With the Shanghai stock market once again in free fall, desperate times call for desperate measures. One Chinese man who reportedly lost big on stocks tried on Wednesday to sell his prize alpaca — Big White — in what was either an attempt to raise capital or a thinly disguised middle finger to the markets.
The man, identified as Mr. Fang, took to the streets of the southwestern city of Kunming with a sign hanging around Big White’s neck: “Played the stock market and failed, mythical animal for sale.”
— Anthony Tao (@anthonytao) July 29, 2015
The Shanghai stock market has been on a wild ride for the past few months, soaring to incredible heights before crashing and wiping out much of its gains. The Chinese government halted trading on many stocks and forcibly propped up markets for some time. But this week the government-sponsored rally lost steam and valuations once again plunged.
Ordinary people who plowed their savings into the markets have taken a hit. The alpaca-selling Fang is one of those investors, local media report. After seeing the sky-high valuations earlier this year he put almost all of his money into the markets, he told Yunnan Net. But with some stocks plummeting and others frozen, Fang reportedly looked to the alpaca for cash.
— China News Service (@CNS1952) July 29, 2015
“If I didn’t need money badly I wouldn’t want to sell it,” Fang told Yunnan Net. “When I first bought it, it was just the size of a small lamb. After raising it for two years, I pretty much treat it as part of the family.”
Or at least a family member that one would be willing to part with for about around $15,000 (maybe a cousin once removed?). That’s the asking price Fang reportedly attached to Big White. Though this reflects current market prices for alpacas, local media report, it was enough to scare off buyers in Fang’s immediate vicinity. With the crowd growing around Fang, security guards arrived to escort Fang and Big White away from the scene.
— 中国大陆新闻 (@cnmainland) July 29, 2015
Despite not finding a seller, Fang may have succeeded in getting an entirely different message out. His choice of an alpaca for the sale hints strongly at a double-entendre: in Chinese the animal is sometimes called a “grass-mud-horse” — a phrase that is a pun on a vulgar curse on someone’s mother. Some Chinese microbloggers said Fang’s message was crystal clear: a profanity to stock market and its manipulators.
Fang could not be reached for comment.
The incident also bears many of the hallmarks of viral publicity and marketing stunts that have become popular in China. After the Shanghai Auto Expo banned scantily clad models this year, glamorous women dressed as beggars took to the streets of Shanghai to “protest” — and generate viral publicity for a weight loss supplement on the sly.
But many online commenters took the llama stunt more seriously, laying out business plans for Fang to sell the chance to take selfies with a llama instead of selling the animal itself. That may be more in line with Fang’s professed attachment to the animal, which he said he purchased from New Zealand two years ago.
“I hope that I can sell him temporarily to help get through this time,” Fang reportedly told those at the scene. “When things turn around I’m willing to pay double the price to get it back.”
Before being led away by security, Fang expressed his hopes of finding a loving home for his pet.
“If selling him means he would suffer, I’d rather not sell.”