Information about Asia and the Pacific Asia y el Pacífico
Chapter

VII Banking Sector Developments

Author(s):
Eswar Prasad
Published Date:
June 2004
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Information about Asia and the Pacific Asia y el Pacífico
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Author(s)
Steven Barnett

An effective banking sector is essential for promoting financial intermediation and the efficient allocation of resources. In China, this is especially true given the high saving and investment rates, and the central role of banks in financial intermediation. Indeed, banks are the dominant players in the Chinese financial sector. Banks carry out most financial intermediation as the stock and bond markets are still relatively small. In 2003, for example, the increase in domestic and foreign currency loans made by financial institutions was RMB 3 trillion (26 percent of GDP), compared with funds raised through the stock markets totaling RMB 136 billion (1 percent of GDP) and corporate bond issuance of only RMB 36 billion (0.3 percent of GDP). Similarly, at the end of 2003, the stock of bank loans stood at 145 percent of GDP, while the total stock market capitalization of the Shenzen and Shanghai stock markets was only 37 percent of GDP.

In parallel with the economy, the banking system in China, which is dominated by state-owned banks, has been undergoing a transition toward market principles. But the legacy of policy lending has resulted in these banks being burdened by a large stock of nonperforming loans (NPLs). Substantial progress has been made in recent years in improving the financial position and market orientation of state banks, but many challenges remain. China’s continuing integration with the global economy, capital account liberalization, and opening up of the banking system to foreign competition under the WTO accession agreement underscore the importance of pushing ahead with the ongoing reforms.

This section describes the present structure of the banking system and examines recent developments in banking aggregates, analyzes some of the main challenges and risks facing the system, and describes the reforms that are under way to meet some of these challenges.

The Banking System Today

The main features of the banking system are that it is predominantly state owned, is very large, and is growing fast. An international comparison illustrates these latter two points, as the ratio of credit to GDP is among the highest across a broad sample of economies and has also grown quite substantially since the mid-1990s (Figure 7.1).

Figure 7.1.Selected Economies: Ratio of Domestic Credit to GDP

Source: IMF, International Financial Statistics.

1 Refers to 2001 for India.

2 Average for the group of countries used for the calculation of the EMBI+ index, that is, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, and Venezuela.

3 Average for the following economies: Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

Market Structure

Government entities of one form or another are still the main owners of the banks. The banking system (deposit money banks) includes the four wholly state-owned commercial banks (SCBs)—the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), Bank of China (BOC), China Construction Bank (CCB), and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC); other commercial banks, also known as joint-stock commercial banks (JSCBs), which have more diverse ownership structures that may include subnational governments as well as domestic or foreign private investors (as of December 2003, there were 11 JSCBs); rural credit cooperatives (RCCs) that focus on rural lending; and several types of smaller institutions.1 In addition to the deposit money banks, there are also some specific depository institutions, which, for example, include the China Development Bank and China Export & Import Bank, but as a group their total assets are less than 10 percent of those at deposit money banks. The two banks mentioned above, along with the Agricultural Development Bank of China, are classified as policy banks and have a more explicit focus on development objectives.

China’s banking system is by most measures quite large. This is a reflection of the predominant role of banks in financial intermediation, the size of the economy, high household saving rates, and capital account restrictions that limit overseas investment opportunities. Financial institutions’ renminbi loans and deposits amounted to 136 percent and 178 percent of GDP, respectively, at the end of 2003. Total assets at deposit money banks amounted to over 200 percent of GDP (around $3 trillion). This figure is comparable to the size of the banking system relative to GDP in industrial countries, and well above most countries at comparable per capita income levels (Karacadag, 2003). In terms of asset size, the four SCBs were among the top 40 banks globally and were the largest four in Asia, excluding Japan (Banker, 2003).

The SCBs are by far the largest banks, although JSCBs have recently been gaining market share. The four SCBs together account for more than 60 percent of total assets, claims on the nonfinancial sector, and deposits (Table 7.1). Since March 2002, however, these shares have been falling, with JSCBs gaining roughly an equal amount. For example, in terms of deposits, JSCBs have gained and SCBs have lost around 3 percentage points in market share since March 2002.2 Next in terms of size are the RCCs, which have held steady at slightly above 10 percent of the market. All other deposit money banks combined account for less than 15 percent of the market by any of the above criteria. Foreign-funded banks, in particular, have only a small share, accounting for less than 1½ percent of the market by any of these measures.

