Much is made of the cultural differences between China and the West, but some things are the same the world over. Unwanted gifts, for example.
According to state media, China’s pawnbrokers have been doing a roaring trade since Chinese New Year – just as their Western counterparts do in the post-Christmas period.
With traditional food-based gifts being replaced by consumer durables, it appears that pawnshops trump second-hand markets when it comes to realizing cash value.
All in all, it has been a good year for China’s pawnbrokers, with turnover rising 40% to US$12.3 billion, according to Ministry of Commerce figures.
The principal driver of this growth? The rebound in the country’s stock markets, of course, as punters searched for funds so they could cash in on the 130% gain posted by the Shanghai Composite Index during 2006.
The government has raised banks’ reserve ratios in order to limit lending; it has also told banks to do background checks in a bid to stop so-called auto loans being channeled straight into shares.
What next? An embargo on people pawning their Playstations? Or emergency measures to prevent the sale of grandmothers?