This is a joke, right?


When I read the first few paragraphs, I thought it might be a joke.

It read: “Oxford university’s latest professor is a top Chinese expert on mathematical finance who aims to understand how markets are affected by traders’ gambling and irrational risk-taking.” This was followed by: A new chair has been created for Xunyu Zhou at Oxford’s Nomura Centre for Mathematical Finance. Prof Zhou started his career at Fudan University, Shanghai, and he has spent the past 14 years at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Prof Zhou has recently developed mathematical models of financial trading in uncertain environments. At Oxford he aims to focus on the way psychology and emotion affect decision-making and risk control. “It is fascinating to see how mathematical theory can bridge the gulf between finance and social science,” he says.

But when I saw that it was on the technology page of the Financial Times, I took a double-take, and assumed that it might be serious, or at the very least, half-serious.

Given my recent interest in blogging about risk and how it is viewed fundamentally differently by US and Chinese businessmen, I thought that it would be good to bring this matter to the attention of my readers.

Prof. Zhou’s background in Shanghai is a good place to study risk. After all, it is home to the Shanghai stock exchanges, which are well-known for their, ahem, volatility. Anyone who has even the most passing understanding the Shanghainese know that the chosen avocation for Shanghainese over 50 is to talk about the stock market, especially what’s going up and down in the market. Fifty nine years of “socialism” has not been able to change that. By the way, technical analysis is big among Shanghainese; even cleaning ladies understand it and follow it. Then there are all the technical heads of TV, and now Internet served video, where you can get any technical analysis of any share traded in Shanghai.

If you want to start any conversation with any Shanghainese, all you have to do is say something like “Let me tell you why you should sell all your holdings in (fill in any SHA traded share here) NOW!”, regardless of whether you know what you are talking about or not. As a matter of fact, I know of some non-Shanghainese who use this methodology as a pickup line; it never fails.

So I was kind of wondering if I really needed to go to Oxford to get all that.

Of course, if Oxford really wanted to get serious about studying risk in China, then they should go to Macau. Maybe the Venetian would sponsor a chair for that?

3 Responses to “This is a joke, right?”

  1. I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    – Randy Nichols.

  2. trevelyan says:

    There’s a lot of truth to this. I remember moving to Shanghai from Beijing about a year ago and getting investing advice (unsolicited and not targetting any companies in particular) on the train from a mother and her daughter. They weren’t trying to promote any particular stock, they just couldn’t stop talking about the stock market.

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