Panic Buying in China Over the Years, Netizen Reactions

From Baidu Tieba:

The Things We Scrambled to Buy in Those Years


From table salt to cough medicine, from gold and luxury products to storefronts and housing, Chinese-style “panic buying” has never disappeared [consistently occurred], with the media claiming that there is nothing the Chinese won’t scramble over each other fighting for. Photo is of “panic buying” in the 80s.


For many people, the earliest and most often seen panic buying was during the era of shortages where people scrambled to buy cabbage for the winter. This photo is of 1985, where Beijing residents scrambled to buy cabbage in preparation for winter.


Photo shows people in the 90s scrambling to buy stocks.


Panic buying spectacle.


SARS and later H1N1 led to the shortage of Banlangen [a Chinese medicine, indigowoad root], with people considering it a “magical remedy”. This photo was taken in April of 2013, in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, where one pharmacy’s Banlangen had sold out.


Panic buying during SARS


During SARS, face masks became a “necessity/must-have”, with people lining up to buy them.


A scene in a supermarket during SARS.


An emptied-out supermarket during SARS.


On 2011 March 11, a 8.9 Richer scale earthquake happened in Japan, which caused a radiation leak at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Cities across China witnessed wide-scale panic buying of salt, and salt prices soared. Salt flew off store shelves, and many supermarkets put up sold out signs one after another. People then turned their attention toward soy sauce… later the rumor of salt being contaminated was refuted by the government and both demand for and prices of salt returned to normal. However, this led to widespread salt returns across the country, inciting heated debate online.


Salt sellers line up outside the store house belonging to Zhejiang Taizhou Jiaojiang Salt Corporation.


The salt panic buying crisis.


Edible salt supplies could not meet demand.


Aunties [older middle-aged women] who had managed to buy multiple bags of salt.


The cleared out salt shelves at a supermarket in Zhuji city of Zhejiang province.


A supermarket in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, an employee puts up a sign that “all salt at this store has been sold out”.


A supermarket in Kunming, where panic buying of salt by city residents happened.


Edible salt piled up like a mountain in a warehouse in Zhuji city of Zhejiang province, an ample supple in the warehouse.


In Hangzhou, salt sellers receiving new shipments of salt at night. In reality, salt was plentiful in the warehouses and were enough ensure a 3 month supply.


In a supermarket in Jinghua, Zhejiang, certain brands of soy sauce also encountered panic buying.


In a supermarket in Shanghai, consumers panic buying soy sauce.


In Qionghai, Hainan, city residents lined up to buy iodized salt.


Housewives scrambled over each other to buy [salt].


Panic buying of edible salt throughout the country.


In recent years, Chinese people have been buying up luxury goods around the world, and were considered a bright spot during the gloomy global recession.


In London, on Boxing Day two days after Christmas, many luxury stores began large scale discounts and price-reductions to entice consumers to shop. In the masses of shoppers were many Chinese faces, struggling in the packed crowds perhaps only in the hope of buying a discounted LV [Louis Vuitton] bag.


During shopping sales [like Black Friday], Chinese people in line waiting for the store to open.


This photo shows consumers waiting in line at a Hainan duty free store.


On 2007 July 25, international luxury brand Louis Vuitton opened its first store in Nanjing, with people rushing to buy LV bags where even the cheapest ones cost nearly 10,000 kuai.


At the scene of the housing unit lottery for the Hukou Relocation Community [housing built for displaced rural villagers whose rural homes have been demolished in the course of urban expansion] on Fozuling Street in Wuhan Donghu Gaoxing district, due to there being too many people, and in order to prevent stampedes, the local police dispatched dozens of riot police and civil police officers to maintain order. Fozuling Street Demloition and Relocation Director Wu Meihao explained that the Hukou Community has 25 buildings with a total of 2553 units, and 1500 households totaling 3750 villagers participated in this lottery drawing to obtain housing.


On the morning of 2009 August 8, in Hubei, Wuhan, hundreds of residents waited overnight to buy an apartment.


In Jiaozuo, Henan, thousands of people fought for housing. In 2012 January 26, a housing development in Jiaozuo began sales of units, attracting nearly a thousand homebuyers. After the selection of units began at 9am, the scene spiraled out of control, and numerous guards had to maintain order. Just after 1 hour, all 104 units were sold out.


Guiyang city residents lined up for 3 days and 3 nights to buy retail storefronts. A shopping mall in Guiyang began sales [of store units], and one after another the city residents and investors who had already lined up for three days and three nights got their numbers for choosing retail units, but because there were so many people and situation was tense, police too arrived at the scene to maintain order.


2012 January, Beijing, people lined up overnight waiting to buy the new iPhone 4S.


One of the customers who managed to get an Apple iPad.


Mainland smugglers rushing to buy milk powder before Hong Kong enacts purchase limits. 2013 February 28, several smugglers from Shenzhen brought in nearly a hundred can of milk powder. The “limits on infant milk formula exiting [the HK] border” announced by the Hong Kong SAR government were to be formally implemented on March 1st, limiting individuals 16 years and older to bringing only two cans of of milk powder or soy milk powder out of the region for infants and children 36 months or younger.