Table 7.1.Deposit Money Banks’ Market Shares(In percent of total)
Total AssetsCredit1Deposits
March 2002Sept. 2003March 2002Sept. 2003March 2002Sept. 2003
State commercial banks65.062.362.761.268.364.9
Joint-stock commercial banks12.515.011.614.912.014.7
Rural credit cooperatives10.210.411.611.312.311.8
Foreign-funded banks1.51.31.21.00.40.4
Other10.810.913.011.67.08.1
Memorandum Item:
Specific depository institutions (in percent of deposit money banks)27.47.08.78.61.21.0
Source: CEIC database.

Defined as claims on the nonfinancial sector, claims on other sectors, or domestic credit.

Specific depository institutions as a share of deposit money bank total.

Source: CEIC database.

Defined as claims on the nonfinancial sector, claims on other sectors, or domestic credit.

Specific depository institutions as a share of deposit money bank total.

Recent Trends

Both loans and deposits have been growing rapidly over the past few years. The stock of renminbi loans at financial institutions grew by 17 percent in 2002 and by 21 percent in 2003 (Figure 7.2). Meanwhile, deposits also grew rapidly, with the system-wide loan to deposit ratio having fallen slightly to just over 75 percent at the end of 2003.3 Consistent with their growing market share, credit growth has been especially rapid in the JSCBs. For example, from Q1:2002 to Q3:2003, claims on nonfinancial institutions increased by 72 percent in JSCBs compared to 31 percent at SCBs.

Figure 7.2.Financial Institutions’ Renminbi Loans

Source: CEIC database.

The banks still predominately operate in local currency. Foreign currency loans have accounted for roughly 6 percent of all loans, a figure that has been fairly steady for the past few years. In 2003, however, foreign currency loans grew by more than 25 percent, somewhat faster than the growth in renminbi loans. Foreign currency deposits, in contrast, declined by 2 percent during the first three quarters of 2003. Concomitantly, the share of foreign currency deposits in total deposits has also declined to 6 percent, compared with 8 percent in March 2002 (when data are first available). Recent developments in foreign currency lending and deposits probably reflect, at least in part, expectations of a renminbi appreciation.

Regarding the maturity structure of RMB loans, most loans are still short term although their share has been declining. Since 1997, the share of short-term loans has fallen from three-fourths of all loans to around one-half, with a nearly concomitant rise in medium- and long-term lending (loans greater than one-year maturity) to roughly 40 percent by the end of 2003. Other types of loans that do not fit in either category—for example, trust loans, discount bills, or financial leasing—have been increasing fairly rapidly in the last two years.

Finally, as for the allocation of credit, consumer credit accounts for a fairly small but growing share of renminbi loans. Consumer loans grew by nearly 50 percent in 2003, which pushed up the share of consumer loans in total renminbi loans from 8 percent in 2002 to 10 percent in 2003. Most consumer loans are for individual housing, which, as of the end of 2003, accounted for three-fourths of consumer lending.

Challenges and Risks

Developments in the banking system have significant macroeconomic and fiscal implications. As argued above, banks in China play a crucial role as the primary domestic financial intermediaries. A healthy and well-functioning banking system is, therefore, important for promoting macroeconomic stability. At the same time, strengthening the banking system is also key for minimizing the prospective fiscal cost of bank restructuring (see Section V), which is largely related to the high NPL ratios. The state is still the primary owner of most banks, and, notwithstanding the lack of explicit deposit insurance, there is an implicit deposit guarantee given the importance of confidence in the banking system for macroeconomic and social stability.

In this regard, the main challenges for the banks are to improve their commercial orientation and strengthen their financial position. These challenges are interrelated, as improving the commercial orientation of the banks is a key step toward improving their financial health, both by reducing future accumulation of NPLs and boosting profitability. In turn, this would help redress the balance sheet weaknesses of the banks, and thereby directly lower the contingent fiscal liability. In addition, enhanced corporate governance and risk management practices would allow banks to better perform their intermediary roles, which would promote a more efficient allocation of resources.

