Wednesday, May 28, 2008

China's turn to lecture the West !

A fallout of the sub-prime crisis is that financial regulation in the US and other industrial economies has been shown in poor light. In contrast, regulators in China and India are patting themselves on their backs for their measured approach to financial sector liberalisation, which, they say, has helped insulate their systems from the financial market crisis.

The acting of the China Banking Regulatory Commission did not mince words in an interview to FT:
“I feel the western consensus on the relation between the market and the government should be reviewed,” said Liao Min, director-general and acting head of the general office of the China Banking Regulatory Commission.

“In practice, they tend to overestimate the power of the market and overlook the regulatory role of the government and this warped conception is at the root of the subprime crisis.”

When asked what other countries could learn from China’s regulatory system, he pointed out that Chinese financial institutions needed CBRC approval to launch individual product types, making it nearly impossible for exotic financial instruments, such as the ones blamed for the subprime crisis, to exist in China.

The majority of China’s financial sector is still owned by the state, and the government retains tight control over many aspects of the industry, including senior personnel decisions at the country’s largest banks, insurers and brokerages.

Thanks to China’s lack of integration with global financial markets as well as the cautious regulatory approach of the CBRC, Chinese banks have emerged relatively unscathed from the global credit crisis, which so far has caused nearly $380bn of losses at western financial institutions.

Not everybody buys the argument that the diminished frequency of crises is an argument for hastening slowly with financial liberalisation. Alan Greenspan argued recently that occasional financial turmoil may be the price to be paid for rapid innovation and growth. The answer, Greenspan urges, is to ensure that banks have enough capital to withstand shocks:
“If we want rapid growth in productivity, innovation, standards of living, we may have to accept that there will be periods of turmoil,” the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve told the Financial Times.

Rather than try to suppress bubbles, he said, policymakers should ensure that financial institutions were well enough capitalised to withstand the hit from bursting bubbles as well as other shocks.

Mr Greenspan backed efforts to develop counter-cyclical capital rules that would force banks to hold more capital in good times than bad.

Such rules might make it less likely that asset price and credit booms would feed each other, as they did during the housing upturn.

But he said this would be difficult to implement in practice because “we are never certain where we are in the cycle”.

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