INVESTMENT LIFE – CHAPTER 36

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INVESTMENT LIFE Translations

INVESTMENT LIFE – CHAPTER 36


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On February 1, after getting off the train and stepping into Shanghai, a metropolis full of adventure and opportunity, Chen Yuanming took a deep breath. Without the heavy haze of his hometown, this not-so-blue-sky, seemed to be sunnier.

Today was the first day the stock market opened after the new year. His train was behind schedule and he had failed to arrive before the official opening time. However, after returning to his hotel, Chen Yuanming flipped through the latest financial newspapers. The situation was still good.

On the first day after the new year, the Shanghai Stock Market opened on a high and the Shanghai Stock Exchange had become even more popular. Except for a few volatile new stocks, the rest of the market was rising steadily. At the same time, Shenzhen’s stock market was also performing well. It seemed like the entire Chinese stock market was booming.

In addition to this news, Hainan’s real estate boom occupied the pages of the largest financial newspapers. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, this was the first real estate construction wave.

Compared with the caution and ignorance of the real estate industries in the provinces and cities of the Mainland over the same period, Hainan’s real estate fever displayed a frightening rate of development. Of course, here, the impact of the southern tour speech was indispensable.[1] As soon as the slogan “Accelerate Housing System Reform” was announced, the bugle was sounded, and hundreds of billions of yuan in funds were poured into the coastal cities of the south, causing a violent wave.

With land prices skyrocketing, people no longer considered whether the cost of commercial housing had exceeded the prevailing wage rate at the time, or whether the residential areas, per capita, had reached saturation. Instead, they continued to add bricks to the land and squandered funds and labor for predictable profits. Even banks and brokerage firms plunged their hands into this muddy water causing a large number of non-performing loans to appear. It seemed that so long as real estate companies were given a crowbar, they could overturn the whole land of Hainan.

Because profits that could be directly seen were obviously more in line with the habits of Chinese people, a real estate craze, that was even more fanatical than the prior stock market craze, broke out.

Chen Yuanming looked at the newspaper in front of him and shook his head gently. He did not know just how many people will fall into this trap.

At the opening of the stock market the next day, Chen Yuanming arrived early at the large family room. To his surprise, he found that there were two people already sitting in the cubicle. It was Xiao Yun and his nephew. Seeing Chen Yuanming’s figure, Xiao Yun stood up with a smile.

“Yuanming, back from home? How was the New Year?”

Chen Yuanming smiled, “Seeing the stock market so red, naturally I’m fine.”

This sentence caused Xiao Yun to smile knowingly. At this time, Xiao Junyi also came over and said hello to Chen Yuanming.

Xiao Yun patted his nephew’s shoulder with a smile. “This kid still has a few days left in his annual vacation, so he came to Shanghai to accompany his grandmother. I decide to let him follow me here, you don’t mind, do you?”

“No, I don’t mind.” Intuitively, Chen Yuanming neither liked nor disliked this boy, so of course he certainly didn’t care about his existence.

After chatting for a while, the group sat back on the sofa and studied the broader market.

The opening was still strong, but in the last half of the prior month, the two of them had no longer engaged in short selling the stocks on their books and were just waiting for a high point. Drinking tea, reading newspapers, talking about the market, their day seemed to have returned to their former leisurely attitude. Sitting this way until 11 o’clock, Xiao Junyi glanced at Chen Yuanming’s indifferent expression, and finally couldn’t help it.

“Uncle.” He whispered, interrupting his uncle’s focus. “Didn’t you tell the family you were going to withdraw from the stock market?”

Although his voice was not loud, the cubicle was narrow and, attracted by the topic, Chen Yuanming naturally looked over. “Brother Xiao, you plan on withdrawing?”

Xiao Yun glanced at his nephew with some annoyance. He had planned to talk to Chen Yuanming about this at dinner in the evening and he had not expected the issue to be brought up at this time. This was not a good topic. But the words were already out, so there was no point in concealing it. A bitter smile appeared on his face and Xiao Yun leaned back lazily on the sofa.

“The old man has spoken, and he will not let me play in the muddy waters of the stock market anymore. He says it is immoral.”

This reason was neither serious nor trivial, so it was difficult to understand what the other party actually meant. Chen Yuanming smiled, “What does he mean by immoral? We have not harmed anyone.”