History

The challenges facing the banks should, however, be understood in a historical context. The banks, especially the SCBs, primarily focused on allocating credit to SOEs based on government plans rather than commercially-based lending decisions. Many of these SOEs are now unable to repay the loans, contributing to the banks’ high NPL ratios, low profitability, and weak financial positions. In addition, the banks’ operations, procedures, and organizational structures were also geared to their historical roles and are still in the process of being modernized to meet international standards. Thus, the challenges facing the banks are in large part a historical legacy and an integral part of the broader economic transition toward a more market-based economy.

Due in part to their differing historical roles, the degree of financial strength varies across the types of banks. The JSCBs are generally considered to be the strongest, reflecting the fact that they are fairly new and, thus, less burdened with historical problems; moreover, some are also publicly listed or have some private ownership, factors that tend to contribute to sounder governance. The RCCs face significant challenges, which are in part related to their small size and their focus on generally small-scale agricultural lending. The SCBs bear the largest imprint of their historical roles, as they were the main banks used in allocating credit under central planning. Their loan portfolios, customer relationships, and operations were geared to their particular roles, which was primarily lending to SOEs.

The government took steps in the late 1990s to significantly strengthen the financial position of the SCBs. In 1998, it injected capital of RMB 270 billion (about 3½ percent of GDP) into the four SCBs. And, in 1999–2000, four asset management companies (AMCs) were created that purchased RMB 1.4 trillion, or 14 percent of GDP, in NPLs from the SCBs and the China Development Bank. The NPLs were purchased at book value, and, in return, the AMCs issued bonds to the SCBs, thereby substantially strengthening the banks’ financial positions. Subsequently, however, some AMCs have not always been servicing these bonds on a timely basis, suggesting that these bonds may to some degree have to be regarded as nonperforming assets (although not as NPLs).

Capital Adequacy Ratios, Nonperforming Loans, and Provisioning

The banks’ balance sheet shortcomings are manifested, to varying degrees, in a combination of high NPLs, low capital adequacy ratios (CARs), and underprovisioning. These concepts are all interrelated. For example, the large stock of NPLs creates a need for provisioning for potential loan losses, but provisioning reduces profitability and thereby effectively lowers capital (and the CAR). Viewed more simply, the high NPLs provide an indication of the health of the banks and, thus, the potential fiscal costs. At the same time, CARs in China do not always provide a meaningful indication of bank soundness, as they would fall—by a potentially large amount—if banks were to provision in line with international norms.

Recently, there has been significant progress in reducing reported NPL ratios, but they nonetheless remain high. Under China’s four-tier classification system—which is based primarily on the aging of loans and only counts the overdue portion of loans as nonperforming—the NPL ratio at the end of 2003 was 15 percent, down 5 percentage points from 2002 (Table 7.2). While the growth in loans—that is, the increase in the denominator of the NPL ratio—clearly helped in reducing this ratio, there was also a decline in absolute terms of RMB 160 billion 1½ percent of GDP) in the stock of NPLs. The ratio of NPLs to GDP declined from 25 percent in 2002 to 21 percent in 2003. Much of this improvement in the overall NPL position is attributable to declining NPLs among the SCBs. The RCCs have the highest NPL ratios, and account for 20 percent of system-wide NPLs (compared with their 10 percent market share). The JSCBs have the lowest NPL ratio at 7 percent.

Table 7.2.Reported Nonperforming Loans
Nonperforming Loans
In Billions of RenminbiIn percent of total loansIn percent of GDP
200220032002200320022003
Four-tier classification
Financial institutions in banking sector2,5572,40020152521
SCBs1,7211,59022171714
JSCBs16215410721
RCCs513505373054
City commercial banks10599181311
Others575210
Five-tier classification
SCBs2,0881,91726202016
JSCBs20318812822
Policy banks341336201733
Sources: China Banking Regulatory Commission.
Sources: China Banking Regulatory Commission.

The SCBs and JSCBs have also succeeded in migrating to a five-tier classification system, broadly in line with international standards. Under this classification, NPLs are higher, by around 20 percent or more, relative to the four-tier classification. The five-tier classification results in higher reported NPLs because the entire amount of an overdue loan is classified as an NPL, whereas the four-tier classification only counted the overdue portion (that is, the missed principal payments) as an NPL. At the end of 2003, the average NPL ratios using the five-tier classification stood at 20 percent for the SCBs and 8 percent for the JSCBs. These data corroborate the main findings from the four-tier classification—specifically, that both the NPL ratios and the absolute amount of NPLs have declined. Moreover, this continues the good progress that the SCBs have been making in reducing NPLs over the past few years (Box 7.1).

