P2P lending an area of concern: experts
Amid ongoing efforts by the Chinese government to clear up the financial sector, experts have warned that the risks are mostly centered in non-traditional financial sectors like peer-to-peer (P2P) online lending platforms, where government regulations often lag behind industry changes.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said on April 25 during a study session that safeguarding financial safety is a "strategic and fundamental" mission which is crucial to economic and social development in China, the Xinhua News Agency reported on April 26.
"The basis of safeguarding financial safety is accurately determining the lurking risks. In general, China's financial conditions are healthy and the financial risks are controllable," Xi said.
Xi also listed six measures to guarantee financial safety, including deepening financial reform, intensifying supervision, increasing punishment for illegal activities and creating a sound financial environment for the development of the real economy.
Relevant government departments have already held meetings to prepare to carry out the measures, Xinhua reported on Thursday.
Xi Junyang, a finance professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said that the Chinese government has stressed the importance of financial security as it shifts its administrative focus from speed to stability.
"Another reason is that there's a public consensus that money has been flowing away from the real economy into the financial sector. This mindset has influenced top level policies, which have been designed to strengthen financial regulatory restrictions in order to direct money back to real industries," he told the Global Times on Wednesday.
He Jing, an associate professor with the School of Finance at Zhejiang Gongshang University, said that problems in the financial sector have always existed, but never before has the government paid so much attention to solving them. "It also shows the government's determination to combat corruption," she said.
According to Xi Junyang, financial risks have been accumulating for a long time and "are breaking out more frequently than, say, two or three years ago."
For example, in December 2016, domestic securities broker Sealand Securities was embroiled in a forgery scandal, as two employees used a fake seal to sign contracts with other agencies without acknowledgement from the company.
Also, China Minsheng Bank is suspected of fabricating wealth management products involving funds of 3 billion yuan (5 million), according to a report by China Newsweek on Monday.
But Xi Junyang noted that in the traditional finance sector, risks are still under control. "Despite problems like nonperforming loans, domestic banks are still operating in a safe framework. The risks in the securities sector are also under control," he noted.
The mainland stock markets have been climbing slowly but steadily since mid-2016 after tumbling dramatically around June 2015.
He Jing said that the main area of risk is the so-called innovative financial areas such as P2P online lending platforms. "Government supervision is unable to keep abreast of financial innovation," she noted.
By the end of April, there were more than 3,000 P2P online lenders with questions swirling around them, such as companies that suddenly shifted their business or that shut down with their leaders disappearing, according to domestic media reports.
"Survival of the fittest in the market is a good mode of development for the P2P industry, which will become a good supplement to the traditional financial sector eventually," He told the Global Times on Thursday.
According to President Xi, the government will take various measures to strengthen financial management, including cracking down on dubious business practices and urging financial institutions to shoulder the responsibility of risk management.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission on Tuesday fined an investor called Zhu Kangjun 270 million yuan for illegally manipulating the price of several stocks, Xinhua reported on Wednesday.
The China Insurance Regulatory Commission also launched a series of risk control measures on April 23 that insurance companies must conform to, such as prohibiting fake contracts.
Xi Junyang noted that the problem lies not so much in the strength of financial management measures as in the range of the existing regulations. "There are many 'blank points' in the current management systems as online and cross-industry investment are developing fast," he said, adding that the government should establish a special department to scrutinize large-scale capital transfers.