Risk, Regulation and Policy
Chapter 14: No conclusion yet: bringing China’s shadow banking into the light
In the aftermath of the latest global financial crisis, there has been a surging shadow banking sector both in China and abroad. An econometric analysis demonstrates some market forces behind this growth of shadow banking: tight banking regulation, low interest rates and investment return rates, limited channels for funding, and a large institutional demand for assets. These are the common factors China shares with other economies. What is unique about China’s shadow banking is its highly repressed financial market and system in which banks and state-owned sectors possess a much more predominant and monopolistic position in terms of allocation of financial resources and assets. The institutional infrastructure, including the interest rate and exchange rate formation mechanism as well as monetary policies, has been put in place to facilitate this financial repression strategy. While this strategy has successfully secured a stable and less expensive source of funding to sustain economic growth, it also distorts the supply and demand sides. As a result, the market response is to create a shadow banking sector to fill in this gap between supply and demand. Defining (the scope of) shadow banking is not merely an academic exercise. It is highly relevant to regulatory design and regulatory efficacy. While there is not a uniform definition of shadow banking accepted by both regulators and academics, some attempts have been made to clarify the understanding of shadow banking. A break-down approach is often adopted to set the boundaries for shadow banking. For example, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) breaks the shadow banking system down into three sectors and nine subsectors, that is, the fund-related sector (money market funds, hedge funds and other investment funds), country-specific sector (Dutch special financial institutions, US funding corporations, and US financial holding companies), and finance-type sector (broker-dealers, finance companies, and structured finance vehicles). The commonality of these sectors and subsectors is their financial intermediary function and non-bank characteristics, which differentiate them from banks and financial institutions. This is also the reason that the FSB term them as “other financial intermediaries”. Apart from its technical value, the FSB’s way of drawing the boundary of shadow banking has a limitation. It may overlook the domestic conditions each country has in its financial market.
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