Beyond NPLs, the banks also have other nonperforming assets on their books. Nonperforming assets include NPLs as well as noncredit assets that are not performing, such as foreclosed collateral, and are thus by definition larger than NPLs. In addition, much of the outstanding NPLs that were transferred to the AMCs have not yet been resolved. As of September 2003, the AMCs had disposed of 30 percent of the stock of NPLs that they had originally assumed, which had a face value of RMB 1.4 trillion. Of these disposals, the total and cash recovery rates (relative to face value) were, respectively, 31 percent and 21 percent.

As noted above, the CARs in China should be interpreted carefully given the large amount of NPLs that are not adequately provisioned for. As high-lighted in Box 7.1, the CARs of the SCBs would fall substantially if the banks provisioned according to the rules that will take effect in 2005. At the end of 2003, the average CAR for JSCBs was 7.4 percent, and the average for the city commercial banks was 6.1 percent. It should also be noted that claims on SOEs were given a smaller risk weight than suggested by international norms, which also boosts reported CARs. Finally, given the huge number of branches and the magnitude of changes being implemented at the banks—including the new five-tier classification system—there is a possibility that the reported NPL numbers could be further refined.

Recent Reforms

China has made significant progress in improving the strength and institutional setting of the financial sector over the last decade (see Karacadag, 2003). Many of these reforms aim to further break away from the historical legacies of the state-controlled credit system and move the orientation of the banks toward one that is governed by commercial principles. Recent policy announcements, including the communiqué from the Third Plenum of the Sixteenth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, have also highlighted the importance that the authorities attach to moving forward with banking system reform. The commitment to open the banking system to foreign competition as part of China’s World Trade Organization accession agreement provides a further impetus for pushing ahead expeditiously with the reform process.4

Institutional Reforms

Institutional reforms have been implemented aimed at creating a competitive and modern banking environment, including one that is well regulated and open to foreign participation.

The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) was established in April 2003 to take over the supervisory and regulatory responsibilities for banks from the People’s Bank of China (PBC). The motivation was to more clearly distinguish between monetary policy and bank supervision objectives; this would also allow the PBC to focus more on monetary policy, including an increased reliance on market-oriented instruments. The CBRC set as its near-term priorities the reduction of NPLs, quicker reform of the SCBs, and reform of the rural financial system (especially the RCCs). Among other initiatives, the CBRC required that all SCBs and JSCBs adopt the five-tier loan classification system beginning in 2004—publicly listed banks had already been required to use it. More generally, the authorities have emphasized the importance of improving internal management, risk control, and governance of the banks while at the same time strengthening the supervisory and regulatory framework.

As a complement to the above institutional changes, the market is also being opened up to foreign participation. This should help improve the commercial orientation of the banks, both by promoting competition and facilitating the transfer of foreign technical expertise. As part of its WTO accession, China has committed to open the banking sector to foreign financial institutions by December 2006. In particular, the commitments specify that by this time all geographic restrictions limiting where foreign financial institutions may operate will be removed, any nonprudential restrictions (for example, on ownership or operation) will also be removed, and that foreign financial institutions will be allowed to provide services to all Chinese clients.

Box 7.1.Developments in State Commercial Banks

Evaluating the financial performance of the four state commercial banks (SCBs) illustrates the progress that has been made in strengthening their financial positions, and also points to some of the challenges that will need to be addressed by future reforms.

NPLs. The SCBs have made substantial progress in reducing their NPL ratios (see table below), yet the ratios remain high by international standards. While growth in the stock of loans—that is, the denominator of the NPL ratio—has contributed to this decline, there has also been an absolute reduction in NPLs; for the four SCBs combined, the stock of NPLs declined by RMB 170 billion in 2003 to RMB 1.9 trillion (with the NPL ratio falling from 26 percent to 20 percent).

Special mention loans. In addition to NPLs, the banks also have a substantial amount of special mention loans, which are considered performing loans but have a higher risk of becoming nonperforming in the future. At the end of 2002, the share of special mention loans was 14 percent for BOC, 19 percent for CCB, and 12 percent for ICBC.

