China moves to tame its 'gray rhinos'

Updated 2017-12-18 08:30:17 Xinhua
(Xinhua file photo)

(Xinhua file photo)

"Gray rhinos" have become the most hunted species in China -- not on the prairies but in the financial sphere.

Slow, heavy and easy to neglect, rhinos can suddenly charge flat out, delivering a fatal attack - as can financial risk across the country.

The term became popular after a 2016 book by U.S. policy analyst Michele Wucker used it to depict a highly probable, high impact financial threat that was often widely ignored.

The People's Daily, the Communist Party of China flagship newspaper, picked up the metaphor in July to warn of financial risks, triggering widespread discussion.

In the past year, authorities have made notable progress in its bid to bring to heel some of the major "gray rhinos," generally shadow banks that pose significant threat to the economy.

Global ratings agency Moody's this month predicted a stable outlook for Chinese financial institutions through 2018, citing strengthening regulations and steady economic growth.

"China's leaders have made financial stability one of their top priorities. Given the size and importance of the Chinese market, with the world's largest banks and second-largest stock market, that is welcome news for China and the world," said Ratna Sahay and James P. Walsh, two senior officials at the International Monetary Fund, in a blog post last week.


For years, banks seeking higher profits, depositors lacking decent investment returns and companies having difficulties in securing bank loans have combined to drive the fast growth of shadow banking, which takes place outside regulatory scope, causing risks to financial stability.

To curb shadow banking growth, authorities have tightened their grip on interbank activities and off-balance-sheet wealth management products. The country's 100 trillion-yuan asset management business will also be put under stricter scrutiny.

Amid the clampdown, China's total shadow banking assets barely grew during the first six months of 2017 and declined as a percentage of GDP for the first time since 2012, Moody's said in a report last month.

Both interbank assets and liabilities, major indicators for shadow-banking activities, dropped in the first 10 months, while WMP growth slowed sharply from a year earlier, according to the China Banking Regulatory Commission.

"The government will remain keen on adopting coordinated policy measures to curb shadow banking and interbank activities and to address key imbalances in the financial system," said Sherry Zhang, a Moody's analyst.

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