The rapid liberalization of Chinese derivatives markets has attracted a new breed of creative traders employing complex trading strategies that can generate quick profits - and an extra dollop of risk - in China's runaway stock boom.
Brokerages and fund managers are investing in mathematics whizzes and hardware, and moving servers onto trading floors to gain precious microseconds dealing in new options and futures contracts, helping China's CSI300 index become the world's most traded equity futures contract in May.
The introduction of new derivative products is intended to help investors hedge risk, but it also gives rise to the kind of sophisticated trading strategies that have made quick-trading "flash boys" notorious in the United States and Europe.
For the most part the strategies and the traders employing them are untested in China, where the derivatives market barely existed five years ago, and slick automated trading strategies can produce horrific crashes when they go wrong.
"Currently, there are many hedging tools in the market, but liquidity and stability is still a problem the hedge fund industry needs to address," Hong Lei, deputy head of China's Asset Management Association, told an industry forum last month.
"China's market is highly inefficient, which means it's relatively easy to produce absolute returns," said Ken Zhu, Chairman and CEO of hedge fund firm Scientific Investment.
Zhu, a graduate from Boston University and former trader at BlackRock, said he applies big data and quantitative strategies to beat retail investors in China, with an expected return of 20 percent a year.
"Chinese retail investors don't have any advantage over us."
Traders' advantage over ordinary investors was demonstrated on Aug. 16, 2013, after an apparent combination of software and human error at Everbright caused an unintended placement of buy orders worth 68.6 billion yuan ($11.1 billion) to the Shanghai stock exchange, setting off a short-lived 6 percent jump in the Shanghai Composite Index (SCI) and an ensuing "flash crash".
Everbright quickly hedged its losses using futures contracts, but ordinary investors who followed the trade were stuck with big losses. Most didn't qualify to trade futures and couldn't exit their positions as in China investors can't sell shares they purchased on the same day.
In 2015 the risk is amplified by a triple-digit percentage leap in the SCI. Chinese bourses have already seen three panics that have driven major indexes down about 6 percent in short order. On Thursday afternoon benchmark indexes suddenly plunged over 5 percent, wiping out 3.4 trillion yuan ($548 billion) of market value, only to turn positive again by the close.
Analysts blame the new volatility on the preponderance of retail investors in the Chinese market - unlike in the West, where institutions dominate - and to the fact that many Chinese traders are highly leveraged, which tends to amplify movements.