“I don’t even want to talk about it.  It is just that in the past six months, there have been people around the old man and my eldest brother who have fallen into the stock market trap. Some embezzled corporate funds, some used bank assets, and some abused their powers…. Good comrades, who had good work ethic, all lost their heads because of money. It is rather sad. The old man couldn’t stand it anymore and is treating the stock market like the scourge. “

There was really nothing Chen Yuanming could say about this. There were too many of such precedents in the stock market. The glamorous allure of money caused people to do desperate things. The more powerful they were, the more likely they were to lose their heads. But this was not the real reason for withdrawal, was it? This bull market wave would likely only last three months. At most, by mid-February the market will begin to fall. Moreover, there will also be extremely strict policy tightening to follow. Xiao Yun’s withdrawal was a bit too coincidental.

Xiao Yun looked up at the teenager near him and smiled softly, “How about having lunch together at noon. How does Huanghe Road sound?”

1993 was the time when business at the Huanghe Road Food Street[2] began to flourish. More and more restaurants had opened, and everything was readily available, especially luxury seafood dishes. As the city was a fairly famous center point of the financial world, their target customers were the winners of the stock market, who had become rich overnight in Shanghai.

On receiving this abrupt lunch invitation, Chen Yuanming understood that the other party wanted to discuss topics that were not appropriate to bring up in the large family room, so of course he willingly agreed.

After the market closed at noon, the three walked towards Huanghe Road together. At this point, Xiao Yun was also aware of Chen Yuanming’s quirks, so when they went out together, they usually walked and never rode in a car. Along the way, Chen Yuanming saw a few familiar faces from the stock market. Most were upstarts with the same arrogance, oily heads, sunglasses of various colors, gold chains and leather clothes. A few had disregarded the cold February air to stand outside and use their brick-like machines to chat.

The mobile phones of this era, the so-called “Big Brother[3]” phones, had swept Shanghai. Most were the Motorola 3200 which had a market price of more than 20,000 yuan. It’s price on the black market was about 50,000 to 60,000 yuan. The net weight of the phone was more than a pound, and its power lasted only 10 hours. In addition, the call quality was extremely bad, and the number of signal towers pitiful. The cost to performance ratio was simply unbearable, yet such a thing was synonymous with identity and status

Chen Yuanming held back a bitter smile. What else could they do? This was China now. The mobile communications industry was still a blank slate. If he could enter this field, there would be incalculable wealth waiting for him, but it may be a bit too late to start from scratch.[4] In 1992, the output value of Huawei[5] was already estimated to have exceeded 100 million yuan. The kind of momentum the Huawei team had was definitely not something that could be built overnight …

While thinking wildly, Chen Yuanming followed Xiao Yun into a hotel and entered a packed a private room on the second floor. He randomly selected a few recent popular dishes, steeped some Longjing[6], and the conversation finally got to the point.

“Yuanming, you didn’t comment on what I said just now, do you have any plans?” Xiao Yun started the conversation because he wanted to ask this question. Although he didn’t say it directly, Chen Yuanming didn’t seem to oppose his withdrawal from the city. Were the recent gains also dangerous in his eyes?

It was not surprising for a person to know things in advance. Today’s stock market relied on policy support, and when things were within the system, the easier it was to obtain benefits. But this was not what was weird about Chen Yuanming. Rather, he was the kind of trader that was accurate to the day. While he, Xiao Yun, knew what the general trends were and could exit the market early, or enter in advance when the situation appeared favorable, this boy always chose to enter right before any rise and fall. What was the probability of always selling at the highest point and buying at the lowest point? It seemed that the K-line chart of the stock market was not merely a line in his eyes, but rather a bank account with a date. This was by no means mere policy foresight, but a more wonderful ability. So, it was no exaggeration to call him a stock market genius.

Chen Yuanming took a sip of tea. “Yes. I had planned to throw it[7] away mid-February. I originally wanted to give Brother Xiao a reminder, but I did not expect that this time you would beat me to it.”

Really. Xiao Yun sighed from the bottom of his heart. He had actually wanted to stick around till the end of February but now it seemed that his journey north had to be brought forward.

“You’ve heard the news as well … As soon as this General Assembly is held, things will change. The old man has already issued a strict order for me to retreat as soon as possible.”

General Assembly? Chen Yuanming was stunned for a moment and then immediately reacted. This was the March People’s Congress meeting. If you used this as a starting point, the deduction was not wrong. From this session came the infamous iron-fisted Prime Minister of later generations. In 1993, 16 macro-control measures were implemented which immediately curbed the housing boom in Hainan and triggered a bear market lasting two years. In 1994, the stock market stopped issuing new shares and that policy rescued the market. In 1995, there was the 3.27 national debt futures crisis. It was not until the economic soft landing in 1997 that the stock market gradually recovered. In these long years, other than the extremely short-term rising market, the various back and forth actions were dark and turbulent, how could normal people set foot in this territory.

Understanding the other party’s reasons, this retreat was reasonable. Chen Yuanming smiled, “The old man is right, I guess I also have to find another way out for the next few years. Brother Xiao, what are your plans?”