When Maoming’s chicken prices plummeted, city residents drove there to buy them up. Due to the impact from the H7N9 bird flu, Maoming’s live chicken prices began to tank. Reporters visited Maoming’s various farmers’ markets and discovered endless stream of customers buying chicken, even leading to a buying frenzy.


Employees distributing gold jewelry. 2013 April 25, in a nearly 1000 square meter gold showroom at a Hangzhou jewelry company, an employee who has plugged her ears to avoid hearing gold store owners begging her to distribute more gold to them [to resell] just barely evaded a gold store owner from “grabbing” some gold jewelery.


4000kg of fresh fish from the Diaoyu Islands was snatched up. A batch of fresh fish caught near in the waters around the Diaoyu Islands arrived in Shanghai, 4000kg of filefish, mackerel, anvil fish, and red fish were all snatched up by buyers.


When the Central bank issued 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party commemorative coins, city residents lined up to buy them.


On 2008 July 24, at the Beijing Olympics ticket center, city residents lined up to buy Olympic tickets.


In 2007, the Chinese stock market entered an era of stock speculating by the general public. This photo shows the lobby of a Hainan Haikou securities exchange, as city residents lined up to open accounts.


2013 January, continuous days of smog in Beijing made face masks a hot selling item. Photo is of the front desk of a hospital in Beijing, where city residents are purchasing disposable face masks.


2013 March, after new regulations were issued, a new wave of second-hand home buying occurred in various parts of the country. This photo shows Jinan residents lining up to register to buy new apartments.


Residents in Hangzhou buying bottled water at various major supermarkets. It was reported that after Hangzhou’s water supply was contaminated by phenol on the evening of June 4th, Hangzhou residents began rushing to supermarkets to buy drinking water. According to reports, at around 10:55pm on the night of June 4th, a tanker truck en route to a chemical plant crashed on the highway and spilled chemical phenol. Due to the thunderstorm at the time, some phenol washed into Xingan River leading to a partial contamination of the river.


Hong Kong residents lined up to buy salt. After the Japanese earthquake and nuclear power plant radiation leak, there was one rumor that radiation would contaminate ocean waters, and that sea salt produced from now on would also contain radiation; another rumor was that the iodine in salt can protect against radiation. Either way, after the rumors spread, many city residents panicked and all followed others to buy salt.


Lanzhou Transportation Corporation began to issue the long awaited Public Transit Card. At 1am residents already began to arrive to preorder the card from the Lanzhou Transportation Corporation in the hope that they can obtain the cards earlier. By 8am on the day the Lanzhou Transportation Corporation was scheduled to begin issuing preorders for the IC card, over 10,000 city residents were on at the scene to get their preorders. As the number of city residents in line increased, by about 8:40am, disorder at the scene in the face of exceptional demand prevented sales from continuing.


When Kingsoft antivirus software promised to give away 100,000 free copies to consumers, Beijing consumers waited outside major electronic shops. As time dragged on, order deteriorated.


A shopping mall Anhui Lu’an packed with shoppers. A shopping mall in Anhui province Lu’an city held a massive night sale and attracted over ten thousand residents. Cooking oil, toilet paper and other daily necessities were all snatched up in less than 2 hours.

Comments on Baidu Tieba:


Look at what Americans are panic buying. Whenever there are debates about gun control, guns and ammo fly off the shelves. Now look at China. I have nothing to say.


I remember in the 80s people were panic buying household appliances. Now that was really crazy, appliances being bought even without first opening the packaging.


The planned economy times went on for too long, there is still a fear of shortages. On the whole, it is an anxiety due to a sort of insecurity.


First: Only when the generation that lived through the planned economy era and are nervous about shortages has died off can panic buying disappear. Second: Only after a bunch of people are executed in a crack down on government-business collusion and corruption can the import of luxury goods cease.


I remember someone hoarding over 3 tons of salt.


Several years ago in Jilin, when the local chemical plant spilled into the Songhua River, one bottle of Wahaha water cost 5-6 kuai, and during H1N1, even thermometers were expensive.


What is the point of lining up for electronics? The price drops after a few months!


That time, I actually unexpectedly participated in panic buying salt. That morning, I went to buy groceries. We actually were out of salt at home, so I went the supermarket and discovered that there weren’t any, and even stupidly asked the cashier why there was no salt. Only after I got home and went online did I learn that all the salt had been bought up by people.

Comments on Baidu Tieba:


Chinese aunties [older middle-aged women].


Actually, it’s the same abroad too. Human nature.


China has always been a place of many people but limited resources; since we were small, we’ve had to compete to get into schools, compete for jobs, compete for girlfriends, etc… Ever since we were young, we’ve had the notion of “[fighting, scrambling, competing for things]”, so whenever something happens, the first reaction is to [panic buy].


All of this is embarrassing.


They also scramble to loot things from overturned trucks on the highway.


Written by Joe

Joe is a documentary producer and journalist based in Shanghai


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