China adds to the investors' menagerie

Bull and bear cartoon Image copyright Getty Images

Most people know that a bull market is one that's headed higher, trampling over obstacles as if they were hapless pieces of crockery in a China shop.

And they know its opposite is a bear market, which isn't so much a cute panda as an angry grizzly, ready to maul investors as they try to flee as plummeting stocks.

Many also know about unicorns; those rare start-ups that prance majestically on rainbows to a market value of more than a billion dollars, while rivals end up looking more like donkeys with carrots glued to their foreheads.

But they aren't the only beasts used to describe market activities.

As China becomes increasingly integrated into the global economy, it has been making its own colourful additions to this investors' menagerie.

Here's a quick guide:

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Crocodiles - a large crocodile can eat an entire horse (and may even try its luck with a unicorn, if it can find one).

In the financial world, it refers to China's major global dealmakers swimming across the national border with Chinese money to hook their teeth into foreign companies.

The government hasn't specifically said who these crocodiles are. But it is looking a little more closely at giants like HNA and Dalian Wanda, who have gone on massive buying sprees, swallowing Western companies whole.

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Grey Rhino - You can't miss a rhino. It's as big as a small car, with a thick hide and an intimidating horn. But mostly these languid vegetarians tend not to do much other then chew on leaves. It's only when they get riled up that everyone's forced to pay attention.

The term refers to obvious, clearly visible economic problems which get ignored until they start smashing everything.

In China right now, it specifically refers to corporate giants who are big, well-connected and powerful and yet potentially vulnerable too because of how much they've borrowed and bought.

Again firms like Dalian Wanda fit into this category. A cross between a rhino and a croc. Wouldn't fancy meeting one of those on a dark night.

Hunting rhinos: What Dalian Wanda saga says about China

Why is China so fascinated by unicorns?

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Ants - They're tiny, but look at how they swarm...

Once upon a time, all the ants in the world weighed about the same as all the humans (until our numbers and bellies swelled). The lesson here is that the little things can really add up.

Chinese officials have used the term to describe individuals who are loading Chinese money on their backs and marching it overseas.

The Chinese government is concerned about capital flight, and has a system of capital controls in place to slow down this line of ants, but somehow they find a way.

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Tigers and Flies - This is President Xi Jinping's rather poetic turn of phrase for corrupt officials.

The tigers are the powerful leaders, while the flies are the petty bureaucrats. President Xi used the term to emphasise a need to address corruption at all levels.

While not exactly a financial term, the integrity of any financial market is dependent on rules being enforced fairly and uniformly, instead of being distorted by strong but belligerent tigers or small but irritating flies.

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