Hearing this, Xiao Yun’s brow twitched, and he shook his head helplessly. “I thought about it for a long time, and finally decided to return to my hometown. The three eastern provinces are the foundation of our family. In recent years, disarmament has flourished, and many military factories have begun to find other paths. I want to spend this money, but it seems it will rot in the pot.”[8]

Upon hearing this, Chen Yuanming could understand why the other party was shaking his head. The military industrial complex was indeed in the pockets of the military leaders. Naturally, they will not choose an outsider with an unknown identity as a cooperation partner. Besides, even if Xiao Yun was interested in cooperating, Chen Yuanming would not involve himself in the military-civilian conversion program because if you think about it, though the other party’s long-term prospects were really on the bright side, what was the line of business of the military industry …

Chen Yuanming’s heart jumped and he frowned suddenly. Yes! Why didn’t he think of it!?

Knocking his fingertips twice on the table, Chen Yuanming suddenly raised his head. “Brother Xiao, if you don’t want to give up, can you tell me what kind of products are the main focus of the military factories that are being converted?”

Xiao Yun frowned. While saying this was not prohibited, it was a bit embarrassing. Xiao Yun hesitated for a moment and finally sighed, “What else can it be, but bicycles, home appliances or things like that There are still people who want to make cars, and have invested a lot of money into it, but I have not heard any noise so far. “

Chen Yuanming laughed. “This does not reflect the advantages of military industry.”

Why not … in this system, no one knew the minds of the elder brothers above better than Xiao Yun. After being out of the market for so long they now almost always immediately invested in whatever they saw make money.  Many production lines had been opened, one after another, but few earned money. Their sales and management systems were in a mess causing the originally powerful factories to be in dire straits. But what else could he do, while he had good skills, he was confused about where to invest. But listening to Chen Yuanming …

“Why, do you have any ideas?”

“I can’t talk mature ideas yet, but what is the point of the conversion from military to civilian? In the final analysis, the goal is to apply the strengths of military industry and its strong scientific and technological forces to civilian products. Who cannot do color TV’s, refrigerators, and bicycles? The military industrial chain cannot compete with private enterprises so naturally, they will be completely defeated. But the military industry also has its advantages. The quality of its technology is ahead of civilian technology by more than one step. If these advantages can be transformed into productivity…?”

Xiao Yun slowly sat up straight. Naturally, the advantages of the military industry need not be said, but at the same time there were too many restrictions. To convert military technology to civilian use one will face not only idea and policy constraints, but it also required a lot of precision. As such, having a concrete direction was even more critical. If a wrong choice was made, the price paid will be far higher than that of all civilian production lines. It could even relate to the survival of the military factory itself. But on the contrary, what if it succeeded?

Seeing that the other party had fully understood what he meant, Chen Yuanming stopped trying to entice him and threw out the answer directly. “I think mobile communication is a good investment direction.”

Mobile communication … After hearing this word, Xiao Yun paused for a long time, but didn’t know what it meant. Xiao Junyi, who was sitting next to him, chuckled out loud, “You want to be a Big Brother?”

As soon as this common name was said, Xiao Yun understood immediately, and then his eyes lit up. Yes, if it was this kind of mobile communication, then the military was really very familiar with it. Ground warfare, aviation, or aerospace could not be separated from communications. The military had a sufficiently mature system of mobile battlefield stations, independent military communication bands, radio and satellite signals. Even as far as he was aware, his elder brother had a military factory that specialized in making radio transmitters[9], and the technology was quite good.

However, Xiao Yun wasn’t immediately carried away and raised the most critical point, “But this Big Brother needs private communication networks, right?” The current civilian mobile communication network was not perfect. Even the Big Brothers had base stations in only a few large cities. If you wanted to develop your own base station, you would have to compete with advanced technology from abroad and that pressure was too great.

Chen Yuanming shook his head. “It’s not a Big Brother, it is more like … uh, an extension of a landline phone. You can use the local wireless landline network, but it can be taken out of the home just like a Big Brother.”

That’s right, what Chen Yuanming was thinking about was an item that remained popular for more than ten years with later generations: PHS (Personal Handyphone System)[10].

The communication signals for real mobile phones were currently inaccessible. However, PHS was essentially a continuation of the local dial-up, which had various restrictions and shortcomings. However, in the decade from 1996 to 2006, PHS almost dominated the entire Chinese mobile communications market. In this era, China Unicom and China mobile had not become giants, as such PHS, which straddled the fringes of policy, had occupied the Chinese market by virtue of its low price and strong operability.

