi­bi­tion in Bei­jing in 2014, and minia­ture ver­sions of it are avail­able on­line for $9,900, AFP re­ported.

Some Chi­nese so­cial me­dia users thought that the swan’s re­moval was an over­re­ac­tion, fram­ing it as fi­nan­cial types throw­ing their weight around, the BBC re­ported.

One ne­ti­zen opined: “Not only does the CSRC dis­like the black swan, the world’s whole fi­nan­cial in­dus­try hates the phe­nom­e­non.”

“Try to tie a bull in front of the door,” an­other joked on Weibo.

“This mall is pri­vate prop­erty; they can put up what they like!” said one.

“They’re suf­fer­ing from para­noia,” an­other re­marked.

An­other ne­ti­zen posited that the traders must lack con­fi­dence in their own abil­i­ties if they be­lieve a statue in a shop­ping mall holds that much sway over the mar­kets.

Maybe, but China’s mar­kets couldn’t avoid the 2008 global sell­off, as the Shang­hai in­dex lost 65 per­cent that year — and that was eight years ago.

China is only a lit­tle more than a year out from a do­mes­tic mar­ket sell­off in the sum­mer of 2015, which oc­curred only months after wide­spread in­vestor spec­u­la­tion had sent its stock indices soar­ing.

Agen­cies such as the CSRC had to take steps to stanch the sell­ing, such as re­stric­tions on short sell­ing and in­sider sales along with a halt to new com­pany list­ings. There also was a cen­tral bank rate cut.

So maybe this move could be a lit­tle superstition-risk man­age­ment.

GUO JIAN

Guo Jian’s sculp­ture of a black swan is pic­tured in 2014. It was sud­denly re­moved from a Bei­jing shop­ping mall this week.

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