We have in the past attempted to take on the gargantuan task of exposing the multi-trillion Chinese Shadow Banking system (not to be confused with its deposit-free, rehypothecation-full Western equivalent), most recently here. Alas, it is has consistently proven to be virtually impossible to coherently explain something as decentralized and as pervasive as an entire country's underground economy, especially when the country in question is the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma known as China. Today, however, courtesy of AsiaFinanceNews we get a report as close as possible to the most comprehensive overview of what may soon be (especially if rumors of tumbling Chinese municipal dominoes are correct) the most talked about subject in the financial world: China's Shadow Banking empire.
From Chinese Shadow Banking System
China presently has five state-controlled megabanks operating within the supervision of the central government, of which the government is a majority shareholder, and seventeen additional “shareholder banks.” Because China’s state banking sector operates as a direct subsidyfunding channel for state-owned enterprises (as opposed to acting in the capacity of risk analytics based credit institutions), the largest state-owned banks have required periodic recapitalization every decade over the past sixty years as the constant generation and cumulative exposure to non-performing loans exceeds the banks’ total equity. The circumstances comprising the present situation, however, will include monetary exposure by international asset management firms which have acquired both direct equity-stakes in the banks as well as exposure to Hong Kong-listed shares.
State Control and Politically Mandated Loans
The banking system is generally considered to represent the weakest link in China’s political economy. Loans are typically a form of direct subsidy by the central government to the various state-owned enterprises. According to Victor Shih, a professor at Northwestern University who specializes in China’s political economy and is considered an expert on China’s banking system, prior to 1997 there had been no comprehensive audits, nor general ledgers, nor any capital stock at any of the five largest banks, as such was considered unnecessary. The central government, which controls 98% of China’s financial sector, maintains control over the banks in order to finance various political and socio-economic policy objectives, maintain capital controls and set fixed interest rates, comprising in effect a self-referential sector, resulting in inefficient capital allocation which deprives China’s small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”) of access to credit through the supervised banking system
Rejection of Western Credit Practices: Global Financial Crisis Doomed Reforms
The government halted and subsequently reversed reforms, and began moving away from western banking practices in late 2008 in response to the global credit crisis, ordering banks to originate loans to both local and centrally-planned investment projects in order to prevent a rapid slowdown in growth. The credit expansion undertaken by banks in 2009 at the direction of Chinese president Hu Jintao resulted in approximately $3.1 trillion in new loans created by the end of 2010.5 The National Development and Reform Commission (“NDRC”) fast-tracked and granted approval of virtually 100% of all fixed-asset investment projects submitted for funding by local governments. The NDRC was created to address the response to a survey by the central government asking local government officials to identify those projects for they had been unable to obtain credit financing. The role of the NDRC is to approve the projects rejected by the banks, thus in essence having approved the worst projects for financing in 2009 and continuing to approve such projects through the present
Read on below (full pdf):