What is capitalism? Here’s the official definition: an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. In other words, it’s a system where people who work hard can profit from their work or worse yet, someone finds a way to cheat the system for their own benefit. With The China Hustle, the story is about a system of stocks and trades that turn out to be part of a massive fraud. Think of Madoff and Enron. Remember those stories? Writer and Director Jed Rothstein (Before the Spring: After the Fall) tells a terrifying story about greed, deceit and the shocking realization of a massive fraud that you’ve never heard of. The picture he paints is one of the scariest films that I’ve seen that isn’t necessarily a horror film.
People are always looking for ways to increase the size of their wallet, whether it’s through hard work or investing in the right stock, everyone wants to have a decent nest egg to live off of. After the financial collapse of 2008, things were looking bleak for investors when the United States was facing an economic depression. When you looked across the ocean China seemed to be booming. Cities were flourishing, the market was looking good and the prospects of hitting a gold rush seem evident. People flocked to the Chinese companies that had been listed on the American Stocks and bought shares like there was no tomorrow. But what happened as time went by? You can surely guess, even though it’s something that we don’t want to imagine happening, people were being ripped off.
How did this all begin? How could another massive financial fraud occur? Jed Rothstein introduces us to numerous players who got involved in the China surge and it’s here that they tell their story and this is one film that doesn’t have any good guys. These brokers invested their client’s money in these Chinese companies that would later turn out to be a fraud. Sure, they made a killing, but it was the client that lost everything. I, myself am not an investor in the stock. I don’t know how they work and yes I’ve heard of the expression, “Let your money work for you.” Thanks for the offer, but I’ll do all the work and let my money relax.
While I won’t dive into how these dealing were done, one thing is certain, it’s a story that you’ve probably never heard of. I don’t exactly follow the news closely, especially the financial news, but I do recall when Enron filed bankruptcy and what was the cause of that catastrophe. It seems that greed will never go away and that it’s the good people who will continued to be screwed over in the end. The plethora of people we meet are ones who made mistakes, took action, investigated on their own time and at their expense to uncover this gargantuan fraud. I got a better understand of what the SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) is supposed to do and how the SAIC (State Administration for industry and Commerce) proved the findings that resulted in numerous Chinese companies and their stocks to rise at an almost unbelievable rate only to crash and burn. I also got to know the term “short selling” and how the people we meet utilize this term for good use. Think of peeling an onion, there are multiple layers that will lead to the core. As each layer is peeled we begin to fully understand the scope of what’s going on. The pieces fit the puzzle.
Verdict 4.5 out of 5
I’ve watched The China Hustle twice now and I have a somewhat better understanding of stocks, trading, and knowing if I should invest my money; but in all honesty this is a scary story. It’s terrifying because people are affected. Their lives dramatically changed, and who is held responsible- no one. Criminals are walking around with your money and nothing can be done about it. As a documentary, The China Hustle moves along at a rapid pace, and I felt like an investigator in some sense trying to uncover the truth. This reminded me of The International, a film starring Clive Owen that is a fictional version of the BCCI fraud, of course that’s a movie but it opened my mind of how business is done in a sneaky and underhanded way, much like the real-life cases aforementioned. The China Hustle opened my mind and makes me extra cautious about investing in a company without asking all the important questions, even the ones we don’t think to ask. This is a white-knuckle experience that had me on edge and is one that you should not miss.