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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 06:44 GMT
New watchdog for China's banks
A police dog in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing
New watchdog for China's banks - but will it make a difference?
China's over-burdened banks have a new regulator whose job it will be to try to patch up a system weighed down by mountains of bad debt, state media reported.

The China Daily, the government's English-language mouthpiece, said Beijing had chosen Liu Mingkang, the man who led Bank of China's Hong Kong unit to market last year despite corruption scandals at its parent, to fill the post.

Mr Liu has a reputation as a "Mr Clean", an public advocate of reputable business behaviour in an environment where - many observers feel - sharp practices are all too common.

The new Banking Regulatory Commission which he will head takes responsibility for supervising the financial services industry away from the central People's Bank of China (PBOC).

Not yet

Despite Mr Liu's clean-hands record as a go-getter at Bank of China - he blew the whistle on nearly half a billion dollars in embezzlement rather than brushing it under the carpet - there are signs his hands could be tied.

China's state-owned banks are hobbled by decades of lending on a political basis, or to clients with good connections in the Communist Party, and the result is bad debts which some fear could run to hundreds of billions of dollars.

But the official Xinhua news agency reported on Monday that action on the issue would probably have to wait till next year.

The PBOC, Xinhua quoted one of its officials as saying, had yet to do a feasibility study on how to go about cleaning up the non-performing loans.

"So it is not likely that China will put policies in place within the year," the official, Wang Yu, was reported as saying.

Expensive

China's World Trade Organisation commitments include opening up banking to full competition by 2007.

Part of the reluctance may be because helping the banks could prove immensely expensive, following a cash injection into the four biggest commercial banks of 270bn yuan ($33bn; 21bn) in 1998.

Beijing has already taken 1.4 trillion yen in bad loans off the banks' books, but there is much more to come.


SEE ALSO:
China's new leaders outline challenges
18 Mar 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese budget sees record deficit
06 Mar 03 |  Asia-Pacific
China's mounting challenges
05 Mar 03 |  Asia-Pacific
China gets new central banker
30 Dec 02 |  Business


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