Provisioning. A substantial increase in provisioning would have been required to meet the CBRC’s 2005 requirements. These requirements call for general provisions of 1 percent of all loans and specific provisions of 2 percent of special mention loans, 20–30 percent of substandard loans, 40–60 percent of doubtful loans, and 100 percent of loss loans. The table quantifies the increase in provisioning that would have been required at the end of 2002 for the SCBs to have met these requirements.

CARs. At the end of 2002, only BOC met the 8 percent CAR threshold, which is considered the international minimum standard and is the minimum called for by China’s existing laws and regulations (although there has been substantial regulatory forbearance in this regard). Moreover, if the banks provisioned in line with the 2005 rules, the CARs would be much lower.

Profitability. The SCBs’ profitability, as measured by international standards, is fairly low. Of note, in this regard, the 4 SCBs were in the top 40 banks in the world in terms of asset size, but none ranked higher than 700 (out of 1,000) in terms of return on assets (Banker, 2003). Nevertheless, all four of the SCBs recorded positive net profits in both 2001 and 2002.

Taxes. Notwithstanding their low profits, the banks are heavily taxed. Total taxes as a share of adjusted profit (i.e., total taxes divided by the sum of net profit plus total taxes) was greater than 50 percent for ABC, CCB, and ICBC in both 2001 and 2002. For BOC it was slightly lower, but still above 40 percent in both years. Moreover, ABC, CCB, and ICBC paid very little income tax with the business tax accounting for virtually their entire tax bill.

The 2003 balance sheets for BOC and CCB, however, should look substantially stronger. Each received a $22.5 billion (equivalent to RMB 186 billion) capital injection at the end of 2003. In addition, most of the SCBs have reported further increases in operating profits, which should provide scope to further strengthen their balance sheets.

Performance of the SCBs
Additional Provisioning3
NPL Ratio (In percent of total loans)12002 CAR2In billions of renminbiPercent of capital
2000200120022003TotalCoreLowHighLowHigh
ABC4237
BOC272822168.27.9196233104124
CCB21191596.95.812215695122
ICBC343026215.55.5415518261326
Sources: Bank annual statements; China Banking Regulatory Commission; and IMF staff calculations.

Data for 2003 are based on preliminary information.

Total or core (that is, tier I) capital as a share of risk-weighted assets.

Additional provisions needed to meet the 2005 provisioning standards using end of 2002 data. The low (high) estimates use 20 (30) percent and 40 (60) percent for substandard and doubtful loans, respectively.

Sources: Bank annual statements; China Banking Regulatory Commission; and IMF staff calculations.

Data for 2003 are based on preliminary information.

Total or core (that is, tier I) capital as a share of risk-weighted assets.

Additional provisions needed to meet the 2005 provisioning standards using end of 2002 data. The low (high) estimates use 20 (30) percent and 40 (60) percent for substandard and doubtful loans, respectively.

The WTO accession commitments also called for intermediate steps in some of these areas. Upon accession, there were already few restrictions on foreign currency business. Foreign financial institutions were allowed to conduct foreign currency business with all clients and with no geographic restrictions on their operations. Regarding renminbi business, effective December 2003 foreign financial institutions were allowed to operate in four more cities, bringing the total to 13, and conduct business with Chinese enterprises.5 Previously, renminbi business was restricted to foreign enterprises and individuals, as well as citizens of Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR. In addition to the commitments made under the WTO agreement, the capital requirements for foreign funded financial institutions were lowered, and the ceiling on equity that could be held by a single foreign investor was raised from 15 percent to 20 percent—the overall limit on equity held by all foreigners was, however, kept at 25 percent.

Specific Measures

Complementing the above institutional steps, several more specific measures have also been implemented recently, including capital injection, interest rate liberalization, and tax reform that should help strengthen the banking system. Notwithstanding the progress already made, there is scope for further reforms in each of these areas.

At the end of 2003, the State Council authorized the use of $45 billion of international reserves to boost the capital of BOC and CCB. The capital injection into BOC and CCB was an important step as part of a broader reform strategy for the SCBs. These two banks were chosen as pilots for the SCB reform, with the ultimate goal of finding a strategic investor and eventual public listing. As noted in Box 7.1, the capital injection will substantially improve the balance sheets of these banks and facilitate an acceleration of NPL resolution. The accompanying measures, however, are key for ensuring that the capital is used effectively and leads to improvements in the banks’ commercial orientation, transparency, and governance. These measures include upgrading internal management, improved auditing, more prudent provisioning, and closer supervisory oversight.

