Story of change

By Andrew Moody | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-14 06:52

Story of change

President of Myanmar U Htin Kyaw (right) with editor Li Mou at the book launch in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

James Stent's new book is an informative insider account of China's banking system, Andrew Moody reports.

James Stent insists China is not heading for a banking or financial crisis any time soon. The 71-year-old veteran banker says those who argue this underestimate the ability of China's financial managers to deal with the current pressing issues.

"Western critics are not wrong in identifying the problems. They are all real and big and challenging problems," he says.

"The only thing is by the time they've identified them, the Chinese have long since identified them and are working on trying to solve them," he adds.

Stent, who was speaking at the Beijing Jianguo Hotel, is one of the few foreigners to have firsthand experience of Chinese banks, having been an independent director of China Minsheng Bank, China's biggest private bank, and China Everbright Bank.

He was in the capital to promote his new book, China's Banking Transformation: The Untold Story, a brilliantly informative insider account of how the Chinese banking system works.

He says he wanted to address, in particular, the misconceptions many in the West have about the Chinese financial system.

"The most fundamental difference, of course, is that in America it is market capitalism, whereas here it is market socialism."

Stent, both engaging and soft-spoken, and who divides his time between homes in Thailand and California, argues China has more of a hybrid banking system.

"Western banks serve really one end, shareholder value and incidentally bonuses for senior management. In China, banks are not really very much about shareholder value at all, apart from that keeping a score of their efficiency and competence.

"The role of China's banks is to target money where it is needed and help meet overarching national goals. Hence, the annual reports of many Chinese banks begin with the chairman reporting that the bank has successfully supported national economic goals."

One of the major concerns about China is asset bubbles, particularly in the property sector, and the rising level of debt, which some estimate is now 260 percent of the country's GDP.

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