And if he remembered correctly, this technology was actually transmitted from Japan. It had been successfully developed as early as 1993 or 1994, but it did not achieve a good market response in Japan. It was only after the technology settled in China in 1996 that it produced fruitful results. In other words, this technology could already be mastered by the military, so what about its civilian use? Was it not only a question of piercing a window paper? Not to mention with the quality of military supplies, it was not impossible to recreate a Nokia[11] in China.

“Landline, local calls, wireless, Big Brother …” These few words turned over and over in Xiao Yun’s mouth. His heart really heated up. How many landlines were available in China now? How many more will there be in the future? If this deal could really happen, it was not a matter of small profits, but a true shiny golden road!

The food on the table was already cold, but rapids boiled over in their chests and a tidal wave seemed to tear through the little elegant room.

Xiao Junyi exhaled deeply as he looked at the two men in front him who were chatting vigorously. These were just a few words but if this matter was really done, how should his uncle, or even his own family, treat the teenager in front of him …

This little guy was so interesting!

The author has something to say:

PHS, which means wireless local telephone (PAS), achieves wireless coverage through micro cellular base station, and connects the user end (i.e. wireless local phone) to the local telephone network wirelessly, so that the traditional fixed telephone is no longer fixed one position, and can be freely used within the scope of wireless network coverage. Answering and dialing local, domestic and international calls is possible anytime and anywhere. It is an effective extension and supplement of local dial-ups. (this is from Baidu Encyclopedia)

PHS was originally operated by the WLL group. It was developed and marketed in 1993 and introduced to China in 1996. So, in theory, the technology at that time was enough to produce it. = W =

Nokia originally produced military products, so its shell case was extremely hard. Legend on the internet has it that breaking a Nokia was a good way to demonstrate one’s anger and so on.

Translator Notes

These tidbit filled chapters are the sort of chapters I love in this novel! I always end up in a google rabbit hole trying to find out what things looked like back then.


[1] Recall that that the then Chinese premier Deng Xiaoping had gone on a tour of the south and the speeches he made marked the beginning of market reform.

[2] Shanghai Huanghe Road Food Street current image.

Huanghe Road is a north-south road that runs northwest of Huangpu District, Shanghai, China, starting from Nanjing West Road in the south and Xinzha Road in the north. It is 755 meters long and 9.1 meters to 15.5 meters wide. It is located in the north corner of People`s Square. Huanghe Road was formerly known as Dongtai Road and Park Road. In 1993, Huanghe Road was developed as a food street, specializing in home cooking. Huanghe Road Food Street has an excellent reputation among the people and is well-known throughout the country. https://www.dreamstime.com/shanghai-huanghe-road-food-street-huanghe-road-north-south-road-runs-northwest-huangpu-district-shanghai-china-image183954755

[3] A Big Brother “Motorola 3200” phone . See https://news.cgtn.com/news/7a45544e7a494464776c6d636a4e6e62684a4856/share_p.html

[4] This was accurate because per Wiki “China imported its first mobile phone telecommunication facilities in 1987 and it took a decade for the number of subscribers to reach 10 million. Four years later, in 2001, the country had the largest number of mobile phone subscribers in the world”. Thus, by 1993 our protagonist was already 5 years late to the game.

[5] Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. is a Chinese multinational technology company headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong. It designs, develops, and sells telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics.

The company was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former Deputy Regimental Chief in the People’s Liberation Army

[6] Longjing, a famous green tea produced in Hangzhou

[7] Meaning to sell and exit the market

[8] If you read the history of Huawei on Wikipedia this is likely what Xiao Yun is describing. Huawei was started by a former deputy director of the engineering corps of the chinese army Likely as part of te military to civilian conversion efforts.  

[9] Similarly, Huawei started by making phone switches

[10] PHS (Personal Handyphone System) is a low-powered wireless phone technology developed in Japan and rather different from other cellular phone technologies. It is essentially, a cordless telephone, with the capability to handover from one cell to another. PHS cells are small, with transmission power of base station a maximum of 500 mW and range typically measures in tens or at most hundreds of meters (some can range up to about 2 kilometres in line-of-sight), as opposed to the multi-kilometer ranges of GSM. This makes PHS suitable for dense urban areas, but impractical for rural areas, and the small cell size also makes it difficult if not impossible to make calls from rapidly moving vehicles. https://www.myjapanphone.com/Japan_cell_phone/phs.html

[11] Nokia is known to be good quality and pretty indestructible


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3 Comments on INVESTMENT LIFE – CHAPTER 36Tagged , , , ,
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Amanda
Amanda
4 months ago

Is there by any chance a patreon for advanced chapters. Im dying.

MariAkki
MariAkki
3 months ago

Damn I didn’t know Huawei was that old! I like chapters like this too 🙂

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