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China's Banking Reform

  • Dick Nanto
  • Radha Sinha

This article discusses the main problems facing the Chinese banking system and concludes that, despite serious problems, the risk seems small that, in the near future, a financial crisis will occur that will pose severe problems for the international financial system. An internal financial crisis, however, could occur. Without government support, the economic viability of many of China's banks is questionable. The government and central bank authorities acknowledge the situation and have taken some steps toward reform. The most serious threat to the banking system lies in the accumulation of non-performing loans (NPLs)--many of them policybased loans extended by state-owned banks to money-losing state-owned companies with little expectation that they would be completely repaid. China has been taking measures to keep the problem from worsening and has created four asset management companies to dispose of NPLs that still have value. Since the Chinese economic reforms began in 1978, Chinese authorities have made significant progress in modernising their banking system, although they still have a long way to go. However, there are several ameliorating factors that still keep its financial and foreign exchange system viable. China's continued high rate of growth and high savings rate have funneled deposits into the banking system, while a $20-30 billion annual trade surplus together with an inflow of foreign direct investment at about $40 billion per year have resulted in an accumulation of foreign exchange reserves exceeding $200 billion. China does not carry an unusually heavy debt burden, either domestic or international, although its short-term borrowing in foreign currencies has been increasing. China does not currently face a serious risk of either a domestic or international liquidity crisis--unless, of course, a severe and prolonged world recession occurs that adversely affects Chinese exports as well as the inflow of foreign direct investment.

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Post-Communist Economies.

Volume (Year): 14 (2002)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 469-493

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Handle: RePEc:taf:pocoec:v:14:y:2002:i:4:p:469-493
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