Bank of China, one of the country's largest state-owned banks, has launched a foreign currency loan service for the increasing number of Chinese students studying abroad or those who plan to do so.
Bank of China started a similar loan service in 1998 for overseas Chinese students but issued only renminbi (RMB) loans.
The new service takes advantage of the bank's numerous overseas branches by injecting foreign exchange into overseas accounts once the students are abroad, making life more convenient for them, bank officials said.
Zhu Rong, a senior bank official, said the new service was approved earlier this month by the People's Bank of China, the nation's central bank, and has been enacted in nine pilot cities, namely Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Xi'an and Wuhan.
Encouraged by the Ministry of Education and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the service is expected to be promoted in more major Chinese cities in the coming years, said Zhu, who is in charge of the promotion.
According to bank officials, the new loan service applies only to those overseas students pursuing masters degrees.
Students can apply for the service by offering certain enrollment certificates from foreign universities or colleges, bank officials said.
The term of the loan is six years, and the interest rate is almost the average level of other kinds of loans.
The sum of the loan varies according to the application but cannot exceed 80 percent of summation of required tuition fees and ordinary life expenditures, bank officials said.
Each loan is for no more than US$40,000, though students may apply for such a loan for more than once during their overseas study period.
Such foreign exchange loans, however, should be paid back in foreign money to avoid placing more pressure on the country's foreign exchange reserve, bank officials said.
Since 1998, Bank of China has issued RMB loans totaling 200 million yuan (US$24 million) for Chinese students who study abroad. No cases of non-performing loans have been reported so far.
Students need to exchange the RMB loans into foreign exchange before spending the money abroad.
Officials said that a few other domestic banks are showing interest in offering this service.
Today, most of the bank loans in China are still RMB loans.
(China Daily November 29, 2001)