Business / Economy

Banking crucial for improving system

By Su Zhou (China Daily) Updated: 2016-04-06 10:19

Ted Tokuchi has been in China for a long time, so long that he is highly regarded by the government as one of the few "foreign experts" who has been with China through its past 40 years of reforms. Likewise his views among his friends in Beijing's financial business circle.

In a recent conversation with China Daily, Tokuchi, managing director and chairman of investment banking committee of CITIC Securities Co, talked about China's efforts to transition to a slower but more resilient type of growth, after three decades of fast but fragile growth driven by exports and government investment.

Some people seem to think the transition should be simple, a one-off deal, like hopping from point A to point B. But Tokuchi said it is not as easy as that, as it is something "very large", "covering nearly all aspects of Chinese society".

This is because even when 70 to 80 percent of the people have built a clear consensus about the general direction, they may still have disagreements over details on the operational level, he said.

A case in point is reform of State-owned enterprises, where what economists recommend, what managers prioritize, and what workers wish for will likely all be different, even though they all agree there should be some reform.

Secondly, upgrading may be a "very, very long process", not just a few factories, not just one or two specific industries, but the entire manufacturing economy of the country.

Take a long-range view is Tokuchi's advice.

"It's just like what China went through in the 1980s and 1990s, at the beginning of reform. You saw it come little by little, eventually the productivity the whole of society was released," he said.

"That's why the reform was called China's second revolution."

Only this time it is likely to be harder, Tokuchi added.

"It requires the leaders to show tremendous effectiveness, to not only balance the different interests, but also push for the expected progress in a top-down manner."

Fortunately, the Chinese government has accumulated both rich financial resources and some political experience to keep the change process largely stable, he noted.

So, even though China is likely to be confronted by more difficulties in 2016 than 2015, it still has time to wait for its new economic drivers, such as Internet-based services and creative industries, to grow.

In the meantime, its local government debts, though a rampant problem, will not cause a nationwide financial crisis so long as the nation's banking system stays by and large healthy, Tokuchi said.

After all, he argued, the threat from local government debts still cannot overwhelm the power of a strong central government and a relatively healthy banking system.

And the Chinese government is paying increasing attention to the role of its monetary and banking system in stabilizing the whole economy and the process of its economic transition.

For example, the People's Bank of China has been relatively quick in learning to work with international bankers and financial organizations, he said, as the Chinese central bank is more effective in communicating with the outside world.

It is an important sign, because banking is at the core of China's safety and stability, Tokuchi pointed out.

"Banking holds the key to avoiding a system breakdown," Tokuchi said.

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