In order to operate on a real commercial basis, however, banks also need to have a degree of flexibility in setting lending and deposit interest rates. In this regard, the further liberalization of lending rates in December 2003 was an important step. The upper band on renminbi lending was raised and consolidated at 170 percent of the benchmark rate, while the lower band was kept at 90 percent.6 The added flexibility will allow the banks to deepen their commercial orientation, including by better pricing risk, and at the same time reach out to new customers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. Banks will, however, have to develop expertise in risk assessment in order to appropriately exploit their increased flexibility. There was no change in the policy on deposit rates, which, for renminbi deposits, generally must be set at the benchmark.7

Banks in China face a fairly heavy tax burden, which directly and indirectly impedes their ability to strengthen their balance sheets. The direct impact is that the tax burden reduces after-tax profit, thereby reducing the financial resources available to boost provisioning and CARs. Banks are subject to a 33 percent corporate income tax and a business tax that is levied on gross income. As illustrated in Box 7.1, SCBs faced a heavy average tax burden largely as a result of the business tax. There has, however, been some progress in lowering the tax burden for banks. The business tax was reduced by 1 percentage point to 5 percent in 2003, in what was the last of the scheduled annual reductions. In addition to the direct impact of the tax rates, the tax system also indirectly discourages banks from cleaning up their balance sheets. Banks are not allowed to deduct specific provisions from income for tax purposes, in contrast to standard international practice. This creates a disincentive for provisioning against NPLs and thereby discourages the banks’ from cleaning up their balance sheets. Continued progress toward a modern and fair tax regime would help promote the commercial orientation of the banks and also allow them to strengthen their balance sheets by earning a reasonable profit.

Conclusions

Significant progress has been made in strengthening and modernizing China’s banking system, but many important challenges still remain. Key areas of progress include improvements in the supervisory regime, including the establishment of the CBRC; the ongoing opening of the market to foreign financial institutions; expanded flexibility in setting lending interest rates; and the measures aimed at strengthening and modernizing SCBs, including the December 2003 capital injection into two of them. Bringing the institutional and regulatory frameworks up to international standards will be a key component of the reform process. Against this backdrop, the banks need to adjust to all of these changes and at the same time improve their balance sheets, modernize their operations, and prepare for the opening up of the market to international competition. Meeting these challenges will help ensure a well-functioning and healthy banking system that can promote macroeconomic stability and sustainable growth.

1These include urban commercial banks, rural commercial banks, foreign-funded banks, urban credit cooperatives, finance companies, and the Agricultural Development Bank of China. to GDP in industrial countries, and well above most countries at comparable per capita income levels (Karacadag, 2003). In terms of asset size, the four SCBs were among the top 40 banks globally and were the largest four in Asia, excluding Japan (Banker, 2003).
2Due to breaks in the series, these figures are not comparable with earlier data. Karacadag (2003) reviews earlier developments, which show a similar trend.
3The regulatory prudential limit is 75 percent. However, the definition of financial institutions includes some institutions, such as the policy banks, that are not subject to the prudential limit.
4China’s commitments call for opening up of the banking sector to foreign financial institutions five years after accession (which occurred on December 11, 2001).
5Jinan, Fuzhou, Chengdu, and Chongqing were added in December 2003 to the existing nine cites—Shanghai, Shenzen, Tianjin, Dalian, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Qingdao, Nanjing, and Wuhan. Under China’s commitments, Kunming, Beijing, and Xiamen are scheduled to be added by December 2004, followed by Shantou, Ningbo, Shenyang, and Xi’an by December 2005.
6Previously, the upper band varied by the type of borrower with the highest ceiling being 130 percent (applicable to small and medium-sized enterprises). After the reform, for example, with the benchmark rate at 5.31 percent for one-year loans as of December 2003, the acceptable range would be 4.78 percent to 9.03 percent. For RCCs, the upper band was raised from the previous ceiling of 150 percent to 200 percent of the benchmark rate.
7For example, as of December 2003, the benchmark rates were 0.72 percent for demand deposits and 1.71 percent for three-month time deposits.

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