For China, a raft of extraordinary interventions into its stock markets amounted to one thing: a bid to tame the roller coaster, after months of eye-popping gains came crashing down hard in recent weeks.
On Monday, the first day of trading after a flurry of weekend policy announcements, it became immediately clear just how hard.
Though the bleeding stopped in Shanghai – which saw a modest, 2-per-cent rebound – it continued in Shenzhen, after a month of losses that have wiped out some $2-trillion (U.S.) in value from the country's markets.
"I'm losing confidence in the Chinese stock market, and my desire to leave the market is getting stronger," said Alex Gao, 30, a postdoctoral fellow in economics from Beijing who started buying stocks in April with his savings and money borrowed from his parents.
"The news said this year reforms might brew up a bull market," Mr. Gao said. He watched the gains pile on for two months. Then it all fell apart. "By the time I realized it was a crisis, I was trapped," he said.
For the Chinese leadership, however, the possibility of more balance in Shanghai and the hope that Shenzhen will also find a more stable footing may be good enough.
"I don't think they need a big rally. As long as they can stop the losses, they're probably going to be happy," said Arthur Kroeber, the Beijing-based head of research for Gavekal Dragonomics.
"This is not a government that believes in unfettered markets," Mr. Kroeber said. "They never have, they never will. They believe markets are tools to greater ends – and if things seem to be going out of kilter, they'll adjust things."
Still, if the coming days bring a further rout, China has shown its willingness to intervene dramatically to prop up share prices – suggesting it will use more firepower if needed.
"It is clear that the leadership has made countering the market fall a central goal," wrote Mark Williams, chief Asia economist for Capital Economics, in a research note.
Over the weekend, China unveiled a series of measures to cushion, if not reverse, the recent free fall in its markets. Among them: a central bank-funded inducement for investors to borrow more money to keep piling in. Big state-owned securities firms also pledged to buy billions of dollars' worth of blue-chip stocks and agreed not to sell certain stocks below an index-value threshold.
It was a window into the massive co-ordination Beijing can bring to bear to achieve its objectives. In past years, China has staged similar moves with real estate, first taking steps to cool price growth and then, when values began to tumble, reversing course to prod more growth.
As the economy slows, too, China increasingly needs a strong stock market to underpin its corporate sector and make its people wealthier.
But there is a moral hazard to what Beijing is doing, particularly if it is seen to put a floor beneath markets. That could condition investors to believe "that whenever you do something wrong, there's going to be a put, and you can keep on playing that game. Then the market will never mature," said Steve Wang, who leads research at Hong Kong-based brokerage Reorient Group.
China faces the challenge of encouraging a more mature market when some 85 per cent of those trading are retail investors, playing with their own money and drawing inspiration from rumour-heavy social media.
The burn of the past few weeks has created a demand for a political fix, providing backing to China's interventions.
Mr. Gao, the economics fellow, suggested that one of the government's roles is "to prevent crises from spreading. It's not reasonable to leave things fully in the hand of the market because the market sometimes loses its senses."
David Yang, 35, a chief executive of a small science and technology company, pointed to China's traditional emphasis on "harmony" and the need for government to preserve that. "The government must firmly save the market," he said. "Because A-shares" – those traded in mainland China – "have become as important as national security and social stability."
Yu Mei in Beijing